The Conservative leader has told us that he supports a referendum on the forthcoming EU Treaty. Good. But he has not told us how he plans to vote in that referendum. The fact is that Cameron has said on many occasions that he sees Britain's future within the EU. But he also wants to reform it. His problem is that the EU has cleverly described the Treaty as the 'Reform Treaty', leaving Cameron at a disadvantage. Does he, or does he not support EU reform?
His other problem is of course he will not be the one to define the terms of the debate over the next 6 months to the Lisbon Summit where the treaty will be signed, nor the terms over the following 18 months whilst the ratification process goes on. The terms will be set by Gordon Brown and the European Leadership.
The line will be, support this Treaty or leave the EU. After all that is what they were saying during the first Constitution debate and they know it will be very difficult for Cameron to stay on track. His party will by and large opt for withdrawal if the terms are set like that, but he and his leadership cabal will be stuck supporting the Treaty. "Keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse".
Across the Continent EU leaders are saying that this is the Constitution in all but name, but they are also saying in private that if Britain has a referendum and votes No it will have to leave the EU.
Brown will of course exploit this weakness in the Tory leadership position, thus I would not be at all surprised if he, at much the same time as he announces a possible early election will also announce that Britain will have its referendum, as promised in the Labour Manifesto, and in line with his new 'listening' approach to government.
This of course leaves the Conservative leader in a difficult position. Demand a referendum, but hope to God that Gordon refuses his demand. The abject hypocrisy of the Conservative leadership on the most fundamental issue facing our nation is a disgrace.
So Mr Cameron, will you campaign for a 'No' vote in a forthcoming referendum on the new EU treaty, even if it means that Britain will have to withdraw?
Below, lifted from a couple of places (Open Europe) (EU Referendum) is a compilation of some of the things that have been said about the Mandate so far,
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
“The fundamentals of the Constitution have been maintained in large part… We have renounced everything that makes people think of a state, like the flag and the national anthem.” El Pais (25 June)
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
The mandate approved by the EU will “preserve the substance of the constitutional treaty”. Agence Europe (25 June)
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero
"A great part of the content of the European Constitution is captured in the new treaties”, Zapatero said. “Everyone has conceded a little so that we all gain a lot”, added Zapatero. El Pais (25 June)
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
“Given the fact that there was strong legal advice that the draft constitution in 2004 would require a referendum in Ireland, and given the fact that these changes haven't made any dramatic change to the substance of what was agreed back in 2004, I think it is likely that a referendum will be held... thankfully they haven't changed the substance - 90 per cent of it is still there."
On the change of name for the EU Foreign Minister he said: "It's the original job as proposed but they just put on this long title - High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and also vice President of the Commission. It's the same job […] it's still going to be the same position." Irish Independent (24 June)
Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “The good thing is...that all the symbolic elements are gone, and that which really matters – the core - is left." Jyllands-Posten (25 June)
Finland’s Europe Minister
Finland’s Europe Minister Astrid Thors: “There’s nothing from the original institutional package that has been changed” TV-Nytt, (23 June)
Finland's State Secretary for EU Affairs Jari Luoto
There are few differences between it and "the constitutional treaty which has already been ratified by Finland's Parliament". YLE News,
French President Nicolas Sarkozy
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has claimed victory, saying, “This was France’s idea from the start.” Libération (25 June)
During a press conference Sarkozy said “Competition is no longer an objective in itself – it’s a tool at the service of the internal market but is no longer an objective of the Union… for the first time… the Union has to help ensure the protection of citizens… the word protection is no longer taboo.”
At the Paris Air Show Sarkozy also said that Britain keeping the pound amounted to unfair competition. He said other countries, “can't go on imposing social, environmental, fiscal and monetary dumping' on Europe. I ask that we do with the euro with the US does with the dollar or even what our English friends do with the pound.” CNBC (24 June)
Sarkozy also dismissed the change of the EU Foreign Minister’s name as of no significance. "What does it matter what we call him?" Telegraph (24 June)
Commission President Jose Barroso
Barroso said he was happy that his son was studying law, because under the new treaty: "lawyers have a beautiful future.” Süddeutsche Zeitung (25 June)
Czech Social Democrat Leader Jiri Paroubek
"first of all appreciate that the reform treaty retains the basis of the EU constitution" and that the summit agreed on the mandate for an inter-governmental conference. He said that the Czech government would discuss the mandate in the parliament and would take into account the position of the senior opposition Social Democrats. CTK Agency
A headline in Le Monde reads: “The symbols have disappeared, the fundamentals remain.” A leader in Le Monde notes that all the “the institutional advances brought by the Constitution have been maintained. While the symbols – anthem, flag etc – have officially disappeared, the permanent presidency remains; and while the minister of foreign affairs has gone back to high representative, he keeps all the new powers that Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s text gave him.” (25 June)
An article in Libération reports that “In the end, the Brussels agreement is unexpected, since the essential of the advances of the Constitution are safeguarded, even if it is horribly complex.” (25 June)
A leader in Le Figaro argues that, “the essentials of the institutional advances have been preserved.”
Leading MEP Elmar Brok, the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed the outcome of the Summit and said: “Despite all the compromises, the substance of the draft EU Constitution has been safeguarded.” Euractiv (25 June)
Handelsblatt describes the deal as a "diplomatic coup" for Angela Merkel.
Diego Lopez Garrido, the Socialists’ parliamentary spokesman, was euphoric: “Europe is our strategic bet for the 21st century and from this point of view the summit has been a total success. The referendum which the Spanish approved the Constitution has been decisive, and 99% of its content has survived.” El Pais (25 June)
Spanish diplomats have also dismissed the change in the name of the new EU Foreign Minister. One said: "We have exactly what we wanted. The foreign minister will have the political clout necessary to do his job and will control the administrative services too. Blair was worried about this, but over lunch he calmed down… If your name is Maria, you can call yourself Jane, but you will still do Maria's job." Telegraph (24 June)
According to Het Financieele Dagblad – the Dutch equivalent of the Financial Times: “Jan Peter Balkenenende's government will ask the Dutch council of state for a recommendation on the new treaty. In 2003, the highest advisory body of the Dutch government recommended to organize the referendum specifically because of the charter of fundamental rights. If the council of state stays with this position - and it's difficult to see why not - then it will be very hard for the government not to organize another referendum. That makes it uncertain if the new European treaty can be put into force." (25 June)
The Belgian minister of foreign affairs Karel De Gucht has complained that the new treaty seems to have the goal, "of being as illegible as possible". Süddeutsche Zeitung (24 June)
A leader in the Financial Times admits: “Mr Blair tried to prevent the charter on fundamental rights from being made legally binding. He failed. But he has won a lengthy protocol insisting that it cannot be used to challenge UK laws: in effect, it is another opt-out.” However it notes “It may not be legally enforceable, for it discriminates in the application of fundamental rights.”
Labour MEP Richard Corbett admitted on Friday that the new treaty could be as little as 5% different to the old constitution: “The 5% that has been dropped – and I think it is probably more – is actually the crucial bit – the bits that caused people to worry, and they will go.” (BBC PM, 22 June)