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By Peter Hoskin
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Yesterday
we had the Balls
Ultimatum
; now his Conservative counterpart, George Osborne, has an
ultimatum of his own. It’s directed at the European Union, and it reads like:
change, or we’re off. He makes it in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, from which the Telegraph’s
James Kirkup has taken
and translated
the relevant passage:

“Q: Will Britain be in the EU in ten years?

A: I very much hope so, that Britain will stay in the EU. But for us to stay in the
European Union, the EU must change.”

The first question that springs to
mind is how the Germans will regard such rhetoric — and it’s no moot question,
either. A good portion of David Cameron’s Europe strategy is founded on the
idea that he will receive
help from Angela Merkel
to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the union.
But, judging by the comments
made by Frau Merkel’s colleague Gunther Krichbaum
yesterday, that may not
be a foregone conclusion. Diplomatic conduct, on both sides, could matter.

And other questions arise, too. For
instance, is Mr Osborne suggesting that if Europe doesn’t give Britain the deal
it wants, then a future Conservative government could decide that we’re better
off out? Or does he just mean that the British public would turn against an
unreformed Europe in any future referendum? All in all, yet more reasons to
anticipate the Prime Minister’s Europe speech — and hopefully an extra dose of
clarity.

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