So we’ve reached crunch time on Cameron’s EU renegotiation project. It appears that a full deal, whatever that entails, will be announced this Friday, along with the final date of the referendum itself (which looks more and more likely to be June 23rd). There’s always room for it to go pear-shaped, but that seems unlikely. There’s too much at stake for everyone at the Brussels summit at the end of this week.
Cameron has said he’ll hold a cabinet meeting on Friday to announce the final details to the members (I’m assuming before he tells the nation), with the close of said meeting to represent the end of the “gagging order” on Eurosceptic cabinet members declaring their intentions to the British public. We know about IDS and Grayling, but on Friday we’ll probably find out for sure whether Michael Gove will campaign for Leave or remain silent on the issue (I’m ruling out him campaigning for Remain, but who knows, I suppose). Boris will pick a side. What those two do will possibly have a large affect on what the next few months will be like, and could spell out what happens in the referendum itself – not to mention leaving its mark on the future Conservative Party leadership contest. The words “this is a pivotal week in British politics” have never been so free of hyperbole.
Having said that, most people outside of Westminster will barely notice all the drama unfolding. They’ll tune into the Prime Minister’s “starting gun” speech and form an opinion, of course – pro-Europeans such as myself will hope that they think it all sounds okay enough to vote to stay in the EU, while the Dominic Cummings of the world will be hoping that Middle England turns up its nose and decides it’s all an establishment fix. Like I say, I guess we’ll find out on Friday.
Watch the polls over the next month. This is when people will really begin to form their final opinions on the EU referendum and how they themselves will vote. I’m not saying the polls on March 16th will be definitive on this issue, but if Remain has a big lead at that stage it will be almost impossible for Leave to come back; while if it’s still neck in neck, or Leave has a narrow lead, it will be very tight right to the very end.