Thursday, 10 January 2013

UK-EU: '' EU Referendum'': The anticipated David Cameron Political battle

Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron is squeezed domestically and internationally with his plan to hold a referendum on the country's future in European Union. Cameron is expected to say in his speech  this month that, if elected with a majority in 2015, he will use an EU treaty revision to underpin new eurozone governance arrangements to repatriate some powers. The new terms of British membership would be put to the UK public in a referendum.

Roughly one-third of Conservative MPs favor an EU exit, and even Cameron sees this as a plausible scenario. The prime minister has announced that he will clarify his stance on Europe in a long-awaited address this month.

Roughly half of all Britons would vote in favor of withdrawing from the EU. Many of them see the debt crisis as proof that the European project has failed. Meanwhile, Cameron has to find a way to appease the British without further annoying his European partners. It was already months ago that he announced that Britain would examine existing European treaties to pick and choose which EU laws and regulations benefit the country.

Still, Europhobia continues to spread throughout the country and is forcing both the Conservatives and Labour further to the right. Of the three parties represented in the House of Commons, only the Liberal Democrats are staunchly pro-EU -- and they are currently running at 8 percent in the opinion polls. Labour is afraid of making a crystal-clear commitment to Europe and the Tories are largely spewing populist rhetoric.

The Obama administration issued a direct challenge to David Camero over Europe, on Wednesday when it warned of the dangers of holding a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
 A senior US official questioned the merits of holding a referendum as the prime minister's campaign to reset the terms of Britain's EU membership also came under assault from Brussels and Dublin.

With just weeks to go until Cameron delivers a landmark speech in which he is expected to promise to hold a referendum on a "new settlement" for Britain in the EU, the US assistant secretary for European affairs warned that "referendums have often turned countries inwards".

Gordon stressed that it was it was up to Britain to determine its European role but, in what appeared to be a clear reference to attempts to renegotiate UK membership with the EU, he said: "It would be fair to say that every hour at an EU summit spent debating the institutional makeup of the European Union is one less hour spent talking about how we can solve our common challenges of jobs, growth, and international peace around the world."

David Cameron recognizes  that it would not be "right for Britain" to leave the EU entirely, the country is "perfectly entitled" to ask for changes to this relationship, particularly in light of the fact that the EU is "changing the nature of the organization to which we belong," he said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, last sunday.

In exchange for greater European integration, Cameron believes that Britain should be allowed to take back some powers from the EU. Among his suggestions were a review of tighter EU immigration controls to limit the possibility for "people to come and live in Britain and claim benefits," and getting rid of the EU's Working Time Directive, which he said "should never have been introduced."

In fact, the other EU leaders want to avoid treaty change as it could result in years of gruelling negotiations and open a pandora's box of competing claims. From Brussels to Berlin, Dublin to Paris, EU leaders cast doubt on whether a major revision of the treaty – essential to Cameron's strategy – would actually take place. They argue that EU states could not agree on what they wanted to change in the treaty, so the prospect of a renegotiation was remote.

''At this stage of the debate we don't need as much treaty change as people think," said Van Rompuy, the full time president of European Council.  "For those ideas for where treaty change is needed there is simply no consensus. So the possibility of having treaty changes in the near future or present are not very high.

The political stakes are high and Cameron cannot allow himself to make any mistakes on these issues, having hesitated for too long to take a clear position on Europe. The prime minister has no strategy and has made tactical decisions out of fear of alienating voters.

Cameron's dithering on the issue is also to blame for the UK losing nearly all its clout in Europe. With increasing reluctance, he travels to Brussels, where the other heads of state hope that he won't threaten a veto again in an attempt to score points on the domestic political front. Nevertheless, Cameron doesn't want Britain to leave the European Union. He knows that an exit would damage the British economy -- and have considerable political consequences. On the other hand, he has members of his own party, Labour Party and a large proportion of the Europhobes electorate breathing down his neck.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist