David Cameron's EU Speech: what does Westminster think?
From Boris to Lord Mandelson, every politician has weighed in after Cameron’s big speech
The wait is over, Cameron has finally given us what we wanted.
The “tantric speech” on the EU was delivered this morning at the Bloomberg HQ in London early at 8am.
Tantric? For those who’ve forgotten, Cameron referred to the process of making the speech as follows:
“This is a tantric approach to policy-making: it’ll be even better when it does eventually come.”
And boy what a climax! Every politician has exploded with pleasure, fury or concern in response to the Prime Minister.
We’ve rounded up the cream of the crop for your enjoyment:
London Mayor Boris Johnson:
“David Cameron is bang on. What most sensible people want is to belong to the single market but to lop off the irritating excrescences of the European Union.
“We now have a chance to get a great new deal for Britain - that will put the UK at the heart of European trade but that will also allow us to think globally.
“The future of London is to remain the financial and commercial capital of Europe, to have a unique relationship with America - and to build our growing position as the capital of the BRICs and other emerging economies.
“That is a deal that would be in the interests of Britain and of Europe. If it is put to us in a referendum, I have no doubt that the British people would vote for it.
“The British people have not been consulted since 1975, and it is high time that they were. As the date for that referendum draws closer, it will be ever clearer that Ed Miliband has made a fatal goof in ruling it out.
Ex-Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson:
“It is not a search together in unity with our partners in Europe. Effectively, it’s an ultimatum to them with a deadline, with the Prime Minister not saying he will get the best deal for Britain and then recommend that we stay in because that’s in our national interest to do so. He is actually leaving open the option to recommend against the deal he gets and to Britain leaving the European Union altogether. That’s quite a major step for a British Prime Minister to signal.
“In my view, what he is doing is treating the European Union like a cafeteria service at which you arrive with your own tray and try to leave with what you want. Whether you believe that Mr Cameron’s European gamble is a sincere attempt to reform and improve the European Union or a cynical ploy to head off opposition to his leadership in his own party, there is no mistaking he is playing for very high stakes indeed and I do not believe he is going to get what he wants by attempting to put a pistol to the heads of his fellow member states.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage:
“Winning this referendum, if and when it comes, is not going to be an easy thing but I feel that UKIP’s real job starts today. For the first time, a British Prime Minister is at least discussing the fact that leaving is an option. I remember many long, very lonely years in UKIP when, without a friend in the world, we were advocating this point of view. What today means is that in terms of the overall debate, the genie is out of the bottle and from now on the European debate will be taking place on terms that UKIP wants.
“If Mr Cameron was really serious about renegotiation, then he would invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which is the only mechanism that exists within the treaties to take powers back. If he did that … I will take him seriously, but really I think all he is trying to do is to kick the can down the road and get UKIP off his back.”
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna:
“After this speech today we know that global companies looking to situate European headquarters are probably going to shy away from the UK, which will cost growth and cost jobs.”
“Cameron’s approach is weak and misguided. Even worse, he may not have achieved anything at all – the Eurosceptics may feel his speech did not provide enough while the rest of us may be put off by its generality and lack of content.”
Ex-LibDem leader Lord Ashdown:
“Mr Cameron has effectively told us that it is his intention to put Britain on a one-way street to leaving Europe.”
Conservative MP Bill Cash:
“On the single market, I think its going to be extremely difficult to be able to achieve the kinds of changes that are needed because we already know that the other member states won’t want cherry picking, they don’t want any negotiations that are meaningful and in fact, it seems to me very likely that in a very thoughtful speech [Cameron] has set an enormous challenge.
“He may want to stay in but, if the settlement that he is proposing includes these huge changes, the other member states, will say that we are not interested so much now in the treaty; we will just simply go ahead because we just don’t want to get into the negotiations which we are already ruling out.”
CBI director general John Cridland:
“The EU single market is fundamental to Britain’s future economic success, but the closer union of the Eurozone is not for us.
