One of the more intriguing lines in David Cameron’s speech this morning was his declaration that ‘when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul.’ This begs the question of what Cameron will do if we can’t negotiate such an arrangement.
Now, Cameron made clear earlier in the speech that his strong preference and inclination is for Britain to stay in the EU. This seems to apply even if he can’t get everything he asks for in the renegotiation. As he put it: ‘You will not always get what you want. But that does not mean we should leave – not if the benefits of staying and working together are greater.’
But I’m informed by those familiar with Cameron’s thinking on the issue that he is not saying that Britain will stay in come what may. It was explained to me that if the rest of the EU refused to reasonably address the concerns that Cameron outlined, then the Conservative leadership would take this as a sign that Britain’s position in the EU is not sustainable.
This position also has the benefit of uniting the Conservative party, for now. All but the most ardent Better Off Outers will accept that the party should wait until the renegotiation is complete before deciding on whether or not Britain should stay in. The real argument will come, though, when this negotiation is complete. For I suspect that Cameron will be more easily satisfied than many of his Cabinet colleagues and a substantial chunk of his party.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.