As predicted, that speech on “Europe” delivered by David Cameron at eight o’clock on Wednesday morning put one in mind of the White Queen’s boast that she could “believe six impossible things before breakfast”.
He wanted us to believe that he could persuade the EU to change its nature and the purposes for which it has been built up over 60 years. He wanted us to believe that it could breach its core rule that powers of government once surrendered to Brussels are never handed back; and that he can somehow persuade Brussels, and the other 26 members, to allow us to retain full membership, while opting out of much else except the right to continue trading freely in the single market.
He would also have us believe that he can win the next election on the promise of such negotiations, and that they could be completed by 2017, to be part of a new treaty the EU is planning, for quite different purposes – even though the requirements for such a treaty, including a lengthy intergovernmental conference, could not possibly be completed by that date.
Finally, he wished us to believe that the results could then be put to the British people in a referendum, without telling us what the question might be if his negotiations fail.
However, the moment that above all showed Mr Cameron as living in cloud cuckoo land was when he dismissed the idea of Britain gaining the kind of trading relationship with the EU that Norway has, as a member of the European Free Trade Area (Efta); because, he said, although Norway has full access to the single market, “it has no say at all in setting its rules”.
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