THE BLOG

Some Days You Gotta Give, Some Days You Gotta Take: Walking the EU Tightrope

03/02/2016 15:58 GMT | Updated 03/02/2017 10:12 GMT

David Cameron must have viewed with grim satisfaction British newspaper headlines screaming that the deal he has secured in the EU negotiations is a "joke" and a "sham", a "great delusion", and a "slap in the face". After all, there are people out there in the right-wing media and in politics who were always going to complain about whatever he brought back from Brussels. And in reality the media bluster this morning is pretty insubstantial and inconsequential - and easily ignored.

In any case, Cameron has to walk a tightrope in his negotiations, satisfying on the one hand the Tory Party and right-wing media pundits and on the other hand fellow EU leaders, including those in the East, who think that he is asking for far too much. To me it seems that he has squared the circle, securing a deal that will be agreed, perhaps reluctantly, in Brussels, and which can be sold to the Eurosceptic and the Euro-grumblers (but not the outright Europhobic) back home.

However, this 'triumph' is in fact a missed opportunity. When I saw City AM's headline that the deal "doesn't go far enough" I hoped briefly that the paper would be making the case for completing the Single Market in areas so far unresolved, such as financial services and digital. That wasn't City AM's point, but it is a good one. More liberalisation and proper, progressive, reform of the EU could deliver a huge dividend both to British consumers and most importantly to British businesses. The reforms proposed now are all about saying no and pulling back; there is much to gain from pushing forward and completing the best parts of the European project.

So my hope is that the referendum will be the beginning of the process of positive reform of the European Union. But given that we are committed to the pointless farce of a nationwide vote we just have to get on with it, and get through it. The good news is that the Prime Minister has I think done just enough to hold his Party and his Cabinet (mostly) together, and to campaign to be free to remain in the Union and win. There will unquestionably be bumps along the way, but it feels to me this morning like David Cameron has plotted a course to a new world. Relief.

Part of the inspiration for this blog, including the title, comes from the 'classic' ELO song, Tightrope.