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2/10 Rebooting Project Cameron: Cameron needs to tell Britain where he stands on Europe

By Tim Montgomerie
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Until recently the team around the Prime Minister doubted the strength and urgency of sceptical feeling inside the Conservative Party. This wasn’t just to do with the Liberal Democrats. In opposition the Implementation Unit under Francis Maude was specifically forbidden from examining EU reform. Hague regarded Europe as an unexploded bomb that sat in the middle of the room as a leftover from previous wars. He believed it should not be touched unless it detonated. Two weeks after the biggest rebellion on Europe in parliamentary history doubts about the continuing explosiveness of Tory scepticism have been well and truly dispelled.

Cameron needs to tell the country where he stands on Europe. He needs to give a big Bruges-style speech (in fact he should go back to the place where Margaret Thatcher made her landmark address) and set out the kind of Europe he envisages. Noone knows at present where he really stands.

A speech won't be enough, of course. Sadly, his party doesn't trust his resolve on renegotiation. He can cure this with inclusiveness and a timetable. By inclusive he needs to establish a kind of internal ideas market for his backbenchers on EU reform – including the foreign affairs committee of the 1922 and the Fresh Start Group. Paul Goodman has already proposed one way of achieving this. People like Andrew Lilico (and his ideas for renegotiation) should also be included. The PM's EU agenda also needs a timetable. Vague promises of reforming jam tomorrow won't work.

The Liberal Democrats won't necessarily like this but I argued earlier that, as part of a Grand Bargain, Cameron needs to buy room for him to have freedom on Europe (and the economy). If, ultimately, any EU renegotiation is subject to a referendum, Clegg can't object too much. Can he?

> In the third part of this series at 11am: A reshuffle that brings the party together


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