Coffee House

Cameron’s red meat EU speech: five key points

23 January 2013

Cameron has finished delivering his ‘red meat’ speech on the European Union and answering questions from journalists. You can read the full text here, but here are five key points to take away:

1. The Prime Minister is a pro-European sceptical about the current EU settlement

It actually took Cameron a long time to reach his vision of a new Europe because he was so busy praising its history. We had a whistle-stop tour through the EU’s creation, dotted with praise for its peacekeeping mission first. He was clearly keen to emphasis his pro-European credentials as much as he was to criticise, saying: ‘I am not a British isolationist’ and ‘I speak as a British Prime Minister with a positive vision for the future of the European Union’.

When he did swoop into detail, it wasn’t about the really, really ridiculous bits of Europe that it’s easy to caricature such as directives on the shape of bananas, but whether Britain should have power over the working hours of its own doctors, rather than Europe.

2. Cameron wants to style himself as the Galileo of the EU: speaking truth unto power


Cameron turned the criticism that he could be ‘sleepwalking’ Britain towards an EU exit by questioning the current set up on its head. Instead, he said that ‘in its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point’ and argued that refusing to question and renegotiate the current settlement would endanger Britain’s long-term future in the EU.

3. The Prime Minister wants a referendum in a Tory government, or a Coalition

‘Let me be absolutely clear: If I’m Prime Minister, this will happen.’

This was the key quote suggesting that a renegotiation and a referendum would be a red-line for any 2015 coalition negotiations. It’s an important piece of meat for the Conservative party: any suggestion he could drop this pledge as unimportant would be hugely damaging after he tried today to move on from the damage caused by the ‘cast-iron’ Lisbon Treaty  pledge.

And the detail of that referendum? The Tory 2015 manifesto will include a pledge for a renegotiation with Europe in the next Parliament. That new settlement will go to the British people in an In/Out referendum. That’s the red meat Downing Street was promising.

4. But as for the detail of the renegotiation…

Wisely, there was no shopping list. So the Prime Minister can claim victory on anything, rather than a failed list of demands written in 2013. But as with William Hague’s speech at the 2012 Tory party conference, it was striking that his vision for the EU is not exactly minimalist. This is the key quote:

‘We believe in a flexible union of free member states who share treaties and institutions and pursue together the ideal of co-operation. To represent and promote the values of European civilisation in the world. To advance our shared interests by using our collective power to open markets. And to build a strong economic base across the whole of Europe.

‘And we believe in our nations working together to protect the security and diversity of our energy supplies. To tackle climate change and global poverty. To work together against terrorism and organised crime. And to continue to welcome new countries into the EU.’

5. If the negotiation succeeds, the PM will campaign for ‘In’

If we were in any doubt before, the Prime Minister cleared up where he will stand in that referendum, which will take place by 2017:

‘And when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul.’

But if he doesn’t succeed, even if we can’t measure what that success will be against a list, what will he do? Will he campaign to leave the EU? The PM ducked and dived around this question when it came from Nick Robinson:

‘I would answer that very directly: who goes into a negotiation hoping and expecting to fail? That might be the approach you take, that is not the approach I take. I go into a negotiation hoping, believing and expecting to succeed and for all right reasons I’ve given today, I think there’s every chance of success.’

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  • disqus_i5lHFtDgiQ

    In fact Eastern Europeans are bringing more money to UK than take, but look like a good target to blaim for ruinned British economy . Eastern Europeans who are coming to UK work much harder and are paid considerably less than British people and even than Polish.

    There are gipsies in Romania and Bulgaria, who are also problem for their countries and will probably come to UK, but dont forget that these gipsies migrated to Eastern Europe from Western Europe at the beginning of 20th century.

    Jipsies are neither Romanians nor Bulgarians. Jipsy is Jipsy.

    Nobody is seeing the history as it must be seen – facts.

