As evidence mounts that Cameron and his allies have decided there will be a Yes vote to stay in the EU, I smell a cynical stitch-up
By STEPHEN GLOVER
9 June 2015
A mere four weeks have passed since the election, and already the Tories are at one another’s throats in a way that will dismay their supporters and delight their opponents.
Europe is, of course, the cause of dissension. It nearly always is in the Tory Party, or at any rate has been on and off over the past 25 years. After a period of relative quiescence, old wounds are being opened up again in the most dramatic fashion.
The pity of it is that the in-fighting is utterly unnecessary. Whether or not Britain remains a member of the European Union is bound to be a contentious issue inside the Conservative Party, as in the country, but there is no cause for fisticuffs before negotiations have even started. That they should have already begun is in large measure the fault of the Government – and of the newly victorious David Cameron.
Eurosceptics have good reason to believe that they are on the receiving end of a Great Stitch-Up. Evidence is mounting almost by the day that the Prime Minister and his allies have decided in advance there will be a ‘Yes’ vote to stay in the EU in the referendum, which could take place as early as next May.
The most sensational development came on Sunday when Mr Cameron appeared to tell journalists covering the G7 Summit in Germany that ministers will have to back him in the referendum – or leave the Government.
Downing Street has subsequently rowed back, presumably because his reported remarks provoked such a ferocious response from Tory MPs. It has declared that what he said has been ‘wrongly interpreted’, even though on Sunday evening it appeared perfectly content with reporters’ interpretations.
We are now told that loyalty from ministers is being demanded only during the renegotiation process. But why would anyone think of leaving government in protest while this is going on, and before the upshot is clear? It doesn’t make sense.
No, I’m afraid David Cameron disclosed his true hand. His instinct, and almost certainly his intention, is to insist that ministers back whatever settlement he manages to negotiate. Such an outcome would be intolerably autocratic, illiberal and divisive. Moreover, it amounts to a potentially disastrously negative approach to negotiations.
For consider first the probable response of Angela Merkel and other European leaders. In essence Mr Cameron is saying, even if he has half eaten his words, that he will do his utmost to impose on the Tory Party whatever deal he reaches with the EU.
In other words, he is not keeping open the possibility of rejecting the rather meagre terms which seem likely to be thrashed out.
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