The big story on Europe isn’t Cameron’s completely predictable climbdown

The big news about Europe this week is way beyond David Cameron. It was EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes who was mainly responsible for splitting the big banks and having a big hand in General Motors to back off from their sale to Magna on the grounds that the Canadian firm’s drastic restructuring plans could run into trouble over state aid. That’s what the EU is most effectively about – setting fair rules for a global market. On Cameron, the only surprise is that any Conservatives are shocked. Tim Montgomerie the on line Tory guru admits that Cameron’s fresh pledges on Europe are largely empty.A referendum on any more treaties?

Given that Lisbon is a self-amending treaty, full of ratchet clauses, the promise of future referendums on transfers of power is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

A Sovereignty Bill reinforcing parliamentary sovereignty? Westminster will be just as sovereign as the Supreme Court says it is, compatible with EU law.

Tory king blogger Iain Dale professes lack of disappointment in Cameron and gives weight to the Sovereignty Bill, while preferring a “mandate referendum” – as if that would have bowled over 26 countries.
The Conservative’s favourite attack dog Fraser Nelson editor of the Spectator, shares the dim view of the Cameron package. Last night on Newsnight he looked forward to the nuclear option of in-or-out referendum in four years time. In the cold light of today, he seems to have changed his mind.

The prospect of an ‘in our out’ referendum is the only stick worth wielding in Brussels. And it is powerful precisely because the democracy-dodging elite have a horrible feeling they know what the answer might be. But will Cameron approach the subject? I very much doubt it.

Will the Tories fall to devouring themselves over Eruope once more? Sniffing power, I very much doubt it. But Cameron has just lost one of his nine leader’s lives.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London