Nobody can reasonably argue that we should do less than what he has proposed.
The problem, of course, is that he did not go far enough.
There's going to be a flood of commentary over the next few hours and days, and I'll try to find time to blog about some of it, but I largely agree with Tim Aker of the Get Britain Out campaign, who was quick off the mark with an email (sent this morning at 8:52):
As anticipated, David Cameron has let the British people down by avoiding the best option for our country. All the polls indicate a majority of the Great British Public want an EU Referendum. The people of our country, however, must be given an In/Out referendum before the next General Election.
Sadly the Prime Minister is showing he is motivated only by power and politics rather than the welfare of the British people. His actions speak louder than words. The cast iron guarantee on a Lisbon Treaty referendum proved rusty. He ordered a 3 line whip against an EU vote earlier in this parliament. He could easily order a 3 line whip for an EU referendum before the election. Like Tony Blair on Iraq, David Cameron has trust issues on the EU. Cameron’s option to wait after the next election, to offer a weak tinkering of our EU membership is unacceptable.
Years of renegotiation will solve little and cost British taxpayers over £80 billion in membership contributions between now and 2017. In any case, it will not work because other EU member states have already informed the Prime Minister they will not accept his proposals. Our government will squander even more British taxpayers’ money trying to turn the EU into something it is not.
The EU is only going one way. The current solutions to the economic crisis in the European Parliament and Commission will involve even more integration. Banking and Fiscal Union will be complete by 2017. Article 16 of the Fiscal Compact incorporates Fiscal Union into EU law by 2017 at the latest. We have no choice. We are bound by EU laws, rules, regulations and Directives while we remain inside. There is nothing to stop a future government taking Britain into Fiscal Union.
Get Britain Out unswervingly calls for an In/Out EU Referendum now, to leave us free to govern our own country without EU interference, and arrange our own simple trading relationships as we thought we had when we joined the ‘Common Market’ in 1972.
The only possible argument against a referendum in this parliament is that we might lose it. There are a great many people who don't yet see the EU for what it is, and many more who have some concerns, but would be easily swayed by the powerful forces that will campaign for us to remain in. We know that the europhiles will shamelessly mislead the public, with disingenuous arguments and half-truths, if not outright lies. They will try to scare the masses into accepting the status quo, and they might well succeed. Perhaps things need to get much worse before we can be assured that the public will vote out.
Cameron's speech gave a taste of the specious arguments that will be employed. He pretended that we have influence within Europe, in the face of all the historical evidence. He claimed that we have repatriated powers when in fact we have managed only to resist some of the more egregious EU power grabs. He stressed the importance of a hazily-defined 'common market', when what we really need is a free trade area, not a customs union. As Europe's share of global GDP declines, we need free trade with Europe and the rest of the world, not protectionism elevated to the continental level.
There is a risk, of course, that we'll never be given a choice. Or that referendum day will be delayed until the indoctrination of the British public is complete, or until the results can be rigged. Or that by the time we finally choose to leave, the EU will be strong enough militarily to prevent our secession, just as the Union army of Abraham Lincoln used deadly force to deny the Confederates their right to democratic self-determination.
I'd love to know what David Cameron really believes, deep down. I wonder if we'll ever know.