After a long, long wait, Britain’s David Cameron is poised to make his big speech on his country’s future ties with Europe.
It was supposed to be delivered in the autumn but has been delayed as the realization has dawned that there is no obviously good outcome for the ruling Conservative party’s leadership which faces implacable eurosceptics within its rank-and-file, many of whom want out of the EU completely. Cameron almost certainly doesn’t want out but may be pushed in that direction if he cannot deliver the repatriated powers from the EU that he has suggested are possible.
It’s hard to see other European leaders playing ball, particularly since Cameron took the unusual step of wielding Britain’s veto at a summit just over a year ago. Whatever he says, a bout of internecine warfare in his party is quite possible on an issue that has ripped it apart before.
America’s top man on Europe upped the ante yesterday, saying Washington wanted Britain to stay in the EU and retain a powerful voice. To do otherwise would damage U.S. interests (and therefore its own), Philip H. Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters in London.
With Washington increasingly interested in a free trade pact with the EU, if Cameron allowed Britain to slide towards the exit it could be even more damaging. Irish premier Enda Kenny has voiced similar concerns and we get another opportunity to put it to him and European Commission president Barroso at a news conference today. The timing of all this is unlikely to have been coincidental. Cameron’s speech, we think, will be delivered next week.