“The Prime Minister rightly recognises the benefits of retaining membership of what must be a reformed EU and the CBI will work closely with government to get the best deal for Britain.”
“I have been considering our position within the EU for a long time and the issue of a referendum for even longer. In my opinion we simply must remain in the EU and to leave would spell disaster for British Business and British national security in what is becoming a faster paced and dangerous world. A united and democratic Europe defends us all against atrocities perpetuated by those on our immediate borders.
I salute this speech by David Cameron because of his recognition that a referendum is necessary to confirm what I hope will be our continued and vociferous membership of the EU. We need a fresh mandate and from that point on, to use a phrase often used by mountaineers, “don’t look down and keep on climbing”.”
“The announcement that a referendum on our membership of the EU may be held in a few years’ time, dependent on the result of the next General Election, risks condemning the UK economy to several years of further uncertainty.
“Could a more discouraging signal be sent, especially to potential investors from outside the Union? Around one in seven businesses in London are foreign-owned. Such businesses frequently choose the UK as their European base because of the combination of historical factors - such as language and access to financial markets - and our proximity to major European markets.
“Even the prospect that the UK may find itself excluded from these European markets will be enough to deter potential investors, who will instead build their factories and create their jobs in France, Germany or elsewhere.
“Meanwhile, welcome though it would be if there were a reduction in the burden on business, British companies will also think again about investing for the long-term while there is doubt over our relationship with our largest export market.
“There is much wrong with the workings of the EU and I hope that the government succeeds in addressing this. But, at this stage, introducing the uncertainty of a referendum is not helpful.”
Institute of Directors director-general Simon Walker:
“The Prime Minister’s approach is realistic and pragmatic. The British public, and many of our members, are sceptical about many of the institutions and practices of the EU. We need to put their doubts to rest.
“Free movement of goods and people is enormously important for the British economy, and we need to preserve that situation. At the same time, there are serious concerns about large amounts of costly regulation being introduced through unaccountable processes. We will enthusiastically take part in the process of proposing powers to renegotiate and bring back to Westminster. A future referendum to decide the workings of our relationship is the best way to affirm Britain’s participation in a free-market Europe which is competitive and deregulated.
“It is far better to deal with these issues than to shy away from them. British business is resilient. It is flexible and it can cope with change – or uncertainty. The Eurozone crisis is the source of far more uncertainty than a referendum. Most IoD members export, the majority of them to the EU. It is in everyone’s interests for that trading relationship to continue – and I am sure it will.”
Mark Boleat, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation:
“We support the Prime Minister’s stated goal of keeping the UK within the European Union – albeit on better terms. London’s position as Europe’s leading international financial and business centre is crucial to sustaining jobs and growth not just in the UK but across the continent. Uncertainty over this relationship with Europe risks making the UK less attractive as an international centre across many industries – not just financial and professional services – by clouding the business environment and making it more difficult to make long-term investment decisions.”
John Longworth, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce:
“The vast majority of businesses across the UK want to stay in the Single Market, but on the basis of a revised relationship with Europe that promotes trade and competitiveness. It is of critical importance to business and to Britain’s national interest that we have access to the European market, but not at any cost. On this basis, the Prime Minister’s determination to negotiate a new settlement for Britain is the right course of action.
“The Prime Minister must seek an ambitious and far-reaching settlement. We start with a strong negotiating position. We run a trade deficit with the EU, so it is not in Europe’s interest to see the UK go.
“Announcing plans for a referendum on British membership puts the onus on the rest of Europe to take the Prime Minister seriously, as they will now see that he is prepared to walk away from the table. However, the lengthy timescale for negotiation and referendum must be shortened, with the aim of securing a cross-party consensus and the outline of a deal during this Parliament.
“Although EU membership is not the biggest issue facing businesses in a world filled with uncertainty, the Prime Minister must be mindful of the need for pace and ambition. This would help firms across the UK remain confident while negotiations take place.”
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