Referendum-pledging Dave admitted in PMQs today that he actually doesn’t want an in/out referendum at all, but merely a “new settlement with Europe”, whatever that means. Effectively he is saying that the only choice he will give the British public is whether they want to stay in the EU… or stay in the EU. Ukip gain.
UPDATE: James Forsyth has the detail in tomorrow’s Spectator about Cameron’s plan:
“As a precursor to this renegotiation, the coalition is undertaking a ‘balance of competences’ review. This might sound a thoroughly dull, bureaucratic exercise. But it is terribly important because for the first time it will reveal just how much the European Union influences our national life. It will call for evidence from government departments, business, civil society, think tanks and parliamentary committees. And the government plans to publish the evidence submitted.
The review won’t make any recommendations, but when it concludes in 2014 it will form the evidential basis for renegotiation. Cameron’s plan is, before Christmas, to commit to a referendum after the next election. The Cameroons hope that this will be enough to satisfy the party’s Eurosceptics. Conservative strategists believe such a move would check Ukip’s advance. The prospect of Nigel Farage’s merry band pushing the Conservatives into third place in the European elections in 2014 sends many of them into cold sweat, and worse.”
Guido is not sure that will be enough to buy off the growing legion of ‘merry men’…