Cameron will sell EU speech as plan for all Europe
In the Hague, Mark Verheijen, Europe spokesman for Mark Rutte’s VVD Party and former party chairman, has clearly been licensed by the PM to be more strident than Mr Rutte himself wants to be.
Mr Verheijen told us about his fears that Britain might hold up all EU work until it got its way on repatriated powers: “A referendum in 2018 is very very far away and we are afraid that he (David Cameron) will capture the (European) Union until then. So we are kind of disturbed by what he’s doing at the moment.”
He went on: “He (David Cameron) will not find an ally if he thinks Britain can opt out just for the British taxpayers.” Mr Verheijen added: “When he said the British should have opt outs in all kinds of arrangements, I think we won’t support that so I think he will be a bit disappointed.” Mr Verjeihen repeatedly in his interview insisted that this was the view the Dutch would take if Mr Cameron presented his argument as a demand for UK exclusive opt outs or repatriations.
David Cameron is acutely aware of the bad reception a speech banging the table for Britain alone would get in European capitals even if it pleased some at home, so his speech tries to present the repatriation agenda as one for all Europe. One who has read the speech says parts of it are distinctly framed as a “come and join us” address to sympathetic North European countries who David Cameron has heard complain in private about, for instance, many aspects of European employment law but who despair of changing it.
That, the PM hopes, will help to combat the unhelpful (in EU circles) image of British exceptionalism or un-European exceptionalism without alarming Eurosceptics in his own party that this is just a re-run of the old subsidiarity debates and Britain will compromise its demands to fit in with other EU powers.
At his home in Rotterdam, Ruud Lubbers, the former Dutch PM who negotiated with Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said David Cameron has so far looked too defensive and not positive or creative enough. He also warned Mr Cameron not to mistake “Mark Rutte One,” the man who was in coalition wuth the Europhobic Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party until last Autumn, with “Mark Rutte Two,” the less Eurosceptic leader now in coalition with more mainstream Labour.
The Dutch fought to bring their old maritime rival Britain into the EU or the EEC as it then was, in the teeth of fierce French resistance. They often share Britain’s worries about the EU. But as founder members of the EU and Eurozone members they do things the European way and David Cameron will have a tough job convincing them and others that a speech born of domestic British politics is truly a shared European project.
UPDATE 19.46 GMT:
Will David Cameron ever make that speech now? Sections of it have been briefed out to newspapers in the usual way and will appear in tomorrow’s editions. I expect those reports will confirm It was going to be an appeal to Europe to let him help them, trying to project his repatriation project as a pan-European reform. No. 10 won’t decide until the Algerian crisis is resolved.
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