  • Kron Hjon

    The Swedish Minister for EU affairs Birgitta Ohlsson reacted with anger when she heard about the possible coming EU-referendum in the UK. She called it “sad and vulgar”. She is known for being a rabid EU federalist, but it is still shameful how she disrespects the democratic workings of another member state (or any state).

    Blog post about her and her reaction here:

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Well, if this is what passes for “red meat”, then the Cameroons’ target audience is a gaggle of vegans.

  • max taylor

    actually he’s gone further than that…he wants to totally reform the EU, which is great as well

  • Charlie C

    He’s on very shaky ground. He’s basically saying “give me the following [which he won’t get] or we walk [when it’s entirely possible Britain might anyway].” The threat is cheap, and in any case, he ain’t gonna be in power past 2015 and Labour won’t touch a referendum.

    His speech is piss in the wind. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    I don’t think most of the UK population realises quite how profoundly f*cked they would be if they were to leave. Nigel Farage’s siren-call about “saving £50 million a year” and “not having to comply with Brussels regulation” is b*llocks and should be dismissed as such. What we’d save in membership fees we’d lose a hundredfold in other areas, and when it comes to regulation, the UK is THE land of Health and Safety nonsense, none of it imposed from Brussels – so it’s reasonable to imagine that we’d just end up with crap UK legislation, rather than crap EU laws…

  • williamblakesghost

    Ignoring the likelihood that this is no more than the promise of a fait accomplit preceded by a loaded faux negotiation (Cameron can barely even say the word withdraw let alone countenance it and will campaign for a yes vote whatever), its ironic that if he’d have made this speech in 2009 instead of reneging on the ‘cast iron guarantee’ he would likely be leading a majority Conservative Government preparing for a referendum on the EU. However as ever Cameron is behind the curve offering. What have on the table this time is not a cast iron guarantee but a ‘hand made synthetic uncertainty’

    If Cameron wins an election, if Cameron can get the EU to negotiate, if that negotiation provides the unspecified reforms he wants he will hold a referendum and recommend a yes vote. Red meat, more like mouldy reconsituted chicken roll and all this from a Prime Minister who has spent the last two years facing both ways and satisfying no one. Sadly I suspect this is just another exercise of that phenomena. On one is the EU, the Westminster political establishment and their collective vested interests. On the other the British people.

    I’m afraid it’s all too little too late and any real Eurosceptic cannot in all good faith take such proposals seriously. Cameron does not have any credibility when it comes to Europe.

  • an ex-tory voter

    Will he campaign to leave the EU if his negotiation is unsuccessful?, answer came there “none”, quelle surprise!

    If I were an EU leader having listened to his speech I would know that
    all I have to do is stall and Cameron will fold and continue inside the

    Cameron is either completely devoid of negotiating skills, or thinks that he can continue to fool the electorate with his faux scepticism. Either way, under his premiership the end result is the same, “greater EU integration, further loss of liberty and erosion of democratic rights.

  • anyfool

    All you have to do now to have a chance to get out of EU is campaign to persuade the Electorate to vote for a majority Conservative government, nothing else will do, no feeble excuses that Cameron or some other bogey man will somehow prevent it, if you get a Conservative majority you will get a chance to have your say, the bigger their majority the less chance of of any reneging on the promise, as basically the newer conservative MPs are euro-sceptic.

    This is your chance do not blow it with mindless paranoid fears.

    • an ex-tory voter

      Regardless of the result of his “negotiations” a majority Conservative government under DC will never campaign to leave the EU. Why the f— should I vote for him and his party?
      Please somebody give me some good reasons, and don’t bother with the “Millipede fear close”, I am not buying that one. Milliband and Cameron give us the same end result, “rule from Brussels”.

      • anyfool

        I cannot understand someone who is supposed to be an ex Tory voter fails to understand the current thinking running through through the party, the party currently is in favour of renegotiation with a sizable out brigade and a tiny in at all costs.

