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David Cameron: The rabbit at the poker table

There’s an adage in poker that says: “When you first sit down at the table, look around you and try to spot the rabbit [the weakest player]. If you can't see them, then it’s you”.

When David Cameron takes his place at the European Summit next Tuesday, he might want to look around the table. I don’t think he will be able to spot the rabbit.

David Cameron will be searching for the rabbit, says James Mates Credit: PA

The reaction of the remaining 27 since the referendum result on Friday morning has been a picture of unity.

There has been barely a bat-squeak heard in support of Britain. Not from our most loyal friends in the EU, Finland and tiny Estonia. Not from Eastern European countries like Poland and Hungary, themselves frequently at loggerheads with Brussels.

On Friday morning the (invariably hostile) Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament met with the (usually hostile) Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Commission and the (usually friendly) Donald Tusk, President of the Council.

They spoke with one voice, in essence: "There’s the door. Please don’t let it slam on your way out."

Foreign Ministers of the six founding members of the Common Market then met in Berlin yesterday. Understanding for Britain’s position? Nothing. Zip. Nada.

"If you’re going, please get on with it."

Even the Dutch, who have frequently helped David Cameron out in the past, were coldly hostile.

Their tactics are clear.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was not sympathetic to Britain's decision Credit: Reuters

They know that when Boris Johnson first declared for Brexit, he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column: "There is only one way to get the change we need - and that is to vote to go; because all EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says 'no'."

What we are going to see in Europe this week is a clear and unanimous rejection of that theory.

They can’t force Britain to fire the starting gun on our departure, however much they might like to trigger the exit process called Article 50 on our behalf. But they are going to offer nothing to persuade us to change our minds. Not even a tiny fig-leaf behind which we could hide an excuse for a second referendum.

Already Germany is playing its own version of Good Cop/Bad Cop. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is urging a hasty departure, while Chancellor Merkel said that the process "shouldn’t be indefinite, but I’m not going to push for an immediate withdrawal."

Her spokesman even suggested this morning that the UK "should have the possibility of reconsidering the consequences of an exit."

Angela Merkel has long subscribed to Margaret Thatcher’s view that "referendums are a device of dictators and demagogues." They are outlawed by the constitution in Germany precisely because of the way they were abused by the Nazis. Facing a wave of copycat referendums in the EU, she is going to ensure that this one wins nothing for Britain.

So that is the united front that will be sitting across the table from David Cameron on Tuesday.

The Labour party has been thrown into meltdown after the referendum Credit: Reuters

And what will the remaining 27 be looking at?

A defeated and lame-duck Prime Minister who’s just squandered a mandate to govern he won 13 months ago.

A Conservative party about to split into ‘Boris’ and ‘stop-Boris’ camps.

A Labour party in total meltdown.

A Government in Scotland that wants urgent talks with them about independence and EU membership.

Politicians on either side of the border in Ireland deeply concerned about what this might mean for both communities.

And in England, a wave of buyer’s remorse that threatens to turn into a Tsunami, with a petition for a second referendum that (at the time of writing) had passed three million signatures.

Even leading campaigners for Leave are suggesting that a second vote may be necessary.

And the fastest U-turns in history on the pledges on immigration, £350 million a week for the NHS, and control of our borders.

That is what awaits David Cameron on Tuesday. On Wednesday it gets even worse, as the remaining 27 wrap up the formal summit a day early in order to meet in private to discuss Brexit. UK not invited. A early taste of our future.

No wonder David Cameron will be searching in vain for the rabbit.

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