David Cameron’s willingness to talk about Britain pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights while refusing to give details of what he wants back in an EU renegotiation is telling. All Cameron would say on Marr this morning about the EU renegotiation, is that he wants Britain to be exempted from ‘ever closer union’—a largely linguistic ask that, I suspect, the rest of the EU will be prepared to agree to. By contrast, he was prepared to go into far more detail about how he might change Britain’s relationship with the Strasbourg Court.
Britain no longer being rhetorically committed to ‘ever closer union’ with the rest of the EU is not going to be enough to persuade most of the Tory party to back staying in if there is a referendum. This is where the European Convention on Human Rights comes in. Though not directly related to the EU, leaving the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg Court is increasingly seen by many Tory strategists as the biggest thing they could offer the party—and the country—in a referendum. They hope that Britain leaving the European Court of Human Rights would be enough to swing most Tories behind a renegotiated membership of the EU.
There is, though, the small issue of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. It is almost impossible to conceive of the Liberal Democrats agreeing to Britain leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. This means that any commitment to do so is going to require a Tory majority government. Indeed, today’s Marr interview did at times sound like the first round of the next set of coalition negotiations.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.