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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  • Comment number 297.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    "A referendum needs to be called before 2015 , if Cameron is to survive"

    I think he wants to know the result of the Scottish referendum before he starts the EU-referendum.

    Probable outcome:
    Scotland will stay within the UK and the UK will leave the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.


    We are now a minority in parts of our own country! Is that not enough proof that we are on the way out as a country and race? And you continue to believe everything you read????

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    293.nautonier - "Some think they have a monopoly on calling other people racists eg Rotherham Council.........."

    Still trotting out that tired old cliche? Or do you not keep up with the news before spouting off?

    As had been made perfectly clear the kids were removed not because of the UKIP membership thing, but because the birth family had found out where the kids had been placed.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    270.The Ship that died of shame

    Some think they have a monopoly on calling other people racists eg Rotherham Council. We have to put up with this Labour Party EU fasci-crat abuse & balatant discrimination against low income Brits (as offends their own human rights under HRA) by the use of the EU political weapon of mass immigration as used against White English people by the evil Labour party

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    I think Cameron secretly wants out, but doesn't have the undercarriage big enough to do it

    @290 nautionier

    Correct! :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Cameron, Miliband, let the people have our say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    I know I've posted a good 'un when you respond to me with your rubbish - if you think City of Londostan finance would not take significant financial trade away from Switzerland with UK outside of the EU - it just shows how very little you actually know - Switzerland's regional monopoly on spare money is only there since it has no sizeable EU competition

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    There are two referendum questions.

    1. Should there be one?
    Unless you are opposed to democracy, the answer must be yes, because the issue affects all of us, yet neither Con & Lab support an EU exit.

    2. What should be asked?
    Unless Cameron can get a return to something akin to the EEC, then it must be a straightforward in or out.

    DC is clearly stalling. He needs to get on with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    @285 Little_Old_Me

    Its actually 'can you put your hands in your head oh no'. . . . . .It's ok to be a dreamer sometimes coz reality is pants!

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.


    Pffft,everyone knows anti-racist is just a codeword for anti-white nowadays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Although we are all European Nobel peace prize winners, i doubt that many of us feel like it, especially in the southern states of the EZ. The UK can and always has traded with the EU and it's members. No need to be paying them £53 million a day.
    Sincerely, Nobel peace prize winner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.


    Your post is far wide of reality I can reply by paraphrasing a Supertramp song.....

    Dreamer, you're nothing but a dreamer, can you put your foot in your mouth? Oh yeah!

    Your suggests are so based in fantasy land it is untrue - regardless of our EU status what makes you think that finance companies based in Switzerland would want to come here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    I've seen plenty of rubbish from the Anti-EU Tendency in the European debates on here, but 219 takes the palm.
    You can have no idea how ridiculous your comment is unless you look at the context in which it was written.

    It was an intentionally puerile response to a similarly kindergarten comment from a EUphile.

    Anyway, a referendum would end all this silliness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    UK can never be an equal partner in the EU - fasci-crat continental politics determines that - but the UK is too big & too close to ever be ignored as a net importer from the EU. When UK leaves EU we can take huge amounts of financial trade away from Switzerland as Londostan is stronger & UK can have similar maritime economy to Norway - as is win win win for UK Joe Public as no EU HRA immigration

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    277.Ptolemy Vanduaria
    Just about every EU government is centre right,
    Easy to say as is speculation - there is no agreed measure of where any party is in absolute terms & there is no agreed spectrum of left right & centre - these are artificial generalisations that have no absolute value or validation except that eg it is fact that most fascist parties had socialist origins - historical fact

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    The main issue that I see with the EU is its unaccountability. I think it's what irks people most. The perception, and in may regards the reality, is that EU politicians act independently of electorates, instead of speaking for the peoples of Europe they instead speak for Europe itself or a political party's agenda. Given how much the EU influences British life that situation is unsustainable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I quote 'You understand a conversation with...blah, blah' I'm guessing the fine line of BBC impartiality you tred....Who are you having your xmas / boxing day / new years dinner'll have plenty of time for conversations of a similar ilk....

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    I can see the tight rope that Cameron is trying to walk . There is the city financial services , Honda and other Japanese car makers . If Cameron falls on either side he will be in dead trouble . On the one side is a risk to business if Britain leaves the EU , conversely Britain risks being sucked down in the EU disaster . A referendum needs to be called before 2015 , if Cameron is to survive

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    The country is witnessing rapid flows and movements of people and twe are becoming super-diverse - home to many different people from many different backgrounds.How base., irrelevant and small minded you kip must seem on the EU. DC will need to appeal to his much larger and more important block of votes and wont achieve it by pandering to you kip and the right over europe


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