Jan 17 2013
David Cameron's plans to set out his vision for Britain's future in Europe in a major speech have been thrown into disarray after he was forced to cancel because of the Algerian hostage crisis.
In a dramatic development, Mr Cameron postponed his visit to the Netherlands to make the long-awaited speech and hold talks with Dutch opposite number Mark Rutte.
The speech, which has been several months in the planning, has brought debate at Westminster over the UK's future membership of the EU to fever pitch.
Mr Cameron had been due to make his speech on Friday morning, and was expected to fly to the Netherlands on Thursday night.
After it became clear that several Britons had been caught up in the hostage incident, arrangements were made for him to chair a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency committee by video-link from The Hague if necessary.
But as news came through of violent clashes and multiple deaths at the desert gas plant, the decision was taken to postpone the speech to a date and venue yet to be confirmed.
It had previously been reported that the speech - expected to include a promise of a renegotiation of the terms of UK membership of the EU, subject to the "fresh consent" of the British people - would take place in the Netherlands on January 22.
But it is understood that it was brought forward to Friday so as not to clash with the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty between France and Germany.
It was first revealed that Mr Cameron was planning a major speech on Europe as long ago as September, and he joked that the long delays were due to his "tantric" approach.