Friday, January 18, 2013

Will the PM's EU Speech change much?

Events are conspiring to prevent the Prime Minister making his supposedly game-changing 'Speech' on Britain's relationship with the EU. On Thursday S4C interviewed me for Newyddion at 7.30 pm about what I was expecting and hoping for. I don't know whether it was pulled after David Cameron took the proper decision to postpone his Amsterdam speech an hour before it was due to be broadcast. I'm booked in to discuss the speech with Peter Kellner and Vaughan Roderick on Sunday supplement - but not sure if that's going ahead now that it won't have been delivered. Its been a week for big tragic stories, and the importance attached to the PM's speech seems to be withering a bit.

Reality is that we all now have a fair idea what's going to be in this speech. The Prime Minister is going to say that he wants the UK to remain an integral member of the EU, but as the Eurozone countries change relationships to take major steps towards economic and political union, its vital that the UK relationship changes as well. He is going to demand that some sovereignty is returned to the UK in a significant renegotiation - and when that process is done, there will be a referendum seeking the support of the British people for the new deal. This means there will be a timetable which envisages the referendum being held well after the next General Election (2018 perhaps).

On the face of it, while this will please me (and a few others), it might not please many other groups. It will certainly not please the Liberal Democrats - despite this not being far from the Lib Dem policy before the 2010 election. It will not please Lord Heseltine (whose words are suddenly being treated with great reverence by the BBC), Kenneth Clarke, the CBI etc.. It will not please the most Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party who want a commitment to an In/Out referendum without bothering to wait and see what's on offer - and it won't please the Daily Express which agrees with them. It won't please all those who have decided to tell pollsters they now support Ukip, who just want out whatever. And it won't please Labour - though they have not decided why yet.  But on balance it will please me - because I think it seems the best course for the UK at present.

There will be some big questions for other speeches on other days. Like what happens if our EU partners won't play ball at all. Or what will be the alternative if the people of the UK do not like the renegotiated position and refuse to vote for it. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have talked about walking, almost unknowingly towards the EU exit. That's true. I'm not at all sure this speech, when eventually delivered, is going to do much to change that. But then, David Cameron has shown before an ability to herd cats while pulling a rabbit out of his hat. He might confound us all by doing it again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

C. Wood wrote:

The UK would be in a much stronger position if the government of the day finally took notice of the patent gold rush. America, China and others are patenting like crazy - yes, based on UK tax funded discoveries - we have seen it already with respect to MABs (monoclonal antibodies) and now we are seeing it happen YET AGAIN...