Europe on their minds
Day 2 of David Cameron’s big push on the EU and the Prime Minister has set out what he hopes to achieve in his renegotiation with Brussels. In another setpiece address, this time to the Chatham House foreign policy think tank, the PM said the EU must not become a “single currency club”, and that he wanted national parliaments to be able to block EU laws. He also set out ideas to tackle “benefit tourism” by EU migrants.
As with his speech to the CBI on Monday, Cameron was at pains to suggest he had not ruled out campaigning to leave the EU if he did not get what he wanted from his fellow EU leaders. But in another indication of where he is most likely to land, he again attacked advocates of a Brexit for suggesting Britain could be like Norway in its dealings with the EU. For the first time he also explicitly linked membership of the EU to Britain’s national security, something that could prompt senior ministers flirting with withdrawal to pause for thought. As some observers have noted, Cameron was making opening arguments for the campaign to remain in the EU as much as setting out a negotiating platform.
Someone else with the EU on their mind this week is Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, who faces scrutiny following suggestions she misled the House of Commons on Britain’s ability to meet EU renewable targets. Rudd has dismissed reports she acknowledged the UK was falling short of the goals in a private letter to cabinet colleagues after insisting the contrary to MPs. The row is unlikely to lead to Rudd’s ousting from government, but adds to the pressure on DECC at a very delicate moment as it negotiates its spending settlement with the Treasury. The Energy Secretary is politically close to the Chancellor, but her clout in budget talks could be affected by this unfortunately-timed controversy.