The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has given his speech on Europe.
I didn’t see the speech, but have read it, and quite a few comments too. I did manage to catch Prime Minister’s Questions, of which more when I have time.
In short my view is that this is a hugely significant moment for the UK, and is just as important for the European Union too.
David Cameron has sought to recast our relationship with the EU, and to give the people of the UK a choice. In identifying the need for the UK having a changed relationship with Europe he forcing the EU to face uncomfortable truths about the nature of the EU and the direction it’s headed.
The reasons for creating the EU were valid and necessary. World geopolitics and trade has, and continues to go through immense change. The lack of flexibility and lack of democratic validity were fine way back at the founding. Now they need to be revisited. David Cameron’s speech is much more important than the clamour of the in/out brigade. It’s the start of a conversation about change. If members of the EU reject the chance to discuss the changes that are needed, then the result is that we will leave the EU.
Politics is about passion, principle, and pragmatism. Cameron’s position is all three. Forget the silly arguments about what Cameron’s view will be on staying in or leaving if we don’t get a satisfactory renegotiation. This is high level strategic political bargaining, and you don’t declare your full bargaining position before you have to.
There’s talk about splits in political parties as a result of this speech. Me, I see likely splits in Europe. If you were Greek, Spanish wouldn’t you want the chance to argue for change. There’s 50% youth unemployment in Spain, and close to 30% unemployment in Greece.
Here’s a smattering of views on the speech:
- Benedict Brogan – Daily Telegraph, thinks it helps Cameron electorally.
- Peter Oborne – Daily Telegraph, thinks Cameron has finished of the Conservative Party.
- Paul Goodman – Cameron bets the farm on the kindness of strangers.
- Patrick Wintour - Guardian, thinks the PM may live to regret his gamble
Interestingly, the clear thinkers in Europe, such as Angela Merkel and the Dutch, are not being dismissive. There’s hope for Europe yet.