Back at the end of the 1990s one of the supposed strengths of the Britain in Europe campaign was that it brought together leaders of both industry and politics to create a broad coalition that would have eventually campaigned for the UK to join the Euro, if the vote had ever happened.
Fast forward more than a decade, and we have The Telegraph’s story last week where a photo of the documents Standard Chartered’s chief exec Peter Sands shows that UK-EU relations were at the top of his agenda to discuss with the Prime Minister in Downing Street. Yet what happened then? Very little. As far as I can tell there was no statement from Sands to explain his views, and no follow up debating whether big banks would rather the UK stayed in the EU or not. See this Google News search for example.
Benedict Brogan has written a follow up for The Telegraph which gets close to the heart of the issue in a roundabout manner, namely that there seems to be the assumption that all will be OK in the end, and that the UK is not actually going to be moving towards the exit door.
But I can’t help but feel that Cameron is playing a very dangerous game. The longer he plays to the Tory backbenches, allows the anti-EU sentiment there to fester, the harder it is going to be to avoid a referendum. And then if a referendum does happen, so the chances decrease of ensuring the UK stays in the EU, because to make sure Britain does stay in, against a hostile public opinion and press, is going to require meticulous organising and planning over a number of years, and we are not even at the starting gates with regard to that planning. Further, any such campaign is going to need funding from people like Peter Sands, the very sort of person who at the moment is not putting his head above the parapet in public to comment on EU matters.