With Ukip and backbench Tories snapping at his heels, Mr Cameron has been forced into a referendum on the UK’s future relationship with the EU – in or out – if the Tories win the next General Election in 2015 – a referendum he could well do without.
What we now have, during the worst economic recession in our history, is a destabilising four years of uncertainty that will make overseas companies look twice at the UK as somewhere to invest, as well as cause concern to those already here. This will have a particular impact on Scotland’s open, export-oriented economy – real jobs in this area. It must be remembered that over half of UK trade is with the EU and 3.5 million British jobs are linked, directly or indirectly, to our trade with other member states.
Mr Cameron is seeking to repatriate powers on issues such as social and employment laws, policing and crime measures, but to renegotiate on these issues and hold a referendum by his pledged deadline of the end of 2017 is impossible, as he well knows. The chance of any meaningful renegotiation being agreed to by the other 26 member states is even less.
As a Brussels regular, it is clear to me that the French and Germans and most other member states have no desire to reopen treaties that have been years in the making, to allow for British demands.
Mr Cameron is taking a dangerous gamble, believing that by holding a gun to the head of Brussels bureaucrats and to national governments that he can get what he wants under threat of the UK leaving.
But for many in the EU, the loss of Britain would not be seen as a negative, but a benefit, the loss of an obstructive lodger who brings more trouble than she is worth.
Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh