Desperate not to mention the EU issue, and hope it goes away, Cameron is finding out that it doesn't - it comes back for more and more. As I blogged back in June:
Much as the Tories want the EU to go away it won't. We cannot continue much longer with a 'half in and half out' policy. It's either one or the other; a decision made by a referendum. There are so many more issues about to erupt during this parliament that the 'ostrich-non-bust-up-with-Europe' strategy simply won't work. Either they grasp the nettle or it will be done for them.Desperate to wriggle out of his promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, Cameron gave all sorts of assurances on a 'referendum lock' to appease certain aspects of his party and a large proportion of his grassroots support. But as is becoming clear the coalition, particularly the Tories, are showing a pattern where attention to detail is not a strong point. Thus this 'lock' promise (yet to see the light of day as a bill) is coming back to bite. As Nick Robinson writes:
The problem is that when the prime minister calls Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy and President Van Rompuy today he'll be reminded that France and Germany don't want to stand still - they never do. They believe that Europe's institutions need strengthening...Like a shark that has to keep on swimming to stay alive so the EU has to keep on integrating for the same reason. It is its raison d'etre. However, as is becoming clear, questions regarding the EU in the UK are becoming more frequent, causing awkwardness for our europhile PM:
...when the PM answers questions today or in the tearooms afterwards, he'll be told by his backbenchers that they too don't want the EU to stand still. They want its budget cut and its powers reduced.So what will Cast-Iron do:
He'll advise his fellow leaders to find ways to strengthen the eurozone without a treaty change which will lead to demands for a referendum here and an unpredictable parliamentary vote. Or, if they insist on a new treaty, he'll insist that it doesn't give Brussels fresh powers over British policy...Thus he will seek to convince all parts of his coalition - within Parliament and beyond it - that Britain is not moving closer to, or further from, the heart of Europe.In other words, as per Carswell's 5 rules, Cameron will attempt to 'fudge it'. But the more the EU asks - and gets - the less wriggle room there is and the less successful the' staying still and pretending' strategy becomes. Of that Robinson is no doubt:
The moral of the story is, however, that it is only in fairy stories that nothing changes year in,year out. One day the push-me-pull-you will have to go one way or the other and, when he does, there'll be trouble.
We need to grasp the EU membership nettle now, we need a referendum.