Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

Cameron publishes bits of unlucky EU speech

Downing Street has circulated parts of a speech due to warn of a British EU "exit," after cancelling it because of the Algerian hostage situation.

With information trickling out on an Algerian army raid on a militant-held gas plant in the south east of the country, British leader David Cameron said on Thursday (17 January) that one UK worker has "very sadly died" and that families should prepare themselves for "further bad news."

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He opted to stay in the UK to chair a crisis meeting and to address parliament instead of going to Amsterdam to speak about the EU.

He had already changed the date once because previous plans clashed with Franco-German celebrations of the 50-year-old Elysee peace treaty on Tuesday.

The extracts circulated to news agencies on Thursday do not mention a referendum on EU-UK relations, as promised by Cameron in earlier remarks.

But they say the EU is mishandling the economic crisis and becoming less democratic.

"There are three major challenges confronting us today. First, the problems in the eurozone are driving fundamental change in Europe. Second, there is a crisis of European competitiveness, as other nations across the world soar ahead. And third, there is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years and which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is - yes - felt particularly acutely in Britain," Cameron was due to say.

"There is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems. People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the Continent," he was to add.

"More of the same will not secure a long-term future for the eurozone. More of the same will not see the EU keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the EU any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same," he was to say.

The British leader was to warn that: "If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit."

But he was also due to note: "I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success and I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it."

In a nod to earlier warnings from France, Germany and the US, as well as from several British politicians, that the speech risks harming British interests, he also planned to add: "Europe's leaders have a duty to hear these concerns. And we have a duty to act on them ... There are always voices saying: 'Don't ask the difficult questions.' But it's essential for Europe - and for Britain - that we do."

The warning by a US official last week prompted calls by eurosceptic British MPs that Washington should not meddle in British affairs.

But for his part, US President Barack Obama repeated the line in a press communique following a phone call with Cameron on Thursday evening.

"The President underscored our close alliance with the United Kingdom and said that the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union, which makes critical contributions to peace, prosperity, and security in Europe and around the world," the White House statement said.

UK's EU future dependent on other member states

EU leaders have reacted coolly to Prime Minister David Cameron's statement on Europe, in a reminder that much of what stands on the UK's wishlist is dependent on the goodwill of other member states.

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

Opinion

Macron goes east to test appetite for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

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