David Cameron caused a stir today by walking, yes, walking, into the meeting of European leaders in Brussels to discussed the multiannual financial framework. Other leaders arrived in their cars. Perhaps he was trying to make a point about the EU’s excesses as he seeks a reduction in the spending plans currently on the table, but in case they didn’t get the hint, he gave this broadcast clip on arrival, saying:
‘Frankly the European Union should not be immune from the sorts of pressures that we’ve had to reduce spending, find efficiencies and make sure that we spend money wisely that we’re all having to do right across Europe. Now when we were last here in November, the numbers that were put forward were much too high, they need to come down and if they don’t come down there won’t be a deal.’
The stakes are high both in Brussels and back home. Cameron knows that, played badly, these negotiations could limit his long-term gain from the Big Europe Speech. He is in a tight spot because if he is too pushy with European leaders, he could end up being isolated again at a time when he needs their reassurance about the UK’s bargaining power for future renegotiations.
But if he doesn’t get the deal that he wants, he’ll return to an angry Conservative party, with Labour as happy to provoke them as it was last November when it ganged up with them to defeat the government. Even though Tory MPs seem very happy to talk about anything other than Europe, troublemakers will soon add EU spending to their list of ‘key tests’ for the Prime Minister if they sense he’s going to be on the back foot again on European affairs.