While the main European leaders reached a compromise about more responsibility, solidarity and growth during the latest European Council in Brussels, David Cameron made a unnoticed speech as important as the concessions made by Angela Merkel.
The British Prime minister declared he would back a referendum on the redefinition of the UK-EU relationships, a subtle way not to hurt the euro-sceptical wing as well as the Liberal-Democrats. In the Sunday Telegraph, the Conservative Leader mainly wrote “Europe” and “referendum” “can go together” and it was not in any case a referendum in or out the Union but rather on the current position of his country he wishes “different, more flexible and less onerous” within the Union.
David Cameron is opening again a debate that was thought to be closed, risking being ambiguous once again. In October 2011, some Tories MPs put an amendment proposing a referendum, but was finally rejected and stirred up trouble on the London’s intentions. David Cameron’s recent writings add more confusion on Britain’s true will.
In fact, the idea of a referendum shows a certain frustration of David Cameron – and the Tories more widely – vis-à-vis a European integration he does not influence anymore and not in accordance with his conception of the EU: a space dedicated to free-trade and without any federal or federalist initiative. David Cameron tried several times to influence the European integration since 2009, when the British Conservative MEPs left the European People’s Party (considered as too federalist) to create a euro-sceptic group within the European Parliament. This group, named ECR (“European Conservative and Reformists”) and to which belongs also the Polish traditionalist Right, did never really weigh within the European hemicycle, which did not please the Tories’ leader who never managed to act as a trouble-maker.
The situation is the same in the European Council, where the British PM never found latitude, nor allies, to impose his views, intensifying the loss of influence of Great Britain within the EU. This was shown, for example, by London’s rejection of the fiscal compact, because it questions the country’s sovereignty.
David Cameron knows and even wrote it: “leaving [the EU] would not be in our country’s best interests” even if the Lisbon Treaty allows it. He must take into account his lib-dem allies fiercely pro-Europeans like their leader, Nicholas Clegg, deputy PM, who graduated from the College d’Europe about twenty years ago. Furthermore, Great-Britain always managed to obtain important opt-out clauses, allowing the European Union to follow her integration without too many troubles. In fact, David Cameron’s recent statements just give some guarantees to a British opinion that remains resolutely and historically euro-sceptic and that is questioning the new federal step. This is a way for the British leader to make a grand gesture, knowing that such a referendum wouldn’t carry many costs and that David Cameron is really not determined to slam the door because of economic, commercial and even geopolitical considerations.”