David Blackburn

Clegg sets Cameron a trap over the EU

Clegg sets Cameron a trap over the EU
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I’d expected the papers to be full of Nick Clegg’s offer of an ‘In/Out’ EU referendum, should the EU draw up a treaty that would further alter the British constitution. He made the pledge on radio yesterday; he insisted that he would campaign to remain in the EU, but the people should decide. The papers are silent as yet, but I expect Clegg to have another crack this evening.

For all his wide-eyed innocence, Clegg’s a cunning knave. Scenting dissent if not panic among conservatives, Clegg offers eurosceptics 30 pieces of silver. His promise is utterly disingenuous: Clegg’s record on the Lisbon Treaty proves he cannot be trusted, and the manifesto is silent on the issue. It’s nothing more than a fleeting ruse designed to divert attention from the obvious shortcomings of Lib Dem foreign policy, and put the wind-up Cameron by threatening to dilute the right-wing vote unless Cameron makes similar assurances. Nevertheless, it may work. Gerald Warner is halfway to taking the bait:

‘On the other hand, if Clegg were to seize the opportunity of maximum publicity – the television debate tomorrow night – and firm it up into a guaranteed commitment within 18 months of any government in which he might participate taking office, there would be a strong temptation for Tory Eurosceptics to hold their noses and vote Lib Dem. They are not tempted to do so as things stand, because what is in the Lib Dem shop window is not attractive enough. It carries the same drag-chain of “next time a major change is contemplated within the EU, blah, blah” as Dave’s own snake-oil offer.

But if, within the next 24 hours, Clegg were to take that fly-blown model out of the window and replace it with a brand new, shiny, In/Out referendum commitment, the effect could be catastrophic for the Tories.’

Cameron should dominate tonight – he needs to – but Clegg has thrown up a treacherous hurdle.