They may not be allowed to speak out yet, but everyone is trying to find out what senior eurosceptic Tories really think about David Cameron’s EU renegotiation deal and whether they’ll vote to leave. For some Cabinet ministers like Michael Gove, this decision is balanced as much on his personal loyalty to David Cameron as it is on his own beliefs about Europe. For others, there’s what happens to their careers after the vote to think about.
Boris Johnson is blissfully free from Cabinet collective responsibility and from having to worry too much about whether he’ll get promoted in the next reshuffle. If he did back Out, he is such a prominent figure that he would have to be promoted to the Cabinet anyway: and too many hints have already been dropped about this happening anyway for the job to mysteriously evaporate if the outgoing Mayor does campaign to leave the EU.
But his Telegraph column today suggests that Boris will probably reluctantly plump for In. The Mayor hardly seems impressed with Cameron’s deal, barely bothering to compliment his colleague at all, saying ‘the Prine Minister has done better than many expected’ on sovereignty. He also complains about a lack of effort to ‘recapture control of our borders’. But he sums his position up thus:
So there is the dilemma in a nutshell: Britain in the EU good, in so far as that means helping to shape the destiny of a troubled continent in uncertain times, while trading freely with our partners. Britain in the EU bad, in so far as it is a political project whose destiny of ever-closer union we don’t accept and whose lust to regulate we can’t stop.
That is why for the last couple of years I have argued that we would be – on the whole – better off in a reformed EU, but that Britain could have a great future outside. In deciding how to vote I (and I expect a few others) will want to know whether we have genuinely achieved any reform, and whether there is the prospect of any more. So let’s look at the Tusk proposals, in turn, and ask some hard questions.
By the end of the column, Boris is clear that he’s going to tease us a little longer. Or more specifically, that he’s not just going to jump in line with Cameron and George Osborne without any attempt from those two at persuasion.