The majority of Conservative backbenchers will remain unconvinced even if David Cameron succeeds in renegotiating the terms of the UK’s membership of the European Union, the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee has said.
Asked if a successful renegotiation would change the minds of “the bulk of his backbenchers”, Crispin Blunt said: “No, I don’t think so.”
“The majority of colleagues are sitting in the middle waiting for the result of the renegotiation,” the MP for Reigate told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme. “People are going to have to take a view and whatever he gets is probably going to be unbankable. It’s not a treaty change, it will be a promise of a treaty change.”
The prime minister will write a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council and who chairs EU summits, detailing the changes he hopes to obtain in the EU, before putting the outcome to a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU to take place by the end of 2017.
Cabinet sources told the Sunday Telegraph last week that the prime minister’s four-point plan involved: forcing Brussels to make an explicit statement that Britain will be exempted from the EU’s founding principle of “ever closer union”; requesting an explicit statement that the euro is not the official currency of the EU; restructuring the EU to prevent the nine countries that are not in the eurozone being dominated by the 19 member states that are; and creating a new “red card” system to allow national parliaments to stop and scrap unwanted EU directives.
Blunt conceded that many of the items on the list would be easy to achieve, but said: “If he presents too clear a list, any difficulties he then has in the subsequent negotiations will be represented as failure, so obviously it’s going to be extremely important that he is able – if he is going to carry the referendum comfortably – to have come up with a success.
“So the definition of success and the definition of failure as presented by the sceptics in parliament and in the media are partly going to create the environment in which the referendum is launched.”
The letter is to be sent in November so that the other 27 EU governments are able to consider it ahead of a summit in December, which is expected to tackle the British question more substantively.
“He was always going to be forced [to draw up a list of demands] at some point,” said Blunt. “I think if he’s able to narrow this to a letter to Donald Tusk in November leading into a summit a month later, and if he gets the result of a December summit in terms of a draft protocol, that’s probably the best thing he’s going to get. But this is protocol that people will promise to sign up to the next time there are treaty changes, that’s really as good as he’s going to get.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Friday 16th October 2015 17.53 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010