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25th May 2019

Cameron's EU plan to scrap 'ever closer union' and limit migration

  • Cameron - 'ever closer union' commitment 'not right' for the UK (Photo: bisgovuk)

New mechanisms to limit eastern European migration and prevent benefit tourism are at the centre of a seven point plan laid out by David Cameron to reform Britain's relationship with the EU.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Sunday (16 March), the British Prime Minister said that the EU's principle of free movement of labour and capital should mean "free movement to take up work, not free benefits". He added that allowing new countries to join the EU should be accompanied by "new mechanisms in place to prevent vast migrations across the continent."

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He also called for the removal of the phrase referring to “ever closer union”, in the preamble of the EU treaty. "It may appeal to some countries. But it is not right for Britain, and we must ensure we are no longer subject to it," said Cameron.

Removing the reference to "ever closer union" is largely symbolic, but would require a change to the treaties.

Although critics argue that the phrase demonstrates the EU's latent federalism tendency the sentence refers to "an ever-closer union among the peoples [not the states] of Europe in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity".

Last summer, a review of EU law-making by the Dutch government concluded that “the time of ever closer union in every policy area is behind us”.

Meanwhile, in a warning shot to his party's most eurosceptic elements, the UK leader warned that achieving the reforms would take “time and patience, as well as strong relationships with our key allies and goodwill - not shouting from the sidelines”.

Cameron also repeated his demand for national parliaments to be able to given more powers to re-write or block unwanted EU legislation.

Under the current rules, a legislative proposal from the European Commission can be referred back to the EU executive on the say-so of a third of the national parliament's across the bloc.

However, national parliaments have no power to prevent the commission from simply re-tabling the proposal, as happened last year with controversial plans to set up a European Public Prosecutor's office.

Cameron, who last January unveiled plans to re-negotiate Britain's EU membership followed by an 'in/out' referendum in 2017, is hoping to use his promise of an EU referendum to persuade voters that his is the only party prepared to reform Britain's EU status.

Most voters want to have a say on whether to remain part of the bloc, although opinion polling suggests that the EU is among the most important issues to only a minority of voters.

Last week Ed Miliband, who leads the opposition Labour party, ruled out an in/out referendum on EU membership before the end of the decade barring the adoption of a new EU treaty to transfer more power to Brussels.

His position is similar to that held by the Liberal Democrat party, which is currently in coalition with Cameron's Conservatives.

Cameron's latest salvo comes at the start of a European election campaign at which his party faces being pushed into third place by Nigel Farage's UK independence party at May's European elections.

A poll published on Sunday by ComRes based on those describing themselves as 'certain' to vote in May put Ukip on 30 percent, two points of Labour, with the Conservatives languishing on 21 percent.

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