So finally David Cameron got a set of proposals from European Council President Donald Tusk. They were all predictably received by the press and political operators who already had a formed opinion on the matter. After all, there was really no outcome imaginable –or unimaginable- that would placate the ardent Eurosceptics. Imagine Britain appointed the eternal president of the EU with powers to veto every single piece of legislation they want. Add to that zero obligation to contribute anything to the common bloc, or better still, get a few billions each year as in incentive. The answer would probably still be ‘not good enough.’
It is of course understandable that someone who has built a whole profile, and in some cases a career, on being anti-something cannot have a change of heart. Being anti-EU is an existential question for a number of MPs and media outlets and this is perhaps the easy option. The difficult part is outlining a positive vision of what you want. I have written in the past that the “UK ‘anti-EU’ attitudes often resemble a dog chasing a car: it barks and chases but if it catches it, what is it going to do with it?” Or, as my colleague Sam Blainey more recently wrote “maybe the various anti-EU groups are just so used to being against something that they find it difficult to present a solid vision of what they are for.”
With all that being said, is there really a point to David Cameron’s negotiation? Yes and no. No for the reasons outlined above. And also no because in the end the undecideds who do not live in the Westminster village and whose job is not to follow every little political twist and turn and argument put forward will likely vote based on sentiment and of course on whichever side convinces them that they and their families will be better off.
Nevertheless, Cameron’s negotiation does matter. Because he can now show that he paid heed to the concerns about the EU and tried to get a better deal for the country. His target voters are not the ones who have made their mind up. Most elections are about those siting on the fence who could be persuaded to go either way. The negotiation matters because it puts an extra arrow in the Prime Minister’s quiver. How pointy it will be, remains to be seen.