Saturday

6th Jun 2020

British Queen calls for European unity

  • Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. In Berlin, she said 'division in Europe is dangerous'. (Photo: Michael Chu)

On the eve of an EU summit in which British Prime Minister David Cameron will discuss EU reform and his in/out referendum, the British head of state has called for unity in Europe.

“The United Kingdom has always been closely involved in its continent”, Queen Elizabeth II said on Wednesday (24 June) in a speech at a banquet in Berlin.

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Addressing German president Joachim Gauck, she said: “We know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world”.

“We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the west as well as in the east of our continent. That remains a common endeavour”.

She did not specifically mention the EU, referring instead to “Britain and Germany [which] have achieved so much by working together”.

“I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead”, she said.

For his part, Gauck was more direct in his opposition to a potential British exit from the EU.

“We know that we need an effective European Union based on a stable foundation of shared values. A constructive dialogue on the reforms Britain wants to see is therefore essential”, he said.

“As a good partner, Germany will support this dialogue. For Britain is part of Europe. The European Union needs Britain. A united Europe, a strong European Union, represent stability, peace and freedom for us all”, he added.

The Merkel factor

Like the Queen, Gauck has a largely ceremonial role.

In order to push through EU reform, Cameron needs to win the support of Angela Merkel, Germany’s popular chancellor.

At Thursday's EU summit, they will discuss, together with the other 26 leaders, how the UK should negotiate its terms.

"At the end of the dinner prime minister Cameron will set out his plans for a [in/out] referendum in the UK", EU Council president Donald Tusk, who will chair the meeting, wrote in his invitation letter.

“We expect the [British negotiation] process will be initiated”, a senior EU official said Wednesday. “[But] we’re not going to have a big debate about it”, the source added.

The contact said leaders will need to “decide a timeframe and how the process shall be organised in the months to come”.

Cameron wants to conclude his renegotiation of Britain's role in the EU before putting the new terms to the test in a popular vote, which will take place before the end of 2017.

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Both sides have something at stake. Cameron doesn't want to be the man who led the UK out of the EU and the EU would be severely diminished by a UK exit.

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