Coffee House

Sketch: Cameron’s EU climax

23 January 2013

11:29 AM

23 January 2013

11:29 AM

This was no tantric anti-climax. This was a seismic moment in British politics. David Cameron breezed into a London press conference this morning and proceeded to reshape Europe.

The wooden lectern he stood at was pale and municipal. He wore a dark suit and a nice purple tie, and his affable pink chops glowed with moderation and good sense. He looked like a council negotiator arriving to settle a hedge dispute between warring neighbours.

The Euro-crisis will lead to the restructuring of Europe, he said. He called for a new design that would incorporate more openness, flexibility and competitiveness. And the single market, not the single currency, should lie at its heart. He deliberately evoked the religious wars that scarred the continent for centuries by referring to ‘those who denounce change as heresy’.

Britain will be offered a say in the rejigged plans. He looked sternly down the barrel of the camera. ‘This will be an in-out referendum,’ he declared, just in case there was any misunderstanding


He then hit us with shock statistic that underlines our predicament. Europe has seven per cent of the world’s population but accounts for 50 per cent of its social spending. But, in the next two decades, the EU’s share of world trade will fall by one third. It’s clear: the EU is sinking and we’re heading for the sick-bay and not the life boats.

He was a little light on the benefits of our membership. There’s the free movement of goods and services, there’s the extra swagger we enjoy on the international stage, and there’s our God-given right to slope off to Andalusia when we retire and blow our winter fuel allowance on vino tinto.

He socked it gently to Hezza and Branson and all those who wanted us to place our meek little wrists inside the Euro handcuffs. ‘Few expressions of contrition’ had been given, he noted wryly. And he threw a disguised jab at Ed Miliband for failing to commit to a referendum. If we soldier on as we are we’ll only hasten our exit, he said.

His big claim was that rebuilding Europe would be excellent for the continent’s trading prospects and for the EU’s democratic accountability. Radiating optimism, he called for ‘cool heads’ to govern the debates that will follow. (Yeah. Some chance.) And he repeated his commitment to Britain’s membership several times. But: if he fails to secure a deal that he can recommend to Britain will he vote Out?

This was the crunchiest of the questions he faced from journalists at the end. He shimmied past it once or twice but the Beeb’s Nick Robinson told him bluntly he’d fudged the issue because he was scared to tell the truth.

‘I don’t go into a negotiation hoping and expecting to fail,’ replied Cameron.

He’d fudged it again. So he may wind up shoving two fingers in Europe’s face after all. This won’t have gone unnoticed. Many on the right will be thrilled. Expect a ‘bugger-off bounce’ in Tory poll ratings.

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Show comments
  • Justathought

    Does the speech give me everything I would wish for? No. Is it the best option on offer from any of the three main parties? Yes.

    The biggest threat to democracy is when a people cannot choose who governs them. Greece and Italy are examples. Britain has its parliament but the people are still entitled to have their voice heard. This offer goes someway to addressing the democratic deficit of our relationship with the EU.

    Scotland is having a referendum on UK membership and their are calls from the local politicians in Stormont for a referendum on UK membership. Theresa Villiers has dismissed that possibility in the Commons. Democracy is not a matter of political convenience for ministers, it is what defines civilised nations.

    • MichtyMe

      To play the pedant re “UK membership”, Scotland cannot leave the UK, it can only end it. Without Scotland or England there is no Union and no UK.

      • Daniel Maris

        It’s not pedantry. It’s legality. And surely at some point along the line this is going to have to be faced.

  • wycombewanderer

    The conservatives now need to be utterly ruthless in exploiting the divisions that will occur within labour.

    Are they pro democracy or anti?

    That is the question which must be put to every shadow minister at every opportunity from now until 2015

  • Noa

    ‘I don’t go into a negotiation hoping and expecting to fail,’

    Which conveniently omits to mention that Chubby Chops, being long gone, will not be going into any EU negotiation.

    • telemachus

      Occasionally you have a perspicacious moment
      Join us

      • Noa

        That Labour is coming apart does not merit my sympathy.

        After Cameron’s departure a Conservative/UKIP alliance can start to repair the damage caused by Labour and sustained by the Coalition.
        And it will start with a full and not a faux referendum.

        • telemachus

          Yes Cameron will depart after the 2015 defeat
          So in time will Miliband
          Then we will build for growth

          • Fergus Pickering

            God Heavens! So Ed Balls is MacBeth and that makes you one of the weird sisters. MacBeth didn’t do awfully well as I recall..

      • CharlieleChump

        Do you have cookies?

  • Chris lancashire

    Good day for Britain, good day for Cameron.

    • telemachus

      More hot air and wind
      All of course an irrelevance as he will not be there to invoke a referendum come two Mays on

      • Colonel Mustard

        So says the Coffee House’s equivalent to a tapeworm, hooking its scolex onto the top comment but often hedging its bets. The only mildly curious aspect to its incessant and predictable Labour party trolling in every thread is that the Spectator tolerates it. I wonder why?

        • telemachus

          And the bottom comment
          See my note about bullies this morning

        • Chris lancashire

          Freedom of speech, Colonel. Freedom of speech and a useful reminder of the mindless berks that inhabit Labour.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Oh I’d miss Telemachus. So delightfully twerp if there is such a word. A bit less of windbag Lindsay would be nice but one doesn’t have to read his posts. In fact I never do, not all the way through, not as far as ‘seventhly’..

  • HooksLaw

    ‘reshape europe’? I doubt you will persuade the numpty heads about that.

    Cameron presaged this speech 18 months ago when he pointed out the inevitable changes in the EU once it instigates its fiscal union treaty.

    The Euro is reshaping Europe. We are not in the Euro so we have the chance and a requirement to change our relationship.
    In an ideal world we could persuade the EU itself of the error of its ways, but this seems unlikely. its this that is a bad thing since the EU will not go away and a poorly performing EU is bad for our economy.

    • CharlieleChump

      The Euro is destroying Europe, it is the core problem for the enterprise