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Britain’s goals in EU membership talks but no agreement

19th Dec 2015
Britain’s goals in EU membership talks but no agreement

LONDON (AA) – British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he has a “pathway to a deal” on renegotiating Britain’s EU membership following talks with other European leaders. However, nothing was agreed at the EU Council meeting Thurday in Brussels.

The prime minister, who has promised Britons a referendum of the U.K.’s continued membership of the bloc by the end of 2017, laid out his proposals at a dinner in Brussels.

Cameron has set a February deadline to reach agreement on the four central reforms he is proposing, which European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described as “four tricky questions” following Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders.

– Britain’s demands

Economic governance: Britain, like eight other EU members, is not a part of the euro currency zone, having opted to keep sterling, and Cameron is seeking safeguards to ensure that further financial union cannot be forced on non-euro members. He also wants assurances that Britain will not have to contribute to eurozone bailout packages.

Regulation: Cameron’s Conservatives have long railed against EU bureaucracy and he wants a target set to reduce excessive regulations, particularly for businesses.

Sovereignty: Similarly, a perceived loss of sovereignty to Brussels has long been a Conservative bugbear and Cameron wants Britain to be able to opt out of any closer political union in the future. He wants national parliaments to have greater powers to block EU laws.

Immigration: Cameron aims to reduce current levels of migration from the EU to Britain by reducing perceived “pull factors” such as welfare benefits. He wants to prevent EU migrants from receiving benefits until they have lived in the U.K. for four years. This plank is seen as the most troublesome and other EU leaders have indicated it could impact on the freedom of labor movement, one of the bloc’s core principles.

Europe has long been a dominant issue in British politics and has proved divisive since the U.K. joined what was then known as the Common Market in 1973.

Two years after joining under Conservative Premier Edward Heath, Britain held a referendum on its membership after Labour’s Harold Wilson came to power. More than 67 percent voted in favor.

Through the 1970s and 1980s elements of both the Labour and Conservative parties campaigned to leave the EU, with antipathy towards Europe characterized by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 Bruges speech in which she attacked Brussels’ dominance.

Four years later, her successor John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty that transferred a wide range of powers to the EU, although the U.K. opted out of the single currency and, initially, the social chapter.

The eurozone crisis has entrenched Euroscepticism on the right-wing of the Conservative Party, ultimately leading to Cameron promising an “in-out” referendum during this year’s general election — the country’s first since 1975.

“If we can’t reach such an agreement and if Britain’s concerns were to be met with a deaf ear, which I do not believe will happen, then we will have to think again about whether this European Union is right for us,” Cameron warned last month.

Author: Büşra Akın Dinçer
[Photo: British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech after the EU leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium on December 18, 2015. European Union leaders are reconvening in Brussels for the final day of their year-end summit with a wide-ranging agenda including how to build greater economic unity among their 28 countries and stepping up the fight against terrorism. Photgrapher: Dursun Aydemir/AA]

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