Tuesday, 2 February 2016

U.K.--E.U.: '' Brexit & New Proposals ''...

The EU is offering Britain a new "emergency brake" rule that could give it the right to deny benefits to new EU workers for up to four years. European Council President Donald Tusk has laid out proposals for keeping Britain in the European Union. The proposals could allow Britain to suspend welfare payments to EU migrants for 4 years if Britons voted to stay in the European Union and could have the power to block legislation and Britain could also opt out further political integration in the bloc. However, the proposals have done a little to ease doubts among anti-Europe.

Although the ''Tusk's Proposals'' would need the seal of approval of the 28 member states in the upcoming EU Summit in Brussels, on February 19,  there is a lot optimism in the air for David Cameron to prevail with all his most important demands. The ''Tusk's Proposals'' aim to provide Cameron with the political tailwind he needs to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union. This summer, Cameron is planning to hold a referendum on Britain's future in the EU. Only if he returns from Brussels in February with a better deal for Britain does he stand a chance or reversing the widespread EU-skepticism that characterizes the country. 

Ever since they joined the European club in 1973, the British have been proving their unique ability to stir up EU politics. Prime minister Margaret Thatcher's insistence in 1980s on a British rebate in compensation for Europe's disadvantageous agricultural policies. Prime minister Tony Blair chose to shun the Germans and the French in joining the US for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But at the same time, the British have often made the Continental Europeans more cosmopolitan, more economically liberal and more invested in the Trans-Atlantic bond. 

Cameron is insisting on implementing a law whereby citizens of EU countries who work in Britain will be prevented from accessing social benefits for four years. It is a clear case of discrimination and is in violation of European Union Law. For Cameron's demand to be implemented, European treaties would have to be amended--but with all 28 member states having to approve such amendments, years often pass before they are implemented and Cameron does not have that kind of time. He would like to finalize an agreement with Brussels and with his EU counterparts by February. 

There are possible solutions to the dilemma in circulation, At a 1992 summit in Edinburgh, for example, exceptions were granted to Denmark on EU defense policy and on the currency union plans, but they were not formalized in the treaties until later. That model could be applied once again in the current situation. 

It is unclear, though, whether these proposals could convince British voters to remain a part of the European Union. The European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs likewise recognized during a visit to Britain that Cameron could be losing control of the situation. 

Those in favor of Brexit have been dominating the public debate in Britain with those wanting to stay in the EU, having attracting attention. Not even the bankers in the City of London can be depended on. The influential and financially powerful industry is seeking to use a potential split for its own agenda. The dream is that of transforming Britain into a kind on northern Singapore, wealthy and largely independent.

The campaign to keep Britain in the EU has had trouble gaining much momentum--which is hardly surprising given that not even Cameron's own government is sure if it really wants to avoid a Brexit. Important cabinet posts are held by EU-skeptics, such as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith and Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon. The pro-EU initiative Britain Stronger in Europe has thus far failed to gain traction, partly because arguments that the British profit handsomely from being part of the EU market have been made thousands of times and aren't particularly sexy.

Moreover, British successes in the EU are relatively rare, particularly on far reaching issues as defense and diplomacy, where Britain has increasingly taken a position contrary to that of the EU in recent years. It is an ironic state of affairs, since it was London, with military strength and global diplomatic experience that helped Europe achieve a modicum of respectability in foreign and security policy in the past. But when it came to peace talks for Ukraine, which resulted in Minsk Protocol, Britain played no role at all. Instead, it was the Germans and French who engaged with the Russians and Ukrainians. 

Furthermore, there is a shortage of accomplished British politicians in Brussels who might be bale to convince voters back home of the benefits of EU membership. More than anything, though there is a lack of new blood. 

Plus, granting too many concessions to the British could encourage other EU members states to emulate them. If Cameron gets what he wants, it could be a dangerous victory for the future of the EU. These are good times for those in favor of a Brexit. They hope that Britain voters will choose to leave the EU no matter what kind of deal Cameron strikes in Brussels in February. For them, the union is a sclerotic structure, mired in disagreement over the refugee crisis and unable to reach consensus. 

If there is anything to be certain about in these proposals, is that a brexit would be a nightmare scenario, and one that EU leaders are seeking to avoid at all costs. It would shake the EU to its core and has the potential of setting off a chain reaction that could leave the entire union in tatters. 
A Brexit would knock the EU's finely balanced power structure off kilter. Without the British and their advocacy for free trade, the influence of southern European countries would become greater and that of Germany, the Netherlands and the Finland would wane. Furthermore, the heft and influence of the EU would be weakened in the globalized world economy.  In the event of a Brexit, the union would have 13 percent fewer residents and its economic power would be reduced by 17 percent. Without London, the EU would be robbed of its only global financial capital outside of Frankfurt. 

Even if EU leaders are able to make Cameron look like the winner of the February Summit, it is unclear if that will be enough. The opponents of Britain's continued EU membership have made up significant ground and many surveys now show them to be neck and neck with those who would like to see the UK remain part of the club. 

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Reuters-photo of: UK Prime Minister David Cameron and European Council President Donald Tusk, in London, January 31 20116.