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Swish Six go to Europe

Swish Six go to Europe

Things turning out well for Cameron

by David Marsh in London

Tue 24 May 2016

Scene: Westminster – Garden, 10 Downing Street, next to the rhododendron bushes

Date: Friday 24 June, 15.00

Six besuited men stride across the lawn, sober, slightly sheepish. They are greeted with expansive bonhomie by another male, open-neck-shirted, rosy-cheeked.

David Cameron: (beams) Welcome, gentlemen, I wanted to celebrate with you. The people have spoken. A 60-40 majority for staying in the EU. Bigger than anticipated. You have all had a hand in this, even those who opposed me (meaningful pause)… Our six living former chancellors of the exchequer (they shift uneasily) all gathered here, quite an occasion! I want you to bury your differences. Help me launch genuine European reform…

Nigel Lawson: (briskly) You can forget that. I’ve been trying that for years. The EU is genuinely unreformable, you’re wasting your and everyone else’s time…

Cameron: (chidingly) Come now, Nigel, you helped me enormously by making all kinds of outrageous demands for improving the EU. We knew that would never happen immediately… but you softened them up, got ’em ready for another round. The British are not happy with the adjustments I got in February. So we’re playing the Oliver Twist game – going back for more!

Norman Lamont: The claims you made, prime minister, about the dreadful aftermath of Brexit were completely preposterous… War, famine, house prices. We felt utterly steamrollered by the fear campaign….

Cameron: Yes, good wasn’t it? The RAF is dropping leaflets over Paris and Berlin this evening describing a likely plague of locusts if they don’t comply with our demands. With a rather terrifying picture of Marine Le Pen. Should do the trick…

Gordon Brown: (scowling) What exactly do you want us to do? I’m here only because Labour won you the Scottish referendum… without Labour’s votes, you’d have lost. Because Jeremy Corbyn backed Europe, you’re some kind of hero….

Alistair Darling: (Scottish accent accentuated) Without us, you’d be nothing. Without Labour you’d be facing another Scottish referendum!

Cameron: (with gusto) I want you to be my emissaries to Europe. The Swish Six! That’s the Sun headline tomorrow! Tell ’em that Britain’s staying in for now – we’ll have another referendum in 2021 unless they give us what we want! Migration, the budget, democratic deficit, parliamentary powers, a watertight deal on the euro…

John Major: We can capitalise on a not unfavourable concatenation of circumstances. We have some experience of getting Europe out of dire straits…

Kenneth Clarke: (rounded tones) We’ve saved them from a fate worse than death. Sorry to say this, Nigel and Norman, but if we had voted for Brexit, referendum campaigns would have started in 10 other countries. Europe would be falling apart – and they’d blame it all on the Brits!

Cameron: (mollifyingly) Nigel, I want you to handle the French – since you’re there most weekends anyway. Ken, the softer currency countries haven’t forgotten how you saved the exchange rate mechanism in 1993. You will focus on Italy. John, you got on with Helmut Kohl. Angela wants you spend next weekend with her in a castle in Berlin. The Germans are on our side, their new migration curbs are much more severe than ours. Mention world war three to her. Works a treat!

Major: I find my elder statesman role goes down rather well these days… especially with the ladies…

Lawson: Whatever deal we get will never get though the European court…

Cameron: Alistair, you’re the best lawyer here. We’re sending you to Luxembourg! And we nullify the ECJ by our changes to the Commission. Juncker’s letter of resignation is on its way to me. Angela and François have agreed George will be president. An ex-chancellor running the show in Brussels! In the footsteps of Roy Jenkins…

Brown: If you send Osborne to the Commission, who’s taking his job? (growls) Surely not Boris?

Cameron: (sternly) Mr Johnson is taking up new duties as ambassador to the Vatican. Handy use of his Latin. He’s also in charge of the Spectator’s bicentennial in 2028. Gordon, you’ll take the southern countries. You’re good with the poor and underprivileged. (Brown glowers.) Norman, as well as looking after Iran for me, I’d like you to take Greece – you have quite a following there.

Lamont: (half-wonderingly) Not for the first time, prime minister, in a curious way, things seem to be turning out unexpectedly well for you…

Cameron: Quite. Now, sorry gentlemen, I have to go, Janet Yellen’s on the line. She wants to know if she can raise interest rates…

David Marsh is Managing Director of OMFIF. This is No.66 in the series – the 100th article will appear on 23 June.

OMFIF’s series on the UK EU referendum presents a wide variety of perspectives from Britain and around the world ahead of the 23 June poll. We are assuring a balance between many different points of view, in line with OMFIF’s overall neutral stance on the issue.

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