Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  2. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  3. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected
  4. Germany: Tehran should hold dialogue with protesters
  5. US ex-diplomat: Trump's 'historical mistake' on EU
  6. France's MoDem finance director indicted on EP funds
  7. Cyprus hopes for reunification talks in December
  8. Russian link to €406m crypto disappearance

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Welcome to the EU engine room
  2. Colonisers speak - 60 years after Congo's independence
  3. EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'
  4. Von der Leyen commission on track for December start
  5. Ukraine boats added to EU-Russia summit preparations
  6. Migrants in Malmo - separating fact from fiction
  7. Which parties and countries chair the EP committees?
  8. European beekeeping in crisis

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us