Well, Cameron made his referendum speech, and the contents were pretty much as trailed last night.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Iain Martin highlights the challenge that the speech poses for both Labour (thoroughly europhile at the top, less convincingly so elsewhere) and the euroskeptics of UKIP:
This morning the Labour leader’s line is that Cameron’s promise is evidence of weakness. This is silly as it makes it difficult for Miliband if he later realises that he must copy him, in which case he will be adopting what he has called a “weak” policy. But does he really want Labour to take the risk of fighting the election in 2015 saying he will deny the British a vote on their future relationship with Europe? That will do wonders for Cameron, giving Euro-sceptics an incentive to vote and campaign for the Conservatives.
Ukip celebrations are probably premature. In shifting, Cameron has proved that the insurgent party has great influence even if it has not a single MP. Still, it is hard to see this meaning anything other than the halting or reversal of the rise of Ukip. Now that Cameron has moved, how will it answer the charge from Tories that a vote for Ukip only makes a Labour government – offering no referendum – more likely?
My guess is that Labour will start edging in the direction of a referendum. As for UKIP, its best approach will be to stress that the “renegotiations” that Cameron is promising are highly likely to prove a dead end.
Writing for the Spectator , M. E. Symon gives one important reason why:
…What the Commission won’t come out and say – because it would hand another weapon to eurosceptics – is that it is legally impossible for any EU institution or EU member states to hand back powers to Britain, even if they want to. Legal mechanisms for handing back powers – ‘competences,’ in the jargon – do not exist. A whole new treaty would have to be created, re-jigging the legal basis of the EU. Is that going to happen? No. Anyway, it would be the work of a generation, not of the few years between now and the middle of the next Government. Such a treaty change would have to assume that all the other member states could indeed be persuaded by a Tory politician to declare null and void the Treaty of Rome’s imperative of ‘an ever closer union.’
‘Ever closer’ means, and has meant from the start, that powers run on a one-way street. This is the founding doctrine of the true faith of the European Union believers. It is as essential to the EU as the doctrine of transubstantiation is to the Catholic Church: if that doctrine falls, it all falls. Which is why the powers won’t let it fall.
However, what happened today at the commission press briefing was confirmation that no EU institution is likely to advertise that fact to the British. The eurocrats would rather let Cameron go on for years in what, in the end, can only be a pantomime of negotiation.
UKIP’s task will be to show up that pantomime for what it really is.