By Paul Goodman
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George Osborne and most of the Parliamentary and voluntary Party are pushing for a renegotiation and referendum pledge in the next manifesto.
And David Cameron has given an interview to the Daily Telegraph which appears today and in which reports that:
"…Mr Cameron will not countenance leaving the EU and says he would never campaign for an “out” vote in a referendum.
“I think it would be bad for Britain,” he says. “When I look at what is in our national interest, we are not some country that looks in on ourself or retreats from the world. Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those markets. Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
He adds: “It comes back to this, who are going to be the winning nations for the 21st century? If your vision of Britain was that we should just withdraw and become a sort of greater Switzerland, I think that would be a complete denial of our national interests.”
Question (which I've asked before): So what happens if the pressure from Mr Osborne and others succeeds – which I believe it will – the manifesto duly contains a renegotiation and referendum pledge, Mr Cameron wins the election, flies off with his renegotiation demands…and the Germans tell him to get lost?
Which they would surely have an incentive to do, since the Prime Minister appears to have revealed his negotiating hand – and has apparently removed from it a powerful card, namely the possibility of supporting a British exit if he doesn't get what he wants.
Mr Cameron could have said: "At the moment I believe the balance of Britain's interests shows strongly that we should stay in the EU". This would have been consistent with his position – and paved the way to make any coming manifesto pledge on renegotiation and a referendum credible. He didn't – further evidence that Downing Street just isn't thinking all this through.
Elsewhere in the interview, he says that –
- Austerity will last until 2020.
- The commitment to hold a full-scale review of public spending with Coalition-agreed plans for three years of Government cuts after 2014 may now not be realistic.
- Conservative MPs who voted against Government plans on reforming the House of Lords will still be considered for ministerial promotion in the future.
- The Coalition may switch to a looser form of “confidence and supply” Government in the year before the next election.
- He intends to travel to the Olympic games on the Tube.
The interview is clearly part of the Government's media fightback this week, following announcements on railway and infrastucture spending. The Prime Minister has travelled to Afghanistan and is there today.