Cameron cancels key speech on EU membership because of Algerian hostage crisis
British prime minister David Cameron last night cancelled a key speech on the UK’s membership of the EU because of the Algerian hostage crisis.
The decision to postpone the speech, which Mr Cameron was to have made in Amsterdam today, was taken shortly before 7pm as he warned the UK to “prepare for more bad news” from Algeria.
Downing Street had insisted initially that Mr Cameron would chair a meeting of the cabinet’s crisis Cobra committee from Amsterdam yesterday, before making his speech.
Earlier, in sharply worded criticism, Liberal Democrats business secretary Vince Cable said the Cameron speech was threatening the UK’s reputation with foreign investors.
More than half of foreign firms who set up in the UK do so because it is a member of the EU single market “and able to influence its rules”, Mr Cable said. “If we lose that, then we create a great deal of uncertainty, it makes it even more difficult to get out of this economic crises that we have.”
Mr Cameron had been due to demand repatriation of powers over social and employment – and possibly justice – laws, changes to EU spending on regional aid and other budgets, along with other issues.
Despite Downing Street’s frantic efforts, it has so far been unable to get other EU prime ministers to row in behind Mr Cameron’s push for major reforms on issues outside of those needed to safeguard the euro.
Mr Cable, accepting that Mr Cameron does not want to leave the EU, warned: “Once you talk about renegotiation, you’re opening up the possibility that if you don’t get what you want, you leave, by accident or design.”
Mr Cable cautioned that Mr Cameron should not overestimate his negotiating hand, particularly since it was not clear if a new EU treaty would be needed to cement euro reforms.
“We can’t take it for granted that the other European countries are going to fall over and say ‘of course, we agree with you’. They’re got their own problems,” he said.
Privately, even Conservative MPs who want major changes in the UK’s membership terms, or even exit from the EU doubt the wisdom of Mr Cameron’s strategy.
Focusing on the impact on foreign investors, Labour leader Ed Miliband said putting “up a sign around Britain” saying that it might be out of Europe within five years was not “good for our country”.
Labour would not repeal legislation that guarantees a referendum if more powers were transferred to Brussels. However, Mr Miliband said there was an immediate need to get a “growth plan” agreed by all sides, most notably Germany, rather than trying to pacify the “neuralgic” demands of Eurosceptic Tory MPs.
Two thirds of Irish people would want the State to remain an EU member even if the UK withdrew, according to a Red C poll carried out for the European Movement.
Eighty-five per cent of respondents believe Ireland should remain part of the EU in any event, with 83 per cent believing that it has, on balance, benefited from membership. Despite ongoing economic hardship in Ireland, only one in four Irish adults believe the country should leave the euro.