Exclusive: EU memo to the Prime Minister from his Political Adviser
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From: The Political Adviser to the Prime Minister
To: The Prime Minister
You asked for a brief summary of your EU strategy in advance of your speech later this week.
- The promise of an In/Out referendum under a Conservative Government late in the next Parliament will draw much of the poison that has plagued the party over the EU issue since Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech - by making it clear to those MPs and party members opposed to EU membership that in such circumstances they will have an opportunity to campaign for a No vote.
- The pledge may not prevent UKIP from making advances in this year's County Council elections or indeed next year's European ones. However, it will, in the different circumstances of the 2015 general election, help to squeeze UKIP's vote - since you will be able to argue that all voters will achieve by voting UKIP is to let Miliband, who is opposed to a referendum, into Downing Street.
- It may be that the next election does not return a Conservative majority in the Commons, but that you none the less continue as Prime Minister of a Coalition Government. If this Coalition contains, as now, the Liberal Democrats, you will be in a position either to drop the referendum guarantee as part of a new Coalition Agreement if you wish, or to proceed with it if you wish and if our partners agree.
- However, it may be that the next election does indeed return a Conservative Commons majority, or you lead a Conservative minority Government - in which case a renegotiation can proceed. We are agreed that it would be wiser to dine a la carte than table d'hote from the menu drawn up by Fresh Start and others, and that it is wise, given present uncertainties, not to be too specific about how much renegotiation you intend.
- The Cabinet has already been informed that its members will be required to support a Yes vote in the event of an In/Out referendum: I see that James Forsyth has reported this in the Mail on Sunday today. As we correctly anticipated, Cabinet members opposed to Britain's EU membership will have calculated that the referendum is a long way away - indeed, that it may not happen - and thus will not resign, at least before the next election.
- This returns us to the subject of renegotiation. Essentially, the main factors you will want to bear in mind in due course is a) How much our EU partners, in particular the German Government, want to be helpful; and b) How hard you wish to push in order to maximise your chances of winning the support of Euro-sceptic Cabinet members, MPs and party members. As I say, we should wish at this stage to maintain maximum flexibility.
- It may of be that in these circumstances our EU partners do not want to be helpful, and that you will have no particular wish to push them hard. However, it is likely that they will wish to give you some help if - as is the case - you maintain your position of support for Britain's EU membership. You will then be able to return to Britain after the renegotiation claiming "game, set and match" (drawing on the precedent set after Maastricht).
- It may be that members of the Cabinet resign before the referendum which follows, in order to campaign for a No vote - joining many MPs and party members in so doing. However, you will rightly be able to maintain that you have consistently supported Britain's EU membership, and we can be confident that you will be joined on the campaign trail by the leaders of Britain's other two main parties.
- As agreed, it is likely that Britain, without a strong business lobby for No, will vote to continue to maintain its EU membership: you will have seen that the polls are turning round already. As also agreed, the depature from Cabinet of opponents of Britain's membership would leave you in a stronger position. And as also agreed, the departure altogether of MPs and party members opposed to membership would not be without its benefits.
- After all, your mission since you first became party leader in 2005 has been to modernise the Conservative Party. It is fair to say that there is a marked crossover between those MPs and party members who wish to see Britain leave the EU and those MPs and party members who have proved an obstacle to the modernisation project. Their humbling would speed the emergence of the New Model Conservative Party of which we have long dreamed.