As David Cameron continued his charm offensive in Europe today on a visit to the Czech Republic, are there signs he is feeling the heat over his EU renegotiation?
In his press conference, the PM remained almost relentlessly positive as he spoke about ‘solutions’ and ‘working together’ with other European leaders. But he also appeared to offer a brief flash of insight into the pressure he is under to get a good deal for Britain over EU renegotiation – saying that doing so was ‘hard work’.
‘It’s hard work because what we are looking for is real and substantive change. But I firmly believe there is a pathway to an agreement. We have had very positive discussions about all of these things today. I am confident with the help of European partners, with goodwill, we’re be able to get there and find genuinely mutually satisfactory conclusions. I hope we can all work together’
The PM needs to keep his negotiating partners in the EU on side while giving the impression to voters back home that he is fighting hard for a new deal.
He’ll also want to avoid headlines such as those in the UK today when he was mocked up in a beret, lederhosen and a matador outfit in The Sun for telling a French broadcaster that he felt deeply European.
So today, Cameron struck a delicate balance when asked about changes to EU benefit rules, in particular on the topic of migrants from the continent being banned from claiming benefits for four years if they come to the UK. He once again hinted that the demand may be dropped, saying the proposal remained ‘on the table until I am satisfied there is an alternative’.
But he also insisted that he was trying to get the best deal for Britain, not just mollify EU leaders.
‘The British people want to see a stronger role for national Parliaments and an acceptance that the ever-closer union is not the aim of all. They want new rules to govern those inside the Eurozone and those outside. And they think much more should be done to make the EU a source of growth and jobs – cutting back needless bureaucracy.’
Whether or not Cameron is actually finding the talks about Britain’s new relationship with Europe ‘hard work’, he’s clearly finding talking about the talks hard work, as he tries to send messages that will please two very different audiences.