Prime Minister David Cameron is walking on a dangerous hire wire rope ahead of the upcoming referendum. The PM attracts the attention of the UK, Member States, and EU officials on the EU membership referendum issue, raises question marks in minds about what areas he wants to negotiate with the EU, and gets people to ask or demand his wish-list. Not surprisingly he succeeds in this without much effort.
Cameron called the EU “too big, too bossy and too interfering” at the Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester, but he neither commented on the date for the in/out referendum nor he said what success he had in the negotiations with the EU leaders.
In the conference speech he listed open borders, the currency and a Budget rebate or bailouts as some of the negatives of the Brussels. Then he said: “I have no romantic attachment to the EU and its institutions,” and added that the country in 1975 merely voted to stay in a common market. By which he gave the impression that no one in the UK is worried if Brexit ever takes place. Then he told the audience that the UK is very important to the EU, by pointing to the UK’s achievements in helping the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade talks with the US and sanctions against Syria in the EU. This was tactical, as he was hoping to appeal to the audiences’ patriotic feelings.
At the 14-15 October European Council summit on Europe’s refugee crisis, Cameron continued to apply the same strategy and did not give out much information about the details of the referendum. Since the Members States and EU officials had enough of the PM’s vagueness about his demands, they were left frustrated. Thus they began to ask not only for clarity about what areas Cameron would like to hold talks on, but also on the date of the referendum.
So far, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said: “It is up to the Cameron government to make proposals. It is not up to us”. Similarly, Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, said he expected Cameron to “explain and detail” his position, voicing bemusement that this had not happened already. He also added: “I asked for information a long time ago. I still haven’t received anything.”
Whereas, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission voiced his impatience with Cameron’s tactics, telling the European parliament: “I cannot say huge progress has been achieved” and said: “To tango it takes two. I’m not a splendid dancer but I know the rules. I have to dance. Our British friends have to dance, too.”
The EU officials are concerned that, in the absence of a document, British demands could change according to the political weather. Cameron had been warned that there would be no proper negotiations in December unless he gave the rest of the EU four weeks to consider the UK demands.
Following these loud voices emerging from the EU circles, Cameron immediately pledged to reveal his wish list of EU renegotiation demands by early November. Officials revealed that the demands would be initially set out in a confidential letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, before being shared with MPs and made public.
Cameron’s well-crafted strategy seems to be working since without actually revealing much about his plans, he succeeded in getting our attention and making us both wonder and speculate about what his wish list of EU renegotiation demands may contain.
by Gulay Icoz