It’s not that David Cameron does not have his troubles to seek as he shuttles around Europe trying to secure support for a modified agreement with the UK’s fellow European Union member states, but I bet you he wishes he had not been quite so cavalier as to promise an “in-out referendum” in the period leading up to the 2015 UK general election. Politically, he felt that he had to do it to give some kind of sop to the so-called “Euro-sceptic” wing of the Conservative Party and to prevent further haemorrhaging of potential supporters to UKIP.
He finds himself in a number of quandaries
- He is conducting a series of bi-lateral meetings in what is really a multi-lateral environment
- He is unable to negotiate with the European parliament – and it could scupper the whole deal before the ink is dry on the vellum
- He is having to make public commitments in what should be a private series of meetings
- He personally has little, if any coalface experience of the practice of negotiation
- He has any number of sceptics who second guess him and criticise his every move
- The issue is so divisive as to be a matter of principle for many of those critics. I do not see Sir William Nigel Paul (known to his chums as Bill) Cash, for example, an arch Euro-sceptic MP, rushing to support any deal that Cameron brokers that has the UK staying in a reformed European Union. He just wants out. End of.
- Many of the cleverer European politicians see their bi-lateral negotiations with Mr Cameron as an excuse to get some concessions from him (and why should they not?)
His major issue though is not really with the arch sceptics or the supporters; he has to bring back some kind of meaningful improvement in the current deal that will be good enough to persuade the Great British voting public to turn out and vote and to do so in favour of remaining in the Union. If he fails, there is a real risk that the current United Kingdom will break up; the Scottish Government for one has already threatened a repeat of last year’s referendum if the UK as a whole pulls out of the EU.
No pressure then.