12 Mar 2014

Key Cameron EU ally: ‘no idea’ about UK renegotiation

Carl Bildt, highly respected foreign minister of Sweden, has been in London talking Ukraine with the Foreign Secretary William Hague. He took some time to talk to Jon Snow for tonight’s show. It’s a fascinating interview. Jon also asked him about the UK’s place in Europe.

The Swedish government are key centre-right allies of the Prime Minister around the EU table. He was at pains to get the Swedes onside when he announced the referendum plan last year. They, Mr Bildt in particular, were rather unimpressed by the much-vaunted EU summit veto of December 2011, as I blogged at the time: http://blogs.channel4.com/faisal-islam-on-economics/ten-curiosities-about-david-camerons-veto/15844

So, in any successful renegotiation, the Swedes will be rather important. Jon asked Sweden’s top diplomat if he knew any more about Britain’s position. Jon asked: “Have you any idea [what UK renegotiation might involve]? We haven’t”. To which Mr Bildt answered: “No, I haven’t. And UK government has not sort of decided exactly what to do…”.

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Both Ukip and Labour, for different reasons, have argued that the Conservatives cannot and will not spell out their actual renegotiation demands. Mr Cameron has argued, as acknowledged in the interview by Mr Bildt that this will come later.

But even pro-reform think tanks such as Open Europe say that time is running out to build the alliances required for a positive deal. Ms Merkel’s recent visit did not augur well for the PM’s chances. The Swedish foreign minister was not effusive.

And tonight in an FT article, Finland’s Europe Minister Alex Stubb chimed in with: “The UK seems to be in a vicious spiral of self-inflicted marginalisation”. Treaty renegotiation would be “immensely complicated – not to say impossible”.

Is it time for the prime minister to explain what he hopes to renegotiate?

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