The disappointment over last week’s negotiations is misleading. Our PM may have a more crafty plan in mind to get the EU’s attention

 

EU must be joking! EU stupid boy! The Great Delusion! Who do EU think you are kidding Mr Cameron? Everyone loves a good pun. That was why no one enjoyed reading last week’s headlines signed off by the editors of Fleet Street, the ‘spiritual home’ of British journalism. Not funny, not clever and making us all look a bit silly. Well, that’s what this Europhile thinks.

The press are rightly there to hold the government to account; few take issue with that. Last week though, voters up and down the country woke up reading page after page about the utter travesty that is the mess the British Prime Minister has made in negotiating, or failing to negotiate, a deal for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Did this really reflect the reality of the situation or even the mood of reactions to the deal?

If you woke up to the Bild in Berlin, you would have read about how an EU without the UK would be ‘spiritually’ poorer. If you glanced upon the headlines of Poland’s Gazeta Wyborca in Warsaw you would see ‘A Great Union with Britain’. Madrid didn’t praise the content of the deal, but considered Cameron to have got what he wanted in terms of concessions. This was in line with many other EU press packs who, while critical of the perilous precedent being set by Cameron, on the whole thought the UK did well in the talks.

Back home, the predictable gang of political Eurosceptics were ready and waiting to slam the deal. And they have been ready and waiting for quite some time. This was and always will be the case on any EU related business as far as these people are concerned. The Labour Party focused on ‘the Tory Party drama’ as a distraction to making the case to remain in, while the devolved administrations’ political leaders made noise about the likely date of the referendum clashing with regional elections. Not too much criticism on what was in the proposals.

But where were the Tory cabinet big-hitters once linked with leading the Leave camp? The Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Michael Gove both indicated supporting the deal. Boris Johnson also seems to have secured the assurances he needed on the sovereignty of the UK Parliament to be kept onside. So where can we find the great failings that our press kept banging on (their keyboards) about?

Moves and countermoves. Promises and compromises. These are the most important notes to hit when playing the EU tune. The proposals Cameron secured are on the table but the deal is not done. Far from it. The UK will find some natural allies in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. In other EU countries, concessions might be called for.

This is where tough domestic headlines might help the PM. David Cameron will need to convince EU leaders that nothing less than what is currently on the table will satisfy British voters and prevent a Brexit. During the next summit, he will be able to hold up last week’s Sun, Daily Mail or free copy of the Metro (some countries would no doubt appreciate the austerity touch) and ask what reactions anything less than this deal he would draw from the media circus.

Is this barrage of hammering from the media then Cameron’s long con? So far applauded for orchestrating Conservative backbench drama — it is a possibility. If not, all that is left to say is that the UK has a press pack out to rip apart any hopes of selling a deal to voters, with newspaper editors who have already made up their minds on Brexit, filling the vacuum left from the chaotic behaviour of the Leave campaigns. In this case, Europhiles should be afraid, very afraid.