Downing Street always hoped that once David Cameron had given his Europe speech, the pressure would shift on to the other party leaders. They believed that once Cameron had committed himself to a referendum, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg would be required to say whether or not they’ll match this pledge.
But Cameron has put particular pressure on the Deputy Prime Minister by making clear that renegotiation and a referendum will happen if he is Prime Minister after the next election. In other words, this is not up for debate in any 2015 coalition negotiation. Every interviewer can now ask Nick Clegg if he and the Liberal Democrats could be part of a government that was committed to renegotiating Britain’s terms of EU membership and then putting the result to a referendum.
Last week, Ed Miliband had great fun at PMQs, mocking Cameron as the weak leader of a divided party. But I suspect that this week, it will be Cameron who enjoys their encounter more. For he can constantly demand to know whether or not Miliband is ruling out a referendum. By gripping an issue that has been avoided too long he has stolen a march on this opponents.
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