Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

British PM outlines minimalist EU membership

  • Cliffs of Dover: Cameron praised the UK's 'natural advantages' on border control (Photo: Ismael Celis)

David Cameron has said British people can feel confident to vote on the EU before treaty change, while outlining a minimalist future for UK membership.

He told press after an EU summit in Brussels on Friday (26 June) there won’t be time for 28 governments to ratify a new treaty before the in/out referendum deadline of end-2017.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 'That’s what fires me up ... the national interest' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

But he said it’s normal to make big decisions on the basis of partly-ratified texts, citing the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty as an example.

“This is the usual way to proceed. What matters is the substance. What matters is the deal. What matters is what we get”, he said.

He noted that he wants four EU changes before British people vote whether to stay in.

The list includes: cutting the phrase “ever-closer Union” from the treaty; making the single market more competitive; protecting the UK, which isn’t part of the eurozone, from decisions by the euro club; and curbing welfare for EU nationals who move to Britain.

“Our membership of the Union will, once again, have the common market at its heart. We’ll have gotten off the treadmill of ever-closer Union … it will be a new and different membership”, Cameron said.

Referring to Greece, he said “the euro is driving the process of change in Europe” because it requires “deeper integration” to prevent future crises.

“Certainly, Britain isn’t going to go anywhere near the euro. Not as long as I’m prime minister. So you’ve got to make sure this organisation [the EU] works for both sorts of countries”.

The British PM spoke after briefing EU leaders, for the first time in a plenary format, on his demands on Thursday evening.

He has also spoken to each of them individually during a tour of EU capitals in recent weeks.

“I felt that what I said [on Thursday] had a good and fair reception”, he noted.

Referring to his tour, he added: “I’m not saying everyone has put up their hands and said: ‘Yes, David. That’s marvellous. We can nod that through’. These are going to be tough changes to negotiate”.

He told press the UK contributes a lot to the EU, in budget contributions and by lending its diplomatic and defence capabilities.

But he made clear he wants to keep the continent at arm’s length.

He said the UK was right not to join the passport-free Schengen zone because it lets Britain “make the most of the natural advantages [the North Sea] that we have in terms of being able to have strong border control”.

He listed as his finest EU moments his support for UK opt-outs, cutting the EU budget, and vetoing select EU laws.

“That’s what fires me up. That’s why I’m doing this [the in/out vote] - it’s the national interest”, he said.

His strident words were undercut by a leak to The Guardian the previous day, however.

The British daily published excerpts from a diplomatic note summarising one of his bilateral EU meetings.

The note says Cameron told his interlocutor his “firm aim was to keep the UK in the EU” and that “people will ultimately vote for the status quo if the alternatives can be made to appear risky”.

It adds that, short of treaty change, he’d settle for a protocol “to change the treaties in due course”.

It also says German and Italian leaders - “Angela and Matteo” - reacted well to his wishlist. But France is “warier”, especially on EU migrant welfare.

Nigel Farage, an MEP and a leading British eurosceptic, told press the leak proves the in/out vote will be a “con”.

But Cameron made fun of his adversary.

“As for Nigel Farage, I don’t remember him being in any of those meetings. But as this is a man who can miraculoulsy resign and unresign, maybe he was there in incorporeal form”, he said, referring to Farage’s recent U-turn on the leadership of Ukip, his political party.

Cameron faces rebellion on referendum rules

David Cameron is facing several backbench rebellions from his Conservative party as his bill to guarantee an EU referendum faces a series of parliamentary votes.

UK referendum rules could 'hobble' government

Preventing ministers from carrying out EU-related business in the run-up to the UK’s EU referendum could "hobble" the government, a top British official says.

Cameron planning June 2016 EU vote

David Cameron is poised to set out plans for the UK’s referendum on European Union membership to be held in June next year.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  2. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato
  3. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  4. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  5. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  6. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  7. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  8. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us