James Forsyth

The end of a convenient fiction

The end of a convenient fiction
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No one really thought that Vaclav Klaus would hold out against the Lisbon treaty until the British general election, but it was a convenient fiction for the Conservative party. It enabled both the leadeship and Eurosceptics to pretend that the current policy remained operative and that any questions about what would happen if the Lisbon treaty was ratified by the time of the next election were hypotheticals. So, as David notes, to hear Klaus conceding that he can't hold out until the election is a blow.

The question now is what happens next. Domestically, I doubt that the party will have a big row about Europe—it is too disciplined, too eager for power for that.

In European terms, the question is always put as does Cameron have the stomach for a battle with Brussels. But it is worth flipping this around: does the European Union want to pick a fight with Britain? It is reasonable to ask if other European leaders will be prepared to offer Cameron enough to square his party and his country to Lisbon. If they don’t, the pressure will build on Cameron to obstruct until he gets what he wants the next time that treaty changes are required.