Cameron EU referendum speech as-it-happened

Ian Dunt By

07:48 - Morning early bird. I'm not entirely sure why Downing Street thought now would be a good time for Cameron's speech, but here we are. Perhaps they just wanted it out the way after half a year of promotion, missed dates, rewrites and last-minute crises. I'm not sure I've done the blog this early. Well, I have, but it was an overnighter during the 2010 election. I'll be here throughout the speech while my colleague Alex Stevenson is in the room, watching live. We'll bring you a barrel of comment, analysis and news once it's all wrapped up. Oh, and then it's PMQs at midday. The usual caveats apply - there will be typos aplenty. I'll clear them up when I'm done. Do not write us angry emails. We're very sensitive.

08:00 - It strike eight. The hour is upon us. However, Cameron still hasn't come in. Might be another ten minutes.

08:02 - Nigel Farage is enjoying this. He's telling anyone who will listen that this speech is only happening because of UKIP's pressure. "This is a huge victory for us," he says.

08:06 - Well we have someone up on stage. It's not the PM, it's a very smug looking CEO of Bloomberg. "We're honoured David Cameron chose us for such a milestone speech," he says. Dear God. The thick American accent doesn't help. Cameron comes on stage.

08:08 - Cameron starts by harking back to the Second World War. He says he must remember how the shift in Europe from war to peace came about. It was about a commitment to friendship and a resolve never to revisit that "dark past". I'm struggling to concentrate while getting over the irritation of the 'brought to you by Bloomberg' intro. Cameron says the overriding purpose of the EU is now different - not to win peace but secure austerity. The challenges come from surging economies of east and south. "A new global race of nations is underway today," he says.

08:10 - He says he wants to speak with "urgency and frankness" but first will address the "spirit" with which he approaches the issues. He says we have the character of an island nation. We are "passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this mindset than drain the English channel. For us the EU is a means to an end, not an end in itself."

08:12 - But it's never just been an island story, it's also a European story. He cites the Second World War and other aspects of European history which would be different without Britain. Having given a referendum, Cameron is keen to present a warmer, friendly painting of Europe and Britain's place in it. "I never want us to pull up the draw bridge and retreat from the world. I'm not an isolationist. But I want a better deal."

08:14 - So why raise questions at all? Cameron says it's essential to Britain and Europe we face three challenges: The problems of the eurozone, the crisis of European competitiveness and the gap between the EU and its citizens. There is "a lack of democratic accountability and consent which is felt particularly" in Britain. If we don't address it we will sleepwalk towards an exit. Cameron turning the table on the usual criticism of his European policy there, reversing what critics say will happen under his current course.

08:17 - The demonstrations in Athens and the anger in Britain are expressions of frustration with the EU, he argues.

08:19 - More of the same won't fix it. Here's the gist of Cameron's speech, the slightly muddled idea that to strengthen the EU you have to have a referendum on whether you want to be in it. He says the core of all this is competitiveness - the single market. But it is lagging behind on modern technology. Why are people shopping online not able to access the best deals in the single market? He wants the project completed.

08:21 - Can we justify the bloated spending and management? Cameron's face says no. When competitiveness is so important why are there so many councils but not market council? The second issue is flexibility. He wants a market able to accommodate all the EU's members. It's now very clear why Cameron wanted to make the speech in Europe. It was clearly written to be delivered away from home. Sterling is falling against the dollar, by the way.

08:24 - "Those of us outside the euro recognise that those in it will need to make big changes," he says. He goes on with his "heretical" points. He cites the European treaty promoting ever closer union. "We understand and respect the rights of others to follow this goal" but he's not into it, Britain isn't and neither are many other countries. "To those who say we have no vision for Europe, I say we have." He says he believes in a group working together to spread their ideas, create a single market, tackle international problems like climate change.

08:26 - "Power must be able to flow back to member states," he says. "This has never been properly fulfilled." he wants to examine thoroughly what the EU should do and should stop doing.

08:28 - Now he cites democratic accountability. There is no such thing as a European demos. National parliaments need a beefier role.

08:29 - I've never seen Cameron deliver a speech in a less competent way than this. He is ploughing through it at quite a rate of knots. The argument is getting lost. He has provided five principles - sorry I didn't get all of them for you (we'll have the speech up in full later). Cameron says public support for the EU is at an all-time low (the speech was meant to be delivered before more sympathetic weekend polls).

08:31 - People feel Europe is heading for a level of integration which is outside Britain's comfort zone. "Democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now wafer thin. The question mark is already there. Ignoring it will not help it go away. Those who refuse to consult the British people make our exit more likely."

08:33 - For the first time he says he wants a referendum. Some want an in-or-out vote now. He says now that's a false choice. The EU is in flux. It's not the time to make such a momentous decision. It's not right to ask people to stay or go unless we have made the relationship right. The EU that emerges from the eurozone crisis will be a different body. Cameron envisages "a new settlement where members work flexibly and where we prove some powers can in fact be returned to member states".

08:36 - He wants a new treaty. "My strong preference is to enact these changes for the whole European Union, not just Britain." Cameron is setting himself up for a fall here, potentially very badly. The next Tory government will ask for a mandate from the British people to renegotiate our relationship with Europe. Once done, it will be in-or-out. To stay on new terms or come out altogether ." It will be an in-or-out referendum," he says. Just to hear him say it, I must say, seems hugely important. "I say to the British people, this will be your decision. It will be a decision we have to come to with cool heads."

08:39 - Cameron now starts making the case for staying in the EU - reduced negotiating power and all that.

08:43 - If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket - no return, Cameron says.

08:43 - In a threat to Europe, he says it would be poorer without the UK. He's sort of blackmailing Brussels for negotiations. He says he refuses a defeatist attitude for Britain or Europe.

08:44 - With "courage and conviction" we can negotiate a new arrangement that Britain can be comfortable with. Britain's national interest is best served in a flexible adaptable European Union." He says he won't rest "until the debate is done, for the prosperity of peoples for generations to come". And with that, the speech ends.

08:45 - Question one from a journalist in the audience. Why is he still "banging on about Europe" as he promised he wouldn't? Cameron: "This debate is happening now. The question is will politicians stick their heads in the sand?" He says this is a programme to ensure Britain's national interest. It is good for Britain. He admits there will be some tough negotiations to come. He wants the single market at the heart of the relationship. "Nothing is off the table."

08:48 - Question two. Is it possible you will fail at the negotiations and will have to campaign for a no vote? He dodges the question.

08:53 - In a crucial addition, Cameron says: "'If I am and prime minister this will happen". That means it will be a red line in a coalition negotiation. With that, he wraps up. That was seminal and actually went further than I expected. Will have a reaction piece up for you along with a news story in the next hour, then we're back at 12pm for PMQs. See you then.

Get involved Get Involved