Thu Jan 24th, 2013 at 03:26:03 AM EST
Cameron's High-Stakes European Gamble - WSJ.com
David Cameron's long-anticipated attempt to set out his EU vision, finally delivered Wednesday in London to an ad hoc gathering of journalists, amounted to little more than a cliché-ridden, largely substance-free exercise in party management that will have increased the risks of a U.K. exit from the EU.
One may question the motives of the Wall Street Journal, but it's hard to disagree with the verdict. Cameron has chosen to put his party problems -- the Eurosceptic wing of the Tories and the rising influence of UKIP -- on hold for the next few years. Agitation will be bad for the negotiations, and there's a referendum in sight, he'll be able to say to his back benches. In the next parliamentary elections, a Tory vote will be a vote for the referendum (take that, UKIP).
The negotiation aims set out in his speech are suitably vague, and reactions from elsewhere in the EU have been firm: "cherrypicking is not an option" said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Angela Merkel has since been more "diplomatic":
EU referendum speech: let's talk, says Merkel after Cameron takes gamble | Politics | The Guardian
Merkel gave a guarded response in which she was careful not to reject Cameron's demands out of hand. "Germany, and I personally, want Britain to be an important part and an active member of the European Union," she said. "We are prepared to talk about British wishes but we must always bear in mind that other countries have different wishes and we must find a fair compromise. We will talk intensively with Britain about its individual ideas but that has some time over the months ahead."
German officials made clear Merkel's words were chosen with great care to ensure Berlin would not block Cameron from placing a referendum commitment in the 2015 Tory manifesto. But Berlin remains highly sceptical of the Tories' tactics and is likely to fight hard against any attempt by Cameron to give Britain a major competitive advantage in the single market.
Yeah, well that's no surprise. It looks as if Cameron, as many think, has indeed painted himself into a corner.