David Cameron is determined to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership. But to get a good deal and to show his own eurosceptics - let alone UKIP voters - that he’s serious about this, he is going to have to be prepared to say that he would be prepared to leave if the rest of the European Union doesn’t play ball. (This poker game is why the other northern European countries that Cameron is relying on to help him secure a better deal have been quick to suggest that they wouldn’t mind Britain leaving that much.)
Cameron, though, is highly reluctant to do this. Not only does he think EU membership does provide genuine benefits to Britain but he also worries about how business would react to any threat of withdrawal.
When Gary Gibbon asked him today about whether he agreed with Michael Gove on being prepared to leave the EU, Cameron replied:
‘It’s not a question of whether Britain could survive. The point is what is in our national interest.
‘I’ve always been clear that leaving the European Union is not in our national interests. Why? Well, chiefly because we are a trading nation. We need Europe’s markets to be open.
‘The EU accounts for around 50 per cent of our trade. Having these markets open means that we don’t just want to be able to trade, we want a say in the rules about how that trade works. That’s exactly what our EU membership gives us.’
The point about Britain being able to survive outside is important, it confirms that EU membership is a choice for this country not a necessity. But the overall tone of the answer hardly puts Cameron in a place to drive the toughest bargain.Tags: David Cameron, EU referendum, European Union, UK politics