23 Jan 2013

Cameron speech: Germany’s not clapping

I watched to see the German ambassador’s reaction to the speech. He was sitting in the second row under Mr Cameron’s nose.

It was he that hosted the briefing by the Merkel CDU loyalist and Europe Committee chair Gunther Krichbaum two weeks ago when Mr Krichbaum warned David Cameron against “blackmailing other states” in the EU.

As others applauded at the end of David Cameron’s speech today the German ambassador played with his pen.

 What did we learn that was new, given that the speech was trailed ahead of the Amsterdam presentation that never happened last week?

– he acknowledged that the premise of the whole renegotiation, that there will be a new EU treaty to lock in the Eurozone countries’ integration, might not happen … in that case, he said, plan B was a Britain versus the rest of Europe renegotiation.

– it is a red line non-negotiable for David Cameron in any future coalition negotiation – he said any government he headed would pursue the policy. Lib Dems don’t want to enter into this chat at the moment (and you’ll tend not to hear Nick Clegg use the phrase “red lines” but priorities)  

– the areas where powers would be sought would definitely include the environment, social affairs and crime though “nothing should be off the table.”

A chunk of crime is already being opted out of ahead of an opt back in to a smaller, select number of the pooled areas.

‘A shock to the Lib Dems’

Environment comes as a bit of a shock to the Lib Dems as in the internal review of competences they thought there was an agreement with the Tories that on the environment Europe was a good thing.

Social affairs is the big one here because in many European capitals they see that as part of the single market, the central holy sacred agreed “acquis” of accumulated Euro-law – not up for renegotiation.

David Cameron knows from private chats with Chancellor Merkel, Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and others that there are influential European leaders who tire of some EU social legislation themselves and would love to see the back of some of it.

That doesn’t mean he can be sure they’ll join in his approach to repatriating parts of them.  

Lose ‘ever closer union’

– the prime minister claims there are “many others” in the EU who have completely ruled out for all time embracing “much closer economic and political integration” – it would be interesting to know who they are

 – he wants, as Liam Fox kept lobbying, the phrase “ever closer union” amended out of the next treaty

 –  he talked about “democratic consent for the EU in Britain (being) now wafer thin.” Some will strongly dispute this. UKIP supports withdrawal but it doesn’t have any MPs   

– Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, with a play on David Cameron’s offer of a red carpet to French tax exiles said he would put out the red carpet for British withdrawal 

 – the speech name-checked Winston Churchill within the first 60 seconds of its start

 – Tony Blair told the European parliament in 2005 that Europe had to change or die to adapt to the global race and international competition … he came with some cache built up with Europe’s leaders but he still, arguably, didn’t get very far. 

David Cameron comes with the resentment of having deployed the veto at the December 2011 EU summit and a few other resentments on top of that.

– Richard Ottoway used his first answer in what I think was his first press response to the Cameron speech on BBC News 24 to name-check and praise Boris Johnson – Mr Ottoway is on No. 10’s radar as the man most likely to stand down in his Commons seat to create a vacancy for Boris Johnson to parachute back into parliament and run for the party leadership.

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