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UK’s campaign on EU membership vote begins

3rd Feb 2016
UK’s campaign on EU membership vote begins

LONDON (AA) – Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday hailed the renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership as a “very strong and powerful package”.

Speaking after European Council President Donald Tusk announced the framework of a new settlement with the U.K., Cameron portrayed the deal reached after several weeks of often intense discussions as a good result for Britain.

“This is not a done deal yet,” the prime minister said in a televised speech at an electronics factory in western England. “There’s a lot more work to be done but I think strong, determined, patient negotiation has achieved a good outcome for Britain.”

His comments were widely interpreted as firing the starting gun in Britain’s in-out referendum campaign on EU membership, with Cameron expected to be a leading voice for keeping the U.K. inside the 28-nation bloc.

The settlement, which must be approved by all member states, includes an “emergency brake” on welfare payments to EU immigrants – one of four key reforms Britain had lobbied for.

Although London had wanted a ban on payments to non-Britons for a mandatory for four years following entry to the country, the proposed change says such a ban will apply if a member state can show benefit payments are placing undue strain on the country.

Cameron said the European Commission considered that “Britain qualifies for this emergency brake right now”.

Reflecting on seven months of meetings over the reforms, Cameron said he had been “explaining the issues that Britain had, putting them on the table, and saying we want… we want to fix these issues. I think that has been the right way to do it.”

In addition to the proposal on benefits, the deal announced by Tusk includes new rules to protect the rights of EU countries that do not use the euro – such as Britain – and gives national parliaments the collective power to block European laws.

There is also a commitment to cut red tape and strengthen Europe’s internal market to make it more competitive worldwide.

Britain’s governing Conservative Party was elected last year on a promise to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and put the outcome to a public vote.

Heralding the deal, Cameron said: “Sometimes people say to me ‘If you weren’t in the European Union, would you opt to join the European Union?’ And today I can give a very clear answer: if I could get these terms for British membership, I sure would opt-in to be a member of the European Union because these are good terms and they are different to what other countries have.”

The referendum, which is likely to be held in the summer, will see immigration as the central issue and Cameron could find himself campaigning against his own ministers, who have been given free rein to follow their personal views on the issue.

Some lawmakers have warned there is a risk a June referendum coinciding with regional elections in Scotland, London and other parts of the U.K. on May 5.

“If David Cameron wants a referendum on our membership of the EU then we need to ensure that we have time for a proper debate,” Scottish National Party lawmaker Stephen Gethins said in a statement.

“Rushing through a referendum in June just after important elections in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, London and across England, is totally disrespectful to those elections and will simply not give sufficient time to address the key issues about our future relationship with the EU.”
BrexitDavid CameronDonald TuskEuropean Union

Author Michael Sercan Daventry

 

[Photo: Prime Minister David Cameron at talks with European Council Presidnet Donald Tusk in Downing St on 31 January 2016. Photographer: British Prime Minstry/Georgina Coupe/AA]

 

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