What did you think of David Cameron’s Europe speech?
David Cameron delivers his speech on Europe at the Bloomberg HQ in London, © i-Images
Richard Ashworth MEP, Leader of Tory MEPs: "He has set out his vision for the future of Europe and the UK's relationship with a reformed EU. The speech reinforced his preference for membership, but made clear this cannot be taken for granted. I call on fellow Conservatives to rally behind this vision, support the strategy and meet the challenge of helping the EU become a more flexible and friendly place for Britain. We will get a vote on membership, appropriately, once the renegotiation process is completed, some time in the next parliament. It was a thoughtful speech. These were core Tory aspirations which should reassure the party faithful and the country."
Martin Callanan MEP: “David Cameron has given the right speech at the right time and I fully support it.
As someone who’s taken part in many Euro negotiations, I think David Cameron’s European agenda is eminently deliverable and he is right to try.
Britain is in a strong position to ask for a more flexible arrangement and if the EU is to hold together through this crisis then it needs to realise that the model of ever-closer union is antiquated and needs to change. It's not only the UK that is more than reluctant to become part of an inward-looking fiscal and political union.
Of course, European federalists will scream that David Cameron’s agenda is undeliverable and will undermine the Single Market. This is complete nonsense. The only thing the Prime Minister wants to undermine is the outdated principle that only one-size-fits-all is the way forward for the EU.
As parts of the EU continue to integrate then the likelihood of the UK leaving will only increase, unless we can forge a new flexible alliance that allows national governments to ask at which level powers are best exercised.
The British people should have their opportunity to finally have their say. If only we had resorted to asking the people about the relationship they want with Europe in the past then it would not face a crisis of legitimacy today.”
Nadine Dorries MP: “On Monday afternoon a former Labour Minister asked me why I thought Labour were only 5 per cent ahead in the mid-term polls.
This speech will in part answer his question.
Not only are the British people fully realising that Labour left us with the worst deficit in the Western world and are to blame for almost bankrupting the country, they will now see a Prime Minister who has stepped out of No.10 with a well thought-through vision for the future and a plan to deliver.
With one hand tied behind his back by his Lib Dem partners, David Cameron promises to draft legislation in this Parliament ready to enable an in/out referendum in the first year of the next, should a Conservative Government be elected.
The speech fills a political vacuum and introduces a degree of gravitas to a government which has been tainted by the accusation of pursuing issues which don't matter in times of austerity, such as gay marriage and Lords Reform.
This speech won’t make me vote for an increase to the EU budget at a time when we are cutting some council budgets by 20 per cent, and I will remain someone who wants a self-governing nation which places equal importance on trading with all countries in the world, not just those in Europe – but this speech is audacious and brave. It shines a spotlight on the future under a majority Conservative government and it’s a future many will want to share.”
Matthew Elliott: “Big speeches, like Budgets, take a while to digest. But taken at face value, this was an extremely bold speech delivered in a typically measured way. While the precise details of the renegotiation will be subject to endless debate over the next five years, the five principles set the bar pretty high. The debate will now turn to whether the PM will be able to achieve these objectives and, if Treaty change happens before the election, whether the renegotiation will also come sooner. For Eurosceptics, one thing is clear. The starting pistol has been fired on a referendum. We must now shift our focus from debating amongst ourselves and instead take the fight to those who argue that it is too risky to negotiate a better deal for Britain. Let battle commence.”
Daniel Hannan MEP: “This is an extraordinary moment. A British Prime Minister has promised an In/Out referendum. Instead of the ministers and mandarins deciding whether the deal is good enough – which is what has led us to the present mess – the electorate as a whole will decide. As recently as two years ago, David Cameron said he saw no need for an In/Out referendum, because he wanted to remain in the EU. What has changed his mind? Partly the People’s Pledge, one of the most successful campaigns I’ve ever been involved in. Partly the heroic 111 MPs who showed which way Parliament was moving on this issue. Partly the eurozone crisis. And partly UKIP. Which is why it is so puzzling to see friends in that party sulking this morning when they should be awarding themselves a medal. The PM has just embraced the policy they have been demanding for 20 years. That policy doesn’t become wrong just because someone else is proposing it. Stop carping, my UKIP friends, and start preparing for the referendum.
Thanks to all ConHome readers who signed the People’s Pledge. And thanks to everyone who made the argument for a referendum within the party, patiently and courteously. It worked. This is your victory.”
