As Cameron struggles with the hard sell, could rebranding Britain's relationship with the EU prove more successful?
As David Cameron embarked upon his European tour in an attempt to redraw Britain’s EU membership, his mixed reception suggests the road ahead faces obstacles and opposition – the PM’s Polish counterpart Ewa Kopacz vetoed any plans to curb in-work tax credits to migrants, while the Finnish PM, Charles Michel, described Cameron’s welfare plans as a ‘non-starter’
Yet the hard sell may not be the only tool in Cameron’s armoury under plans to aesthetically change Britain’s relationship with Europe.
According to the Sunday Times, the Prime Minister wants to rebrand Britain’s role in the EU to an ‘associate membership’, demonstrating the repositioning of economic interest rather than social integration at the heart of Britain’s relationship with Brussels.
Cameron is no stranger to the world of PR. A previous director of corporate affairs for the television company Carlton, he fought the 2015 General Election with a slick and tightly orchestrated campaign focused on job creation and a promise to finish the long term economic plan.
Whilst overcoming negative perception of the EU may prove a more veritable challenge, the notion of special membership status will aim to convince the public of a tangible change in the terms of the UK’s EU membership, even if real reform proves less fruitful.
The move comes as the Prime Minister faces increasing pressure from his own backbenchers to reveal the extent of his plans for reform. So far he has refused to set out his wish-list of demands, which up until now has been focused on restricting migrant access to welfare state, opting out of the ‘ever closer union’, demanding a greater role for national parliaments, and protecting the rights of non-Eurozone states.
The Prime Minister was also forced into an embarrassing climb down after seemingly hinting that ministers would have to quit if they did not back the government’s position of renegotiation. Downing Street later clarified that he was ‘misinterpreted’, but refused to say whether ministers would be given a free vote.
Rebranding the focus of the UK’s membership of the EU away from sociopolitcal engagement back to its traditional roots of free trade may soften public concern of EU encroachment on state sovereignty, yet it is unlikely to placate a growing cadre of Euroscpetic backbenchers thirsty for real change and EU departure.