Cameron in Amsterdam: Even 'best' friends think you are wrong

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We mustn't read too much into David Cameron's choice of Holland for tomorrow's big speech.

It is believed Germany may have been his preferred choice before he blundered into a clash with a major Franco-German celebration next week, so Amsterdam it is.

He will get a more sympathetic hearing here than more or less anywhere else on the continent.

There will be sympathy, yes. But will they agree with him? No.

David Cameron seen during a previous EU meeting in Brussels last year
David Cameron seen during a previous EU meeting in Brussels last year Credit: Reuters

Much has been made of the "euro-scepticism" of the current Dutch Government, and its potential as an ally for David Cameron in his quest to repatriate powers from Brussels.

Both are illusions.

Certainly there is a strain of anti-Brussels feeling among the Dutch that runs deeper that most, plus some serious regret at ever having joined the euro, but that is in a different league to the debate in the UK.

In elections late last year the government of Mark Rutte was thought to be under some pressure from the anti-EU far right and euro-sceptic far left, but in the end the centrist coalition was returned and the impeccably euro-enthusiastic Frans Timmermans installed as Foreign Minster.

Do they back Britain's demands for more EU opt-outs? No chance.

Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte
Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte Credit: Reuters

Many in The Hague, even in the mainstream parties, would like to see Brussels' wings clipped and powers returned to national capitals, but for all 27, not for the UK alone.

So where does this leave Mr Cameron's hopes of building an alliance for change in the Councils of Europe?

Not to put too fine a point on it, he is on his own.

Trying to persuade fellow leaders - whose sole concern at the moment is saving the euro and preventing a repeat of last year's near collapse - to start making concessions to London is going to be a stretch. To put it mildly.

They are all aware of his domestic difficulties, but they don't really care.

So Downing Street's only real hope is that the UK veto gives them some leverage, that there are things the Eurozone wants that it can't get without British agreement, and that in return…

As if anticipating the threat, eurozone capitals are now more-or-less agreed that they can get where they want to go without the need for new treaties or the re-opening of old ones.

No treaty, no veto, no leverage. And for Britain, no deal.

David Cameron will deliver his speech in the Netherlands tomorrow
David Cameron will deliver his speech in the Netherlands tomorrow Credit: Reuters

If David Cameron's position is not a threat to the Eurozone's plans, it is most definitely an irritation.

Continental leaders will all be perfectly polite about tomorrow's speech in public, but in private they think London guilty of opportunism at best, blackmail at worst.

I have been struck by the almost blanket refusal of the EU's leading figures to be interviewed either before or after tomorrow's speech.

It is as if they can now barely be bothered to keep smiling sweetly and saying how much they value the UK as a member of the EU, but…

If David Cameron was determined that, in keeping with previous Tory leaders like Churchill, Thatcher and Major, setting out a European vision requires a European location, then the Netherlands was probably his best bet.

But it is a testament to his isolation on this issue that even his "best" friends in Europe think hes profoundly wrong.