Will Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM, give Mr Cameron a valuable first-night rave review for his speech on Friday morning in the Netherlands? 

One aide said that Mr Rutte “has not made clear he’s unsympathetic,” which suggests to me they’re hoping he won’t slam it but are not overly optimistic. The two men are expected to meet after the speech is delivered. Mr Rutte will not be attending the actual speech.

No.10 was faced with a whole onslaught of problems with the planned speech date of next week. It clashed with the 50th anniversary of the Franco-German accord, the Elysee treaty, a holy tract in the history of Franco-German reconciliation. There were other question marks too but the clincher for bringing the date forward was the mounting frenzy and the guarantee that it wasn’t going to go away.

So on Friday, in the Netherlands, the prime minister will explain how, if he wins the next election outright, he wants to renegotiate powers back from Europe and then have a referendum on amended membership terms – are we “in” on the new terms or out.

European diplomatic sources today were still insisting no such renegotiation was available. Even diplomats from countries who are seen by No.10 as potential allies who want more powers devolved say they can’t support the approach the PM seems to be planning: one country taking on all the others and threatening to leave if it doesn’t get its way. One German diplomatic source said Berlin sees that as a recipie for “nightmare” and “paralysis”.

German diplomats say they think David Cameron may be mistaking the German chancellor’s insistence that she doesn’t want to see the UK leave the EU as a sign that she would cede what David Cameron wanted to stop that. David Cameron would not be doing things “the European way,” the source said. A Swedish diplomatic source said something very similar. David Cameron may be introducing a poker game into an evening the other 26 in the EU feel they’ve set aside to play a completely different game – dominos, perhaps?

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