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 Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Interesting that DC has ruled out the Norwegian option but is keeping silent about other options.

    If, and this is a big if, WTO could bring tariffs down a little bit further, for example so UK goods/services to EU suffered no more than 2.5% tariff then I see no point in remaining in the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    The most competitive economy in Europe is ...Switzerland.
    How does that square with membership of the EU being central to the UK's economic prosperity?
    I increasingly feel the protectionist trade barrier mentality of the EU actually prevents economic activity and if you want proof just look at country growth figures across the world for the last 10 years including before the economic crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    93.ichabod - "......the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU..."

    Nothing like misrepresenting the truth to make a point you can't justify....

    ...the real power in the EU lies with the Council of Ministers - Britain & has a veto for anything we don't like....

    ...everything you hate about the EU? OUR very own elected politicians (Lab & Tory) voted in favour......

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Removing ourselves from the EU will no doubt be the start of trade wars, and trade wars can lead to real wars. Lets not repeat the mistakes of the past, we need our 'EU Block' to work together. We are stronger together, and we need all the strength we have if we want to claw our way out of the current financial hole we find ourselves in. Thats not to say I like it, I dont, but I am a pragmatist...

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    At the Nobel eremony awarding the Peace prize to the EU, Barroso (a likeable chap) gave a speech talking about Syria etc.
    All very well EXCEPT he is an unelected bureaucrat - essentially the head of the EU civil service. He should not be making political speeches on my behalf and at my cost about anything.
    A small yet telling example of the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU construct.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I can accept the "Out" lobby pitch on EU's democratic deficit basis but let's not pretend that exit wouldn't initially involve a significant downturn in UK's economic prospects.

    "Poorer but Sovereign" is a rational pitch, I just hope holders of such views can chip in to the Airbus, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mini workers unemployment fund as they'll surely need help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    88. MetallicaHoop
    One thing I will agree with you on is Asian domination at some point.

    Well if we can agree on something, then there's hope for the country yet. Lets hope our leaders can put aside their political dogma and do what's right for the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Before people make comments about Ukip you should read their manifesto.Not one remark on this commentary about Ukip is anywhere near actuality. The BBC pro EU rumour machine is working overtime however your game is up ,people are not stupid any more.

  • Comment number 89.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.


    Well at least they kept the first one up. I was just having a laugh with my boss about it.

    I'm not Mystic Meg so I guess we'll just have to see what happens.

    One thing I will agree with you on is Asian domination at some point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The UK needs to decide the best strategy. Being outside the EU has advantages in being independent and more agile than the politically-paralysed EU. Being in the EU has advantages of being in a bloc and stopping the US-led rampant capatilism. I love Britain and I love Europe. I wish it could be properly debated without all the petty name-calling. For once I almost feel sorry for Cameron. Almost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    74. MetallicaHoop
    no Superstate well we wont be in it, England

    I admire your optimism, but I think it will be our children that choose closer integration. UKIP members, like most anti EU views, suffer from delusions of past greatness. As Asia starts to dominate (2030's according to the US) Europe will need to be united if it is to have a voice in the world.
    Anyway, keep trying with the posts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Now the Scots have been told they must join the euro, surely the way ahead for members of the EU is clear to all?
    Personally, I'd rather stick with our own currency managed by our own Parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.


    "...the cell inside, or the chain-gang outside the gaol..."


    It seems to me that the freedom, the loss of which you allude to here, is merely that to exploit whatever predicament your fellow man or woman might be subject, for your selfish ends.

    The document you quote seems to parallel quite well the basis of EU institutions, so good to have that affirmation though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The choice is clear for voters in Scotland's 2014 referendum. Vote yes to stay in Europe. Vote no to cut ourselves off from our largest trading partner!

    There are a number of strong legal arguments against Barroso's view. its actually quite hard to find a constitutional legal expert who agrees with him. Whether the SNP want the legal argument to drag on is a different matter

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    If through trickery or cowardliness, a compromised "looser relationship" choice is offered in place the "cast iron promise" of an IN/OUT choice; this will be akin to asking to choose between the cell inside, or the chain-gang outside the gaol.

    "Governments are instituted among Men (& Women), deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."
    ~Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    oh what joy if the EU could revert to what it was originally set up for - a trading bloc. no more politics, no more CAP, no more meddling with the nations' finances.
    some times I like to dream, but as the song says "if you don't have a dream, how do have a dream come true."

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.


    "... the country swiftly demanded re-joining..."


    Nice thought.

    I think we could forget the rebate, various opt-outs etc. too if it came to that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    @71 - I have got a proper job. In the private sector.

    What was your point ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    @60 Jack
    Not sure trade is a prob as we have some advantages over rest of EU. As a currency we would poss have less support on our own. But then they are having bumpy ride all of their own!

    If ALL people of EU were asked what THEY wanted, it would be interesting to see how many see advantage in trade membership only but not politico/currency integration.


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