David Davis comments on the Prime Minister’s strategy in Europe


As published in the Evening Standard:
Cameron tells EU it must fulfil pledges on UK

David Cameron called on Europe to honour its pledge to address British concerns today amid speculation he is ready to step up the threat of Britain quitting the European Union.

The Prime Minister came under fire from Labour as he set out to make a Commons statement on last week’s summit that saw Jean-Claude Juncker become president of the European Commission.

A belief was growing that Mr Cameron will use more explicit threats to get his way, possibly by threatening to lead the campaign for a British exit.

Lord Mandelson, the former Labour EU commissioner, said waving threats like “some sort of pistol” would backfire. But Mr Cameron was backed by Tory Right-winger David Davis for using every “lever” to win concessions.

Mr Cameron phoned to congratulate Mr Juncker last night, and this morning agreed they could “do business” together. “We will now work with him,” he wrote in the Telegraph, but admitted: “I do not deny that it has made the task harder and the stakes higher.”

Lord Mandelson said: “I would just give this advice to our Prime Minister: stop waving around the sort of threat of a referendum in Britain as if it is some sort of pistol we are holding to everyone’s head and saying ‘you’ve got to agree with us or else’.”

Former Europe minister Mr Davis said there was nothing wrong with Mr Cameron’s tactic. “Whether Lord Mandelson likes it or not it is an important card to be played and it is beginning to be played today,” he told BBC radio.

Downing Street confirmed that talks between Mr Cameron and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy broke up in disarray last week because of the dispute over Mr Juncker. “The meeting lasted not quite as long as it was scheduled for,” said the PM’s spokesman. Reports say Mr Cameron told the senior official: “There is no point in continuing this meeting.”

Mr Cameron was buoyed by German politicians warning it would be “a disaster” for the EU if it lost Britain. Dr Michael Fuchs, an advisor to Angela Merkel, said: “I will put it bluntly, it would be a disaster if Britain is going to really step out of the EU. I cannot even imagine an EU without Britain.”