Prime minister must show eurosceptics he has won real concessions if he is to keep Britain in EU.
[...] But as Mr Cameron prepares to face EU leaders on Thursday night at another Brussels summit, his advisers fear a worthy failure may not be enough.
This time, Mr Cameron is the demandeur — asking his counterparts to undergo the agony of changing the bloc’s treaties in order to improve the terms of the UK’s membership. With a Britain’s EU referendum nigh, Mr Cameron needs more than public acclaim for fighting the good fight. He needs substance too.
The “new settlement” Mr Cameron is seeking will launch his campaign to keep Britain in the EU. Among other contentious issues, Thursday’s dinner must break the political impasse over migration curbs the UK has been seeking and put the prime minister on course for a final deal in February.
The theatre is crucial. Mr Cameron must appear to be overcoming resistance, forcing change, and not “bobbing about in the back of a dinghy being towed along by a Channel ferry”, as the eurosceptic former cabinet minister Owen Paterson witheringly described him.
On this occasion other leaders around the table will be the ones with the luxury of wielding vetoes that win plaudits at home — be it the Poles over migration curbs, the French over protections for the City or the Spanish on anything that might annoy the British.
It is revealing that when Mr Cameron’s team mapped out their EU reform negotiation strategy, the 2011 episode was no longer seen as a success but as a tactical masterclass in “what not to do”.
He must appear to be overcoming resistance, forcing change, and not ‘bobbing about in the back of a dinghy being towed along by a Channel ferry’
So whereas four years ago, No 10 treated Germany’s Angela Merkel as “the G1 in the eurozone”, this time they are spreading the diplomatic love to other leaders (in part at her request). [...]
His demands have been softly trailed for months, rather than brandished in the middle of the night like the 2011 City protocol. That list of half-a-dozen UK vetoes on financial services has been succeeded by “principles” on how euro members and non-members should co-exist. Similar goals, just more palatable language. [...]
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