If he is Prime Minister after the next election, David Cameron is committed to a renegotiation the contents of which have not been fully announced and which do not appear to be fully formed. If they are so formed, the Liberal Democrats are almost certain to amend them in the event of a second coalition, and the Commons will doubtless seek to do the same in the event of a Conservative minority government. Whether one views Cameron’s attempt to block Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission as a heroic quest or a irrelevant distraction, there is no evidence that he has reliable allies who are ready to give him what he wants after next May. Nor do Downing Street and the Foreign Office appear to be searching for them now in a purposeful way.
Prime Ministers are fond of approaching EU negotiations declaring that it would be mistaken to show the contents of their hand. To follow this metaphor, Cameron appears to have a hand of which he is uncertain and which he will play at a table where he lacks partners.
Radek Sikorski, Poland’s Foreign Minister, therefore seems to have a point when he describes the Prime Minister’s plan as “either a very badly thought through move, or, not for the first time a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He f***** up the fiscal pact. He f***** it up. Simple as that. He is not interested, he does not get it, he believes in the stupid propaganda, he stupidly tries to play the system… his whole strategy of feeding [his critics] scraps in order to satisfy them is just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said, f*** off, tried to convince people and isolate [the sceptics]. But he ceded the field to those that are now embarrassing him.” These bracing remarks were published yesterday by Wprost.
The magazine provided further evidence of senior Polish players reaching for their equivalent of the F-word when Cameron is concerned. Jacek Krawiec, he head of Poland’s largest oil and gas conglomerate, said: “What the f*** are they on about with these benefits? [Cameron] seems like a really sensible bloke… when I met him in London he talked a lot of sense”, to which Pawel Gras, the media spokesman for Donald Tusk, Poland’s Prime Minister, replied: “Thoughtless, probably suggested by [some spin doctor] probably came from some focus group, he didn’t think through the consequences, the whole thing was stupid, Donald called him at once to discuss it, he had such a go at him, I mean f*** it’s a shame we didn’t record it, he had a such a proper f****** go at him.”
But although S*k*rsk*’s colourful tilt at Cameron’s European policy may appear to hit the target – he is correct to assume that the Prime Minister is a convinced supporter of Britain’s EU membership – it is in one respect wide of the mark.
Had Cameron told Daniel Hannan and David Davis and Bernard Jenkin and John Baron – not to mention Michael Gove and Philip Hammond and roughly half the Tory members of the Cabinet – to “f*** off”, as S*k*rsk* elegantly puts it, this he would almost certainly now be neither leader of the Conservative Party nor Prime Minister. Instead, he conceded the pledge of an In/Out referendum, which has helped to keep him in both positions. And while his reform strategy may be all that S*k*rsk* says and more, it is more likely than not that he will return from any renegotiation proclaiming succcess, regardless of the actual outcome; will then recommend that the British people vote Yes to continued EU membership, and will see them do so in the referendum that will follow.
Although there would doubtless be some new benefit restrictions for EU nationals in wake of such a settlement, Poles would continue to enter and leave Britain more or less as they wish, and their country will receive no “mountain of gold” , as S*k*rsk* put it. He and R*st*wsk* and Kr*w**c and Gr*s and T*sk want Britain to stay in the EU. So does Cameron. They think they know better than he does how he should work towards that end. But they don’t. Perhaps when he next speaks to them, this “really sensible bloke” who “talks a lot of sense” will deploy the two words that they think he should have said to the Eurosceptics.
Footnote: This is a family site so, given the propensity of S*k*rsk*, R*st*wsk*, Kr*w**c, Gr*s and T*sk to deploy the F-word, we have no alternative but to blank out parts of their names for the time being.