        If you have more Tory MPs both these positions will become even stronger, so regardless of your misgivings Cameron would be out on his ear if up to the vote on Europe he tried any watering down of his current proposals.

        He has strengthened his current position but in the long run he will be have to do their bidding, as such he will be a lot weaker and the party more democratic.

  • In2minds


    • Augustus

      Have a heart! On second thoughts, dont bother!

  • Bluesman

    The “Cammie” count is still under-way but we can start with the big one – Norway (again).

  • Russell

    Cameron said “And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the
    British people a referendum with a very simple in-or-out choice to stay
    in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an
    in/out referendum”

    What Cameron didn’t say is if a referendum will be held if a new settlement cannot be negotiated…..A very Slippery customer is Cameron.

    As for a 2017 referendum!

    I am sure a group of mere taxpayers could sit down in a room and work out if the UK is better served being in or out of the UK and tell the EU changes required for us to stay in the EU in a lot less than 4 years, a referendum should take place BEFORE the next General Election with or without any new terms of membership!

    • Fergus Pickering

      Oh come now!

    • Span Ows

      I agree. The speech was good but there are too many bits to fit into place before a referendum. it’s like the ‘cast iron guarantee’ that everybody thinks he broke, he didn’t break it all; he put a condition in place that wasn’t met; he has just done the same thing again…not good enough if the Conservative Party hope to win outright in 2015 I’m afraid.

  • Chris lancashire

    Excellent, calm, measured speech from Cameron on a hugely difficult subject. There is certainly a long way to go but a very, very good start. It delivers the straightforward in/out referendum unequivocally and, just as a by-product confounds Labour. And the 7% of the population who follow Nigel will no doubt welcome it also.

  • Bruce_UK

    “Let me be absolutely clear: If I’m Prime Minister, this will happen.’

    “Ferrum proiecta est” *

    Yet, strangely, my breath is not baited. Cross the Rubicon? This from someone who needs a focus group to cross his legs.

    *Probably not good enough for Citizen Johnson but hey.

  • Vulture

    Too many Ifs… and Cameron’s pose as a ‘Eurosceptic’ is about as convincing as Gary Glitter applying for a Lifeguard’s job in a kiddies playpool.

    He fooled them once with the ‘Cast Iron’ guarantee; let’s see if he can fool them again with this load of old fluff. More fool them if he does.

    Apparently the Cameroons are already ringing round saying that this is just to keep backbenchers worried about UKIP happy.

    Unconvincing as the rest of this snakeoil salesman’s pitch.

    • telemachus

      Whatever happens the Tories are finished
      The more he bangs on about Europe the more he plays into the hands of Ukip
      Come the European elections the unstoppable momentum of Ukip will allow us to return to reasonable government in 2015

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    Cameron has already told us what he will do if the renegotiation fails.
    “He will never campaign to take the UK out of the EU.”
    “He will never lead the UK out of the EU.”
    The EU will therefore throw a few scraps his way (probably already agreed in principle) and Cameron will claim a massive victory.
    This is a charade …. one that will go on for 5 years, whilst we are forced to accept and pay welfare to hundreds of thousands more Eastern Europeans. And during those 5 years, we will transfer another £80 billion to the EU to waste on its self-aggrandisement, fraud and corruption.
    All Cameron is aiming for is to win back enough votes from a gullible electorate in order to win the next General Election and then stitch-up a rigged Referendum in order to keep us in his beloved EU.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Tell me how the referendum will be rigged? Will OUT votes not be counted? Will IN votes be counted twice? If neither rof these things happen then how will it be rigged. I think you mean the electorate may be too stupid to vote the way you want them to. If that is the case then why have a referendum at all?.

    • FrenchNewsonlin

      “waste on its self-aggrandisement, fraud and corruption” and now add to this eurocrats announcing the licensing and control of a free press (all praise, they willingly admit, to Leveson). Sound the trumpets, bring down the walls of Barlaymont-Jericho, force them to answer to national electorates.

