by Ray Fleming

I think David Cameron should hurry and deliver his long-promised speech on Britain's future in Europe; no date beyond “in January” has yet been mentioned. The longer he waits the more re-writing he may have to do as other concerned countries pitch in with their advice on what he should say.

Yesterday a senior US diplomat, a close advisor to Chancellor Merkel and the Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, each publicly urged Mr Cameron to avoid taking any step that would limit Britain's influence in the EU. For Germany, Gunther Krichbaum warned that a referendum could paralyse the EU and lead to economic disaster for Britain. The intervention by Philip Gordon, a White House advisor on Europe, was the most important. Stressing the special relationship between the US and Britain, he said: “More than most others, the UK's voice within the European Union is essential and critical to the United States.” Whitehall's response to this was feeble beyond belief, indicating perhaps that not even the prime minister has decided on what will be in his speech. Number 10's spokesman said that in a telephone conversation in December Mr Cameron had set out his position to the President “who had been supportive”. The Foreign Office, believe it or not, said that Britain “wants to be at the heart of Europe”. Oh yes?

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