Europe - Why Cameron's speech is proving so hard to write


It is a year since the prime minister found himself isolated in Europe at a summit determining the EU's future. It is six months since he signalled that he might be open to a referendum on Britain's relationship with the Europe. Yet David Cameron has still to fix a date let alone finalise the text of a long promised speech spelling out his European policy.

I understand the PM held a meeting with the foreign secretary and the chancellor on Monday to agree the content of a speech which will see him walking a political and diplomatic tightrope.

Another meeting may follow on Tuesday. David Cameron's aim is to satisfy those in his own party, as well as those who have defected to UKIP, that they will get the meaningful vote on Europe they have long craved for while reassuring the leaders of both other countries and multi-national companies that this will not represent the first step on a road taking Britain out of the EU.

Senior Tories have little doubt about what the core message will be - a promise to hold a referendum after negotiations in which Britain would attempt to secure a new looser relationship with the EU. In other words, not an IN/OUT vote on Britain's EU membership on current terms but on new terms when/if they can be agreed.

One reason for the agonising over this speech has been what one source calls "getting the diplomacy right" ie ensuring that potential allies in Europe - the Germans, Dutch and the Swedes who have, so far, backed Britain's call for a freeze in the EU Budget - are clear that Mr Cameron is not capitulating to those who want Britain out of Europe.

He needs them in future negotiations not just on the budget but also on reforms of EU banking rules.

Another problem is what some ministers call "the Honda problem" - the risk that multinational companies put further investment in Britain on hold while they wait to see if the country will stay in or get out of Europe. Many voters see the EU as the cause of our economic problems. It would be politically disastrous for the Conservatives if their approach to the EU seems to make our economic prospects worse.

There is diplomacy to be done at home as well as abroad with Tory Eurosceptics who will question the worth of a referendum promise without a date attached and who will demand to know what the prime minister would do if he cannot get his way in negotiations.

The former Defence Secretary Liam Fox has been clear about this - he would be prepared to see Britain get out.

What's more there is the question of how this speech will affect the coalition. Most expect a referendum to be a Tory manifesto promise enacted some years hence.

However, it is possible that Germany's Chancellor Merkel - if she is re-elected next year - might push for treaty change before the next General Election.

No wonder Mr Cameron told a journalists' lunch on Monday he was trying to balance "what I think is right for the country, what I think is politically deliverable and what is deliverable diplomatically".

To the surprise of his aides he went on to explain that his was "a tantric approach to policy-making - it will be even better when it does eventually come".

He hastily added "that wasn't in the script." Many are getting impatient to discover what exactly is.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Or he may just be getting ready to declare we the UK are not going to go along with the EUssr con-trick any longer - and we are OUT.

    No Referendum. No Treaty-required 2-year wait. Just out - NOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Some figures for you
    UK net annual contribution to the EU approx £10Bn
    UK deficit 2011 £121Bn
    UK Net Debt approx £1 Trillion
    UK Exports to EU per Month £12Bn approx
    Jobs dependent on EU trade 3.4 Million
    Not bad value for money,all these jobs aren't totally dependent on EU membership but many are and why would Foreign companies invest in the UK rather than Poland, cheaper and in the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Having dutifully voted all my life I have now come to the conclusion that politicians live in a different world. So many changes in the UK most for no logical reason. I am beaten into submission, let them do whatever they want, they are out of anybodies control. Glad I am old, no more voting for me.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The EU is protecting ordinary workers by pricing them out of a job?

    The EU could improve by being democratic, getting rid of unnecessary regulation, slashing CAP which is a throwback to the 1950s and by investing in markets which will keep Europe competitive.

    Europe cant expect to keep it's high levels of welfare & pensions when it's so debtridden and has a falling % of global trade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    67 Jason

    Sure - all those fantastic quality 70's cars, for example, were miles better than those nasty foreign ones we have to drive now and you got to meet so many more people then - like the TV repair man who would be a regular caller to fix the high quality TV sets! Lets build a big wall and go back to the good old 70s

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    #64 well i dont what country your living in mate.try doing a proper job and see how fair the system is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    In many ways I am falling behind the calls for an in/out referendum - if we did leave it'd quickly shut the little Englanders up for good when our economy tanked * the country swiftly demanded re-joining.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    With the Eu becoming more of a supranational orginisation, it is arguable of the future of the Eu and it's relationship with britain. if the UK leaves it brings a real threat to the Eu as it will lose a large power, there is also talk of this in italy as their economy is struggling to cope with the econmoic pressure and loss of soveriegnty that the Eu creates, and i am Pro Eu, says alot!

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    #Julie Harpum

    SInce the 70s the quality of goods has gone from solid & long-lasting to flimsy and throwaway ~ if that's down to the 'benefits' of EU membership it's not worth having. We couldn't compete on price against the likes of China so we'd have to compete on quality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.




    Recent events have made clear, that the most pressing subject for a UK-wide referendum is on NI's continuance as part of UK. Polls show a clear majority in favour of letting it go, and there's violence onshore, unlike over EU matters.

    Well come on you ex-UDA-now-BNP/U-kippers, surely one of you has something to say?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    53. MetallicaHoop

    Ha ha, very funny. Further integration or co-operation depending on your point of view, comes through negotiations & treaties. There isn't going to be a referendum, no matter how much you keep calling for it like kids in a car; 'are we there yet?'

    Finally, I'm not French & I do believe your final phase is a racist term. How appropriate! So I think I'll get the BBC to remove it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    All these anti-EU types conveniently forget that the EU protects ordinary hardworking folk from unscrupulous employers. If UKIP had their way, we would have a US-style economy - say goodbye to holiday and sick pay, say goodbye to employment and health / safety legislation etc etc. I expect to receive down arrows for telling the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Let's get adult here !! We cannot any longer survive outside Europe, it's a fact so let's live with it. And what's wrong with that? We're Europeans for God's sake! We've shed blood and treasure over there for centuaries, our language is a mix of French, Norse and German and we've riden to the rescue in Europe more times than anyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Britain's not leaving the EU it would be a disaster and everyone who stayed in school beyond the age of 16 knows it. So relax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Dave is giving Tories lots of reasons to dump him.

    But then, so are the other two main party leaders. Both of them are weak on Europe. Cleggie wants to integrate totally - as do many in the LDs - but can't say so. And Ed is stuck with a lot of Lab MPs being opposed (on-side w/Tories) but some N.Labourites wanting 'in' like Cleggie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    We need a real debate about our relationship with Europe.

    That includes the long term benefits as well as the cons.

    I have a nightmare vision of a Britain that is fully independent from the EU being consistently screwed over in trade deals with superblocs from China, South America etc. because we simply don't have the backing of our own trade bloc to stop it from happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    So anyone who opposes the UK's membership of the EU is a zenophobe ? Those who wish to vote in a referendum do not understand the implications ? How patronising can some people get? Being a member of the Lib/Dems doesn't give anyone a special knowledge of the advantages or otherwise of being in the EU. We all have a right to our own opinion , however misguided , even Clegg's acolytes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Always amusing to see Churchill quoted by supporters of the EU. He was very clear that he wanted a United States of Europe to stop them starting another war. It was never his intention that we would part of it. Read his full quote and be cured of ignorance.


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