Cameron's EU guessing game

Is he for or against? Under pressure from his right flank once again, David Cameron today sought to up the stakes in his negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s EU membership with a warning he could back an exit from the bloc. In a speech to Confederation of British Industry, the Prime Minister said his patience in talks should not be mistaken for a lack of resolve, and that if his demands were not met, voters would legitimately ask: “do we believe in this organisation?”

Yet even as he got tough with EU leaders, the PM gave several indications about which side he will ultimately end up on. While suggesting Britain could survive outside the EU, he attacked the “duff” argument the country would be better off following Norway’s example. He also signalled room for compromise with other EU nations on moves to restrict welfare payments for EU migrants in the UK.

But it was an unexpected moment that gave perhaps the clearest indication about Cameron’s feelings on the referendum. When two anti-EU protestors backed by the Vote Leave campaign stood up to heckle his address, the PM hit back sharply, challenging them to ask a question rather than make “fools” of themselves.  In one small exchange, the gulf that now exists between Cameron and the Conservative leaders of the Out camp was plain for all to see. 

Photograph: WEF

Larry Smith

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search