(Image provided by telegraph.co.uk, available here)
In a much anticipated speech, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that if his party is re-elected in the 2015 elections, he will offer the British people a referendum on whether Britain will remain in the European Union by the end of 2017. In the speech, Cameron acknowledged the “wafer thin” support British people have for continued participation in the EU. He went on to say that he hopes his country will remain a part of the EU, but a major renegotiation of its relationship with Europe, including labor, environmental and judiciary legislation must take place first in order for that to happen.
The results of these negotiations are what Cameron hopes to bring to the people in a referendum during his next term, if he is re-elected. His plan is to bargain for a reformed union with a more “flexible, adaptable and open” relationship between all members. Cameron hopes to give the British people a “real choice between leaving [the Union], or being part of a new settlement in which Britain shapes and respects the rules of the single market but is protected by fair safeguards.” “Far from unraveling the EU, [Cameron believes] this [renegotiation] will in fact bind its members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the center.”
Members of the Prime Minister’s conservative party were pleased with the speech and believe it would appeal to the large majority of the British people. However, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, with which Mr. Cameron’s party formed a ruling coalition after the last election, has said his party would not join a coalition with a party that wanted a renegotiation with Europe.
Member states of the Union are also not pleased. Germany’s Chancellor seemed willing to compromise on small issues with Great Britain, but stressed that any outcome must be fair to all. French politicians went further. Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, said Britain could not join a football club and say, “let’s play rugby”.
Many believe Cameron is “vastly overstating” the UK’s renegotiation capacity. On peripheral issues the EU might accommodate London, but on the very important strategic issues, on the necessity of the euro, on climate, on the big global things, it does not seem likely.
What do you think about Britain’s chances of reorganizing the EU? If negotiations go poorly, will that spell the end of Prime Minister Cameron’s tenure? President Obama has recently warned the UK that leaving the EU would not be a wise decision, and could lead to a weakened British position on the world stage. Do you agree?