Several newspapers reacted sceptically on Saturday to an agreement on reforming Britain’s EU membership struck by Prime Minister David Cameron that will pave the way for an historic referendum.
“Cameron’s Climbdown,” read a headline on the Daily Express website following a marathon two-day summit in Brussels that ended late on Friday, while the Daily Mail said: “Call that a Deal, Dave?”
The Daily Telegraph said Cameron had made “puny gains” and The Times called it “Thin Gruel”.
“From the land of chocolate, David Cameron was always destined to bring back fudge,” said The Times, which dismissed Cameron’s drawn-out negotiations with fellow European leaders as “ill-disguised theatrics”.
He “has little choice now but to resort to the old argument that Britain’s interests are best served by trying to reform Europe from the inside rather than submitting to the unknown rigours of full independence.
“He faces an uphill struggle making it,” it said.
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times and The Sun, tweeted his congratulations to justice minister Michael Gove, who is expected to declare his support for the campaign to leave the EU.
“Friends always knew his principles would overcome his personal friendships,” Murdoch wrote.
The Daily Telegraph’s editor Charles Moore called the reforms “puny gains”, saying that Britons would look at them and ask themselves: “Is that it?”.
“From now on… the internal pains of the Tory party on this subject will be brought into the open,” said Moore, as Cameron prepared to attempt to win over sceptical ministers at a cabinet meeting on Saturday.
The deal contains a seven-year “emergency brake” on welfare payments for EU workers and a recognition that the shared European objective of “ever closer union” does not apply to Britain.
The Guardian said the European Union agreement was “a practical package” and “cannot be dismissed as a charade”.
The paper said it supported Britain staying in the EU “come what may”, urging undecided voters to examine the agreed reforms “very seriously indeed”.
Cameron presents the deal to ministers on Saturday after which the referendum campaign will whirr into life, with ministers who want Britain to leave the EU being allowed to speak out for the first time.