Article by Jonathan Freedland
'Cameron crossed a red line when he demanded change to, or British exemption from, the principle of free movement of people itself. For the other 27 states, that principle – along with the free movement of capital, services and goods – is what defines the single market. Tampering with it is too high a price, even for Britain’s greatest friends.
The context is also crucial. Our European partners are not deaf. They hear the debate in this country – the way the prime minister has barely a good word to say for the EU, how he responds to the Ukip critique by agreeing with it. And those central European nations that were once such admirers of Britain – the Poles, Czechs, Bulgarians and Romanians – hear too the anti-immigrant rhetoric and conclude that we have lurched into a xenophobia that would deny their citizens a right they now cherish. Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform says Britain’s former allies are “in despair. They want to help us, they want us to stay in – but the brand is increasingly toxic.”
Cameron could have played this differently. He could have dispensed with the macho language of threat and talked instead like a man seeking a deal. He could have taken on Ukip and made the positive, if reformist, case for Europe. Instead, he has put party management first and the future of the country second. He has chosen to fight in such a way that he’s now likely to lose a battle he could have won. And it will be Britain that pays the price.'