Renegotiating substantial change in Britain’s EU relationship is a problem for David Cameron. On the one hand, the Eurozone is facing an unknown challenge with a Grexit on the horizon. But many in the Tory party believe the Prime Minister’s efforts are smoke and mirrors, and he won’t achieve the change they crave. Michael Gove is one, and Nigel Lawson is another. The Tory grandee spoke to Newsnight about what he expects from the renegotiations. Not much, it seems:
‘I think that the odds are we will see a repetition of what happened in 1975. I think it’s likely that the changes that David Cameron will secure will be inconsequential, of no significance at all. He will present them as a major change and I don’t think there will be a 2:1 majority in favour, I don’t think it’ll be as a big as that.
‘But the likelihood is, given the authority that he has and given the lack of a credible opposition leader, I think it will be the same result and the British people will come to regret it.
Lawson acknowledged that there is a ‘a very small outside chance that he might achieve something of significance’ but he suggested that the single currency is the European Union’s biggest problem:
‘They will discover there hasn’t been any fundamental change and that there is a real problem because it has changed since 1975 in a fundamental way. It has changed because of the coming of the euro and the coming of the Eurozone.’
Only a total failure in these talks would see Cameron walk away from Europe alltogether — something that many in his party have a problem with. But Lawson said that he thinks ‘in the short term, the next few years the PM will have bought peace in the Tory party’. If Cameron manages to renegotiate a new deal with Europe, big or small, conduct a referendum and still keep his party together, it will be an almighty achievement.
Europe was a major factor in undermining the authority of two Conservative Prime Ministers in recent times. Cameron desperately hopes he will not be the third to feel its dangerous influence on his own career trajectory — but there is undoubtedly a significant risk ahead.