And so the backing off begins. The BBC reports that the Prime Minister accepts treaty change may not be possible (Whitehall speak for impossible) before the UK votes in a referendum on membership of the EU referendum.
Nick Robinson says:
“The PM has argued instead for an “irreversible lock” and “legally binding” guarantees that EU law will at some point in the future be changed to accommodate Britain’s aims. As recently as January Mr Cameron said he would be demanding “proper, full-on treaty change”.
Old hands and pro-EU types will say that treaty change as mooted by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor George Osborne and the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, was never likely, because other member states would not countenance anything that involved them having to put said changes to their own parliaments or voters.
Eurosceptics are unlikely to be understanding about it though, and some will say “told you so”. But at this rate, the much trumpeted demands, which Cameron is due to start laying out tonight, will amount to very little indeed. Indeed, right now it looks as though the whole exercise, the new terms and the supposed great new dispensation for Britain, leading to the defining democratic decision of our age, will come down to some daft argument from the government about whether hardworking Polish plumbers and hairdressers with children can claim child benefit, or tax credits which might not exist by then anyway.