Addressing the Lord Mayor’s banquet last night, David Cameron was seeking to make peace with those in his party who are dissatisfied with his stance on Europe. In doing this, he undoubtedly used all the right words. He talked about “fighting for free trade”, “making sure British interests get heard” and “pointless interference” with reference to Europe. He aligned himself with the substantial portion of his party who voted in favour of a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU this month, saying “we sceptics have a vital point” and “should look sceptically at grand plans and utopian visions”.
Unfortunately, delving beneath this language doesn’t reveal any great change in thinking or policy from the prime minister. This is just a restatement of his current position, albeit one rephrased in terms intended to seem more palatable to the eurosceptic element in his party. Elsewhere in the speech, he stated that “leaving the EU is not in our national interest”, and responded to the suggestion from the Bruges Group and elsewhere that the UK could leave the EU but still enjoy a productive trade relationship, like Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, as part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), saying “outside, we would end up like Norway, subject to every rule for the Single Market made in Brussels but unable to shape those rules”.
However he chooses to word it, it’s clear that David Cameron hasn’t changed his mind about Europe and the EU. It’s equally clear that the substantial portion of his party that disagrees isn’t going to stop trying.
You can read the full text of David Cameron’s speech here