So at last David Cameron delivered his long awaited speech on Europe. Arguably the most important speech, by a British Prime Minister, since Tony Blair’s speech proposing the case for war in Iraq.
British politics, it seems, has entered the era of the referendum arguably started with the referendum on the voting system in 2011 with a vote on the Scottish Independence and an In/Out vote on the EU. Here in Northern Ireland, we have Sinn Fein calling for a referendum on our position in the UK.
Getting back to Cameron’s speech, it contained a lot of ifs and qualifications on when and how this EU referendum will happen. For one the Conservatives have to win the next general election for the chance to vote on EU membership, this seems to be a political judgement to kill off UKIP who are largely a protest party on the EU. The main element of Cameron’s plan is a renegotiation which will prove to be the toughest challenge he faces as PM. However, the EU model is undergoing massive change with discussions already ongoing about the Eurozone.
This speech however, reflects on the difficult relationship that the Conservative Party has with the EU. It also creates more questions than answers for Tories. Also, it will most likely disappoint a number of Tories as Cameron will most probably campaign to stay in the EU but as he highlighted he wants reform.
The pro and cons of EU membership for the UK is complicated with a number of figures being put out by both sides. It can only be hoped that when the referendum comes along that the electorate will be well informed by both sides on the issue. This speech aimed to calm down the anti European feeling and avert a row within the Tory party, however, it has only delayed it and more than likely the proposed referendum will cause more damage than heal any wounds.