Cameron has finally delivered his much anticipated speech on Europe. Thanks to the long wait, we largely knew what he was going to say before he actually said it. Nevertheless, where we might have hoped for more detail and clarification, Cameron has just created more uncertainty.
Cameron has said he wants a referendum on a reformed EU, but apart from some vague notions, we don’t really know where he thinks there needs to be reform. Where are his red lines? What does he believe absolutely must change in order for Britain to stay in? It’s interesting to note that in all subsequent interviews, Cameron has skirted round the question of whether he will campaign for an ‘out’ vote if he doesn’t get the reform he wants.
So not only has Cameron left us uncertain about what he wants, he has also created huge uncertainty about Britain’s future in Europe – and this won’t be settled for another 5 years. It is tantamount to putting up a “Closed for Business” sign at the UK’s borders as international companies won’t think about setting up in the UK if they fear our EU membership, and thus their access to the world’s largest single market, is in doubt. And it’s not just Labour saying this, leading figures ranging from Richard Branson, Barack Obama, and even people in Cameron’s own party, have all stated that putting our EU membership in doubt will cost jobs in Britain.
Meanwhile, with more than a million young people unemployed in the UK, our priority should be focussing all our energy on creating jobs and growth. This is what Labour MEPs are trying to do. We know that the EU isn’t perfect, but we also understand that we will get reform by working with our European partners, not by blackmailing them with threats of a British exit if we don’t get what we want.
Ultimately, as Ed Miliband has pointed out, Cameron isn’t thinking about what’s really in the interest of British people and British workers, he’s just trying to keep his party on side. Cameron has said he doesn’t want Britain to leave the EU but he’s let his party force him into offering a referendum and, if he isn’t careful, they will end up forcing him through the exit door.