Bernard Jenkin MP: “The Prime Minister’s speech represents a watershed. His commitment to a referendum is historic – a pledge to re-engage the British people with the question of our EU membership. Our EU partners must decide whether to accommodate our legitimate wishes for democratic self-government while we remain signatories to all the EU Treaties up to and including Lisbon, or if the repudiation of the ‘ever close union’ means a new treaty between the EU and the UK, based purely on ‘trade and political cooperation’. That is what the British people want and should be the mandate for renegotiation contained in our 2015 manifesto.”
Andrea Leadsom MP: “David Cameron is right to say that Europe must change and the EU needs to serve the interests of the British people much better. The status quo in Britain’s relationship with the EU is no longer an option, and the Prime Minister seeks to negotiate a deal that promotes our national interest. It is also right to seek fresh consent from the British people.
The speech sets out a clear choice for the country: under a Conservative government, the UK will negotiate a new settlement with the EU and voters will be given a say.
I believe the country will unite behind this approach and we can focus our efforts on a robust but achievable renegotiation.”
Andrew Lilico: “This speech will unite the Conservative Party and divide the Labour Party. The considerable majority of Conservatives would prefer to stay in the EU on renegotiated terms, whilst those that want to leave will have a better referendum than they ever hoped for – not simply a status quo versus leave referendum, but a referendum in which the status quo isn’t even an option! When Cameron and Hague have tried to avoid talking about the EU, it has created splits in the party. Engaging properly will, by contrast, build political capital for deficit reduction, welfare reform and other policies. Spot on.”
Louise Mensch: “As a libertarian, I’ve always been in favour of hunting. And the sound we just heard was Cameron shooting Farage’s fox.
This was a very Tory speech. One many in the party have been hoping for years he would make. Ask for a mandate for total renegotiation, and if we don't get it – a straight in/out referendum.
Maximum leverage on the Eurocrats. And a major shift for the PM. This speech saw the George Osborne/Michael Gove wing of government triumphing over the Nick Clegg one. Previously, with one eye on coalition, Cameron had stated he would never want to leave the EU. Now he says he wants to stay – but only if our demands are met.
Canny Tories will take this and run with it. There is no huge appetite to walk out of the EU right now. Taking our powers back or we quit; that’s what voters want.
Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are left totally flat-footed. Cameron’s move is both populist and measured. He leads; they splutter. George Osborne is a tactical genius. Miliband had a chance to offer a referendum ahead of Cameron at party conference season, but he fluffed it. He will forever be playing catch-up.
One last point: I *loved* how Cameron stuck it to Clegg towards the beginning of his speech. Europhile former MEP Clegg had huffed saying that Cameron's speech would be delivered ‘as Tory leader, not as Prime Minister.’ Cameron put the squawking yellow budgie firmly back in its cage today: ‘I speak as British Prime Minister...’
And after this move today, he probably will speak again as Prime Minister when he presents our non-negotiable demands to the EU in 2015.”
Mark Reckless MP: “In the early hours of Friday 7th May 2010 I made a speech at what is now called Medway Park.
After I had thanked constituents, campaign team, police and officials I repeated my campaign promise that I would use my election to fight for an In/Out referendum so that Britain could again be an independent country.
The local BBC reporter covering the Medway count asked me afterward if that was party policy. I said ‘No, not yet’.
It is now.
Within eighteen months, 81 Conservative MPs voted for an In/Out referendum.
A year later I got a majority in Parliament to cut the EU budget.
Now the Prime Minister has promised an In/Out referendum.
It is therefore time for everyone, whether they believe in an independent Britain, or simply in democracy, to get behind the Prime Minister and campaign finally for that In/Out referendum.”
Laura Sandys MP: “I welcome the strength of the PM’s commitment to shaping and winning the debate around a reinvigorated European settlement with the British people. Mainstream Conservatives share the PM’s desire for Europe to be a success and support his personal commitment to the UK’s continued and growing influence in the EU.
Despite the frustrations of all international organisations, we would not contemplate leaving the UN Security Council, NATO, or even the IMF. It is therefore extremely reassuring that the Prime Minister, while offering a referendum, will be supporting Britain’s role as a vocal and leading member of the largest trading bloc in the world.
The referendum offers an opportunity to reboot our relationship in Europe and will reconfirm the nature of our relationships with the EU. We have a challenge to help shape Europe around Cameron’s growth strategy. This we believe is a strategy that can be won across Europe, further strengthening the economic value of Europe to Britain.”