Rupert Matthews is Campaigns Manager at Better Off Out.
Well, that did not take long. From warning in the direst terms that an In-Out EU referendum would be a disaster, the friends of the EU have switched remarkably quickly to wanting to hold one as soon as possible.
Some acted quicker than others. As early as 9 May Jeremy Warner was writing in the Telegraph that “The referendum on Europe needs to be brought forward to the earliest opportunity”, adding for good measure that “this is a referendum that is easily winnable” for those wanting Britain to stay in the EU.
It took Bank of England Governor Mark Carney until 14 May to get on to the BBC (where else) to announce that it was necessary for the referendum to be held “with appropriate speed”.
He went on to give us a glimpse of the tactics he will be using to get the right result when he added: “One of the big advantages this economy has is access to the European market,” thus using sleight of hand to conflate trading with the EU with being a member of it.
By then the ranks of the great and the good queuing up to demand an early referendum were becoming crowded. The line was always the same. The referendum will cause uncertainty, so best to get it out the way as soon as possible. And always with a complacency that the result would go the way these Europhile ‘Yes Men’ want.
This is not a new phenomenon. In a 2012 report (“Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why“) the Institute for Economic Affairs showed how our government routinely encourages outside bodies to campaign for things which the government has already decided to do, but which do not enjoy widespread public support.
This enables the government to claim that it is acting as it is only in response to outside pressure. The EU, of course, is even more skilled at this game.
So why do the Europhiles want an early referendum after resisting one for so long? Simply because they know that one is now inevitable, and think that they have a better chance of winning the referendum if it is held earlier rather than later.
They know that with the weight of the establishment behind them, and financed by vast big business money they will be able to outspend the Eurosceptic cause.
They hope that they will be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the public by moving fast – expect to see more slippery sleight of hand such as Carney’s.
None of this comes as a surprise. I recall back in 2012 I was talking to a Conservative cabinet minister when he declared himself exasperated with the antics of some pro-EU Tories, declaring them to be pointless.
“We all know what we are going to do”, he told me. “We’ll get a few concessions from the EU, then sell them as a major reform to win a referendum and settle this blasted EU issue for a generation.”
Just under a year later came Mr Cameron’s Bloomberg speech, at which he called for deep reform of the EU and promised the British people a referendum. Since then the reform agenda has been successively watered down in substance, just as the usual suspects have been bigging it up in rhetoric.
Now we see the next step. Bring forward the date of the referendum so that the Eurosceptics will have less time to unpick the supposed reforms and reveal them for the non-event that they most likely will be.
Fortunately, thanks to the exasperation of that cabinet minister, we have been forewarned. And forewarned is forearmed. We are ready for the referendum campaign, whenever it comes.