A Cabinet meeting has been called for next Monday. This is most unusual during a recess week. Cabinet Ministers and former ones can’t remember it happening before under David Cameron.
Downing Street is saying that the meeting is “not designed to discuss Europe interaction”, which to my eye confirms that the EU council meeting later in the week, and how the Government will handle its aftermath, will be discussed. The meeting has been shifted from the usual Tuesday to Monday because the Prime Minister is travelling – off to drum up support abroad before the summit.
This looks like an attempt to ensure that Cameron gets as much publicity bang for his buck post-summit as possible, assuming an agreement is reached, without noises off from the Cabinet Brexiteers. That would mean the Cabinet agreeing “rules of engagement”. Much will depend on when he calls the Cabinet meeting that will follow the council meeting, after which it has been agreed that pro-Remain and pro-Leave Ministers can go their own separate ways.
If the Prime Minister is determined to set the pace on TV and radio for as long as possible, he will seek to put that meeting off until as late as possible (say, Monday February 22 or even later). If instead he seeks to prioritise party unity, he will hold it early on Saturday 20. Having a “rules of engagement” discussion on Monday would be risky: it might go wrong and the discussion will certainly leak.
Whatever happens, the pro-Brexit Ministers should resist having their hands tied and mouths gagged during the post-summit hours that could frame the public’s view of the referendum campaigns.