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UK PM Cameron's battle over EU membership has just begun

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

02-22-2016 13:57 BJT

By Zhang Bei, research assistant, the European Research Department, China Institute of International Studies 

After two days and 30-straight hours of intense negotiations, the United Kingdom and European Union had reached a new agreement on Feb. 19.

It has removed an important obstacle to allow for a referendum on deciding the UK's possible retreat from Europe to be held on June 23, which marks a major step for UK Prime Minister David Cameron's efforts to resolve "European issues" during his tenure.

Cameron returned to London after signing a deal, to persuade the skeptical British public to choose to stay in the EU.

Since May 2015 the Conservatives won the election, negotiations had been conducted with the EU for several months. Then, in November, Cameron delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk.

He put forward four goals for EU reform: protections on independence of the single market, protecting the interests of the UK and other non-Eurozone countries; reforms of EU's rigid system, and boosting Europe's competitiveness.

Britain does not participate in the EU building an "ever closer union", to strengthen independent powers of national parliaments; limit EU migrants in the UK to receive welfare benefits, such as low wages tax subsidies.

Cameron had conducted intensive "capital diplomacy", traveling throughout Northern, Southern and Eastern European nations, to win allies support.

Reform advocates feel dissatisfied over the EU. Britain believes the statement of "a closer alliance" would lead to a "ratchet effect", making the British succumb to a subservient level with Brussels. London was highly-alert to "factionalism" in the euro area.

Britain fears a "conspiracy" of euro-zone countries. The British seek to impose controls, fearing a single currency would take precedence in the single market.

EU immigration is a sensitive domestic political issue in Britain, and some EU factions claimed EU immigrants have abused the British welfare system. They call for the UK to withdraw from the EU to control its borders

Although the EU summit was considered the "last kilometer" to an agreement between Britain and Europe, there was still a risk of collapse even at the last moment. Cameron indicated he was prepared to spend the whole weekend in Brussels, and had no intention of leaving without an agreement.

In fact, there are 27 EU member countries, and so negotiations were much more difficult than expected. French President Francois Hollande had launched negotiations to form an "alliance" with Belgium, Portugal and other countries to stir up trouble for London.

From the EU side, several challenges exist for the UK. How to meet requirements for the UK to claim exemption from a "closer union" without an amendment of Constitution. To protect national interests of the non-euro area only if requirements of the City of London UK "special treatment" as an excuse.

The British sought to amend the welfare of immigrants whether that affects the interests of the Eastern European countries, which would lead other EU "rich" countries to follow suit, and that threatens the basic principles of the EU's "free movement."

Nevertheless, the EU and UK have made necessary compromises in terms of immigration benefits, powers of other non-euro countries. EU countries are aware of the need to give Cameron enough weapons - a new agreement to repel factions of the EU retreat movement to persuade the British to remain in the EU in a treacherous political climate. 

The new agreement could impact the "retreat Europe" referendum"stay," or "leave,"  but Cameron's battle has just begun. It is foreseeable that the factions of "retreat Europe" will lambast the agreement, questioning the effectiveness of its reform and relations between Britain and Europe.

In the face of a divided cabinet and the UK's Conservative Party over the European issue, the Labour party with deep disputes inside, massive, well-funded "retreat Europe" campaign team, Cameron's stance to keep the UK in the EU is more difficult than were his prior negotiations with Brussels.

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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