The man Der Spiegel compared to one of the grumpy old muppets who spectate and grumble at The Muppet Show today donned the Boadicea wig and helmet for his press conference at the end of this European Council meeting.

“Are you ready to wield the veto on the EU budget in November?” David Cameron was asked. “Yes” and I will take a “tough approach.”

He said “tough” seven times in a shortish press conference.

Are you “in retreat” as President Hollande said?

“We’re getting a good deal for Britain.

“I’ve got a reputation for plain-speaking and “what (other) people are saying about you” doesn’t matter.

“Are you sure the rest of the EU will let you renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership?

“Opportunities are opening up for a new settlement,” he said, and “the plates of Europe are moving.”

Danger of the splits

Many here agree but they think he is in danger of performing the splits.

The PM repeatedly said that the redesigning of Europe opened up an opportunity for Britain to redesign its relationship with Europe.

Mr Cameron’s adviser on Europe policy, Ivan Rogers, has been wandering around asking European figures what they think are the chances of Britain being given a “soft landing” into the second tier.

It would be fascinating to know the full account of his soundings.

But the truth is that what David Cameron is looking for is more like a third tier membership as there are “ins,”  in the EU who are in the eurozone, “would-be-ins” who have promised to join at some point and then there’s Britain, who would rather eat its own feet than join and doesn’t want anything to do with a whole load of other entanglements spawned from the existing treaties.

Bespoke renegotiation

Does the EU truly want to create a precedent of exceptionalism that goes way beyond previous opt outs and constructs a bespoke renegotiation across the whole range of policy areas?

I popped into Chancellor Merkel’s post summit and she quoted fellow European leaders who thought the ECB wouldn’t be ready to deal with bank regulation across the eurozone until the beginning of 2014.

When she was asked if she was stringing the whole process out because of  her own general election in September 2013 the German chancellor did a wonderful faux naif answer: “I hadn’t even thought about it until you said it….it’s completely far from my mind this kind of idea.”

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