Cameron serves up thin gruel

David Cameron launched his European renegotiation this week, says Emily Hohler. But his demands have been criticised for being too modest.


David Cameron: "pathetically unambitious"

David Cameron launched his European renegotiation this week with a speech at Chatham House and a letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, setting out his demands (see below). His plan is "far more modest" than the "new settlement" he "rashly" promised two years ago, says the FT.

Yet this has been a tough balancing act ever since the PM gambled on calling a referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2013. Asking too much risks rejection by Europe; too little is "guaranteed to stir the blood of Europhobe hardliners". His approach has already been attacked by Eurosceptic Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who called it "pretty thin gruel".

No wonder, says Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express it is "pathetically unambitious". Wanting the EU to become "more competitive" is a "statement of the blindingly obvious". The exemption from ever-closer union is "a meaningless rhetorical trick to disguise the continuing destruction of our sovereignty".

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As for barring migrants from claiming benefits in their first four years (43% of EU newcomers are on welfare), it is unlikely the British courts, "fixated by... on the four-year rule, the European Commission's view that this would be "highly problematic" has Cameron now saying that he is "open to different ways of dealing with it". We shouldn't be surprised, says Rachel Sylvester in The Times. The renegotiation is a "political device designed to hold his party together", not a genuine effort to change our relationship with the continent.

Yet even although Cameron "has set the bar very low, he is still going to trip over it", says Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. The EU "will be very reluctant to meet" even these mild demands. If they snub him, he will either have to lead "the Out' campaign" or stick with In' and swallow the "rightful" ridicule of his opponents. Either way, "the potential for chaos and shambles is huge".

The four key demands

Greater trade protections for non-euromembers

A British opt-out from the EU's aimto forge "ever-closer union"

A commitment to cut red tape andboost competitiveness within the EU

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.