EU Referendum

The symbol of sovereignty went wonky as Dave tried to be butch: QUENTIN LETTS sees Cameron gloss over his failure in Brussels

At least the little British crest stayed in place this time. David Cameron did another turn in Brussels yesterday lunchtime, to lay a sales gloss over the fact that his EU re-negotiation talks had gone phutt.

The previous night, things went wonderfully, classically, farcically wrong when the oval crest on the front of Mr Cameron’s lectern took a life of its own and started to sag in an anti-clockwise direction.

This had happened while the Prime Minister was tapping the lectern in a butch way to insist that the talks had taken ‘a step forward’ down a ‘pathway to a deal’. Yes, his plan was going gangbusters. Honestly.

Not only did David Cameron have to deal with setbacks to his plans for EU re-negotiation, but he also battled a sinking lectern during a press conference in Brussels

 At this point the lion-and-unicorn crest started to rotate. It was a slow twirl – that of an autumn oak leaf curling into death.

In a comedy cartoon the moment would probably have been accompanied by one of those ‘whaa-whaa’ trombone sounds they use to signpost a prize mishap, such as someone’s trousers falling down, or a chap stepping in a cowpat.

Our PM, ever conscious of image, twigged what was going on. He must have realised it was a ghastly cock-up that would be played repeatedly on satire shows – and no doubt relished by our enemies in the European Commission.

He tugged on his nose and proceedings were halted while some burly stagehand ambled to the lectern and used his mitt to right the sinking crest.

 It had apparently been secured with sticky tape – though it might as easily have been a bullet of chewing gum.

The symbol of British sovereignty going wonky during macho talk about this so-called re-negotiation: what a perfect analogy.

Yesterday afternoon a more composed Mr Cameron returned to Room 20.5 on the 20th floor of the soulless Justus Lipsius building in Brussels’ bureaucratic quarter. A soulless room in a soulless building in a soulless city.

This time there had been no late-night scramble for a Union Jack and the British crest had been pretty much welded into place.

One dreads to think of the barracking given to the diplomatic dogsbody responsible for the crest on Thursday night.

David Cameron had sought support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel for his plans for EU reform

 Whoever it was is probably en route to paperclip-counting duties at the British embassy in Ulan Bator as we speak.

Mr Cameron yesterday was in one of his lip-pursing, man-of-defiance moods, hair slicked, chin shiny.

He seemed less frayed than the night before, when his mind was no doubt frazzled by dinner-table squabbles with his EU counterparts.

How could trencherman Dave concentrate on his fillet of venison with parsnip mousse, followed by oranges with a calamondin foam, when Mutti Merkel and that French bra-twanger and Oncle Tomas Cobbley et al were refusing to let him claw back even a scintilla of British sovereignty over benefit payments?

To conduct negotiations over dinner seems uncivilised – strangely uncontinental, really.

He claimed that there was ‘a lot of recognition’ of his case for stopping EU immigrants siphon benefits out of the British taxpayer. ‘Recognition’ is not quite the same as agreement to reform, alas.

 He hinted that our EU referendum will happen in 2016 and he pretty much said he would be leading the campaign to keep us in that union – even though the re-negotiation talks have yet to reach their official completion.

‘I’m sure we will find a good answer,’ he said. In the past he has said if he does not gain a satisfactory deal, he will recommend withdrawal from the EU.

There was none of that yesterday. Goodbye any hopes that he might yet do what the majority of his party wants and call time on Brussels.

This is a man who could sell sand to a Saharan. By alighting on February 18 as the next big moment, he has bought himself a few more weeks of procrastination.

They may yet concoct some wheeze to be dressed up as a Brit’ win.

But they may simply have calculated that the Leave brigade are so riven, they need not worry about the referendum. Cynical? That’s politics, mes braves.

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