Hoping to maintain unity during the Tory conference, Cameron issued a statement yesterday on the Irish referendum before the 67% "Yes" vote was known, where he said this:
I want to make one thing clear: there will be no change in our policy on Europe and no new announcements at the Conference. There will be no change in Conservative policy as long as the Lisbon Treaty is still not in force. The Treaty has still not been ratified by the Czechs and the Poles. The Czech Prime Minister has said that the constitutional challenge before the Czech Constitutional Court could take 3-6 months to resolve.
Here is Gavin Hewitt, the BBC’s Europe editor, on his blog:
The Czech president today sent a message that in a sense was telling the Tories not to depend on a Czech delay. He said that after today's referendum "there will never be another referendum in Europe". He was then asked whether he had a message for Britain. "I am afraid," he replied, "that the people of Britain should have been doing something really much earlier and not just now, too late, saying something and waiting for my decision".
The implication of what the Czech president has said is that there will not be a 3-6 month delay and he will sign fairly quickly. After the size of the “Yes” vote he will come under great pressure to do just that.
Boris Johnson has already broken ranks calling for a referendum, even if the treaty has been ratified. He will not be the only one. Daniel Hannan will light up the Manchester sky at some point.
In conclusion, Cameron says this:
If the Treaty is ratified and in force in all Member States, we have repeatedly said we would not let matters rest there. But we have one policy at a time, and we will set out how we would proceed in those circumstances if, and only if, they happen.
Just what does, “we would not let matters rest there” mean?
Cameron is taking a huge gamble. He is totally dependent on the false show of unity holding in Manchester, which has already started to break down. More importantly than this, he cannot control how quickly “events” in Europe will move this week. Angela Merkel, already upset with Cameron’s antics, is not going to sit about and wait for the Tory conference to finish.
One senior EU diplomat has already described Cameron's line as, “Student politics. Simply not grown-up”
The game is up. The Tory party has to come to terms with the treaty, as do the rest of us. Cameron had his chance to show leadership yesterday and tell his party that plain facts of life. For the sake of party unity he failed to deliver.
Cameron will be a very lucky man if Europe doesn't blow up in his face this week.