Exclusive: Cameron’s empty threat to the EU - PM is losing the argument because even his allies in Europe do not believe him

Diplomats warn that Britain cannot expect future concessions

European countries have warned David Cameron that his threats about the British people voting to leave an unreformed EU may backfire, undermining the Prime Minister’s hopes of winning major concessions.

Diplomats from countries sympathetic to Britain have told the Foreign Office there will be a limit to sweeteners the Prime Minister can win before putting his new deal to voters in a referendum promised for 2017.

The warnings emerged after the Prime Minister failed to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission. Mr Cameron believes Mr Juncker will stand in the way of reform.

A senior official from a pro-British EU nation told The Independent: “The threat to leave may prove an empty one. It is not the best way to get what you want. Cameron may find that other people will call his bluff.”

Another EU diplomat said: “The view around Europe is that Britain will come to its senses and would not be stupid enough to leave. That means the rest of us will only go so far to help Britain.”

A Brussels insider also said people were “sick of Britain’s complaining tone” and would only help to avoid its exit if ministers made a “positive case” for EU membership.

Mr Cameron, who is due to make a Commons statement on Monday on the turbulent EU summit, held talks by telephone with Mr Juncker on Sunday in a first move to forge a working relationship with him.

Labour launched a scathing attack on Mr Cameron’s approach to the negotiations. Writing on The Independent website, the shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, said Britain had less chance of achieving reform to the EU following the Prime Minister’s “personal defeat and diplomatic humiliation”.

The Government claims Mr Cameron’s unyielding stance against Mr Juncker’s appointment will strengthen his hand when he negotiates new EU membership terms by 2017.

Read more: Jean-Claude Juncker profile

Leaders of Germany and Sweden made conciliatory noises towards Britain after Mr Cameron was outvoted by 26-2 at an EU summit on Friday which nominated Mr Juncker. But the diplomats’ views suggest the Prime Minister’s hardline tactics may rebound on him.

After his humiliating defeat, Mr Cameron admitted the task of persuading the public to stay in the EU had become “harder” but insisted it was not “impossible”.

He said he still intended to recommend an “in” vote in the referendum, because that would be in Britain’s national interest, but he is under pressure from Eurosceptic Conservative MPs to say he is prepared to urge an “out” vote.

Charles Walker, a vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, claimed on Sunday that more than half of the 305 Tory MPs would back leaving the EU.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Cameron and Mr Juncker discussed “how they would work together to make the EU more competitive and more flexible”. He said: “The PM welcomed Mr Juncker’s commitment to finding a fair deal for Britain and Mr Juncker said that he was committed to finding solutions for the political concerns of the UK.”

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, hinted at a change of tone on Sunday as he refused to be drawn on whether leaving the EU would be a disaster.

He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “This will be the debate in the referendum. I have always argued against more power going to the EU but for us to be a member of Europe but not run by Europe.”

But Mr Alexander said: “[Mr Cameron’s] defeat last week exposes the fact that he has developed the wrong strategy and deployed the wrong tactics. His approach is driven by a mistaken belief that threatening exit, and committing to an arbitrary timetable for a referendum in 2017, maximises your influence, when the evidence demonstrates it has done the opposite.”

EU sources have played down the significance of concessions in the Brussels summit conclusions won by Mr Cameron. The 28 leaders accepted that the UK’s concerns “will need to be addressed” and agreed that the EU’s drive for “ever closer union” will not apply to all member states.

Officials said the statement did not amount to “bankable” promises for renegotiation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game