Monday

22nd Apr 2019

Britain's pro and anti-EU campaigns gear up

  • "We are stronger, better off and safer inside Europe than we would be out on our own," EU campaigner Stuart Rose said. (Photo: Yiannis Theologos Michellis)

The EU referendum campaign in the UK is gearing up, as a pro-EU campaign will be presented Monday (12 October), a few days after the launch of an initiative advocating an exit from the EU.


In the meantime, British media detailed over the weekend what are reportedly prime minister David Cameron's four main points in his negotiations with EU partners to reform links between the Union and Britain.

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According to the Daily Telegraph, quoting sources at Downing Street, the four "key demands" are: "an explicit statement" that Britain will not be bound to the principle of "ever closer union"; "an explicit statement" that the euro is not the official currency of the EU; a "red card" system giving national parliaments the power to stop or abolish EU law; and a new organisation of the EU protecting non-euro member states from a domination of the eurozone.

If confirmed, this wishlist would mean that Cameron has scrapped demands such as a reform of EU treaties and measures to curb EU immigration.

Countries where many migrants come from, like Poland, Hungary or Slovakia, strongly opposed any idea of limiting movement in the EU, the Telegraph said.

'Patriotic course'

So far, the British PM has not officially presented his demands to the EU. At the Conservative conference last week, he said the EU was "too bossy" but gave no detail on what he will ask.

"When we joined the European Union we were told that it was about going into a common market, rather than the goal that some had for an 'ever closer union'. Let me put this very clearly: Britain is not interested in 'ever closer union' – and I will put that right," he said.

Speaking to the BBC, Cameron said: "If I don't get what I want then I rule nothing out. But I am confident we will get what we need."

At the EU summit on Thursday and Friday, EU leaders will take stock of the discussions held at a technical level so far. They are expected to discuss the issue at the next summit in December.

Although no date has been set for the referendum, either in 2016 or in 2016, the pro- and anti- campaigns are already making their cases.

Monday will see the launch of the "Britain Stronger in Europe" campaign. It will be led by former Marks&Spencer boss and Tory peer Stuart Rose, with the support of three former prime minister, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as business and political figures, like former Labour minister and EU commissioner Peter Mandelson.

"I believe that we are stronger, better off and safer inside Europe than we would be out on our own," Rose said in a statement.

"To claim that the patriotic course for Britain is to retreat, withdraw and become inward looking is to misunderstand who we are as a nation," he added.

'Regain control'

Britain Stronger in Europe will face two recently launched pro-Brexit campaigns, Leave.EU and Vote Leave.

Vote Leave, which is run by Matthew Elliott, the founder of the Taxpayers' Alliance campaign, was presented on 9 October and is backed by three Eurosceptic groups: Conservatives for Britain, Labour Leave and Business for Britain.

It is supported among others by the writer Frederick Forsyth, the Conservative former treasurer Peter Cruddas, Labour donor John Mills and former Tory funder and UKIP treasurer Stuart Wheeler.

"We negotiate a new UK-EU deal based on free trade and friendly cooperation. We end the supremacy of EU law. We regain control," Vote Leaves says on its website.

"We stop sending £350 million every week to Brussels and instead spend it on our priorities, like the NHS and science research. We regain our seats on international institutions like the World Trade Organisation so we are a more influential force for free trade and international cooperation."

On the anti-EU side, Vote Leave will be competing with Leave.EU, a campaign founded by by UKIP donor Arron Banks and which UKIP leader Nige Farage described as an umbrella group" of anti-EU campaigners.

Farage said he would support both Leave.EU and Vote Leave. But he said the former was a "Westminster-based group" putting forward business arguments, while the matter was "reaching out to millions of ordinary people" and making the case for Britain being able to control its borders.

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