    • telemachus

      Stop scaremongering about Bulgaria
      Labour-market barriers decrease the efficiency of business, leading to increased costs for all and market imbalances. This is for the same reason that trade tariffs disrupt markets in goods and services and make things more expensive. This is because as you limit the pool of possible workers, wages become inflated as employers find it harder to fill slots. To put it the opposite way around: free labour markets (allowing people to go and work wherever they want, like Brits working abroad) are good for the overall economy and aid overall stability.

      • Kron Hjon

        That might sound fine and dandy in the Laissez-faire play book you obviously spend so much time with.. Unfortunately, is has nothing to do with reality.

        When an Bulgarian (your example) takes a job in Britain it means an Briton won’t get it. When the same fore mentioned Bulgarians dump wages they put British workers and companies out of business. It low wage labour should be let in at all it should be under carefully regulated forms and time limited.

  • Bert3000

    This was the Conservative party’s suicide note for 2015.

    • Jebediah

      Nonsense. He is saying he will let the British electorate decide. Something I think most ordinary people (left, right and centre) want and have wanted since the EEC which we voted to join, morphed into the EU, which we didn’t. The next stage of the EU is to become even more of a federal state, it’s right we should vote on our role in that.

      • George_Arseborne

        Europe is not amongst the first five important issue with the electorate.Why are people thinking that 2015 election is base on this . He is being scared by the UKIP and those Tories that are now members of UKIP will not return because they know Cameron is a big liar. What happen to the cast iron guarantee?

        Who can really trust him?

      • max taylor

        I agree with Jebediah, he holding out the prospect of a choice for UK people to decide. I think that’s a good thing and will win votes for the Tories.

  • Ian Walker

    Would you like a précis of the renegotiation discussions? I’ve just looked into my magic time travelling script book:
    Enter some Representatives
    British Representative: “Reform of the CAP is absolutely essential”
    French Representative:

    • telemachus

      The CAP has been important to bind France in to the project
      The importance is eroding year on year
      Stop fighting the wars of the past and move to maximising the benefit of this dynamic single market

      • Ian Walker

        ‘single market’ is a tautology – either a market is ‘single’ or there are many markets. Labour hallmark, why use one word when you can add extra bullshit?

  • David Lindsay


    Oh, well, a warm welcome to the Conservative Party
    as the third party out of three to support a referendum, not that I
    there is any real need for one, or for renegotation, rather than for
    plain and simple primary legislation. Unlike the other
    two, the Third Party, which based on the Rotherham by-election result
    may also be called the Fifth Party, is still entirely closed to a
    referendum on the real issue.

    But, like so many other things, it only counts when the
    Tories say or do it. Everyone else does not exist. Apart from UKIP, obviously.
    Fleet Street’s and the BBC’s beloved eccentric uncles who are therefore
    saturated with affectionate, wholly uninquiring coverage.

    But for serious people, unlike David Cameron, legislation now, next week if possible, with six simple clauses. If playing
    about with the succession to the Throne can be rushed through both Houses in
    two days, then so can this.

    First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use
    to repatriate agricultural, industrial and regional policy while also
    reclaiming our historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to median line) in
    accordance with international law.

    Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United
    Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had
    originated in one or other of them.

    Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping
    Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meet in public
    and publish an Official Report akin to Hansard.

    Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the
    European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless
    confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of

    Fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the
    European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as
    politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of

    And sixthly, since apparently we must, the provision for a referendum on the
    question, “Do you wish the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European
    Union?” The first five would come into effect at the same time as this
    provision, and would not be conditional on that referendum’s outcome.

    Over to the Opposition Front Bench. Clearly, no one else is going to make
    the move.

    • Fergus Pickering

      What, no seventhly. No tenthly. You’re just not trying, Lindsay. And your father a Scottish minister of the Presbyterian Free Church.

      • David Lindsay

        He most certainly was not!

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