In what could be one of the most decisive speeches on Europe since World War Two, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday will set out his plans to reshape the future of Britain in the EU.
Facing mounting pressure from the Eurosceptic side of his own Conservative Party, Cameron aims at bringing back some of the powers that Brussels currently holds to Westminster.
Many EU leaders have already criticized Cameron’s intentions. EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy has said that Mr. Cameron cannot ‘cherry-pick’ what EU policies he can sign up to. MEPs also warned that Cameron’s plans could undermine the Single Market.
“We need one European union. A single European Union. And not a European Union à la carte as we have today : with opt ins and opt outs, and derogations, and exceptions, and rebates. (…) If you can pick and choose what shall be left of the Single Market ? If the French for example ay “we like the industrial policy, we don’t like the competition rules, or the German all say : we like the Single market in goods, but not the Single market in services. What shall be left of the Single market ? Let’s be honest, and let Mister Cameron be honest about it : a renegotiation as he wants means in fact the end of the Single Market and in fact the end of the European Union.”, said Chair of ALDE group Guy Verhofstadt.
Adding to the criticism of the European Parliament, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann accused the British Premier of sending ‘mixed messages’ in his European approach.
“I refer to solidarity and solidarity that characterises the European Union as the model, it is a model which does not exist in the same way on other continents and it is a model based on freedom and democracy, but also it is based on a kind social model we have and this solidarity is something that should not stop at National borders, it is a something that has to be spread about the whole of the European Union. Things can either go good for all of us together or bad for all of us together.”, said Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.
Expectations are that Cameron aims to regain control in areas like immigration and employment law and that if successful, he would put this new UK-EU relationship to a referendum.
But reforms can only be made if the EU Treaty is reopened, something other EU leaders have already warned is not planned any time soon.
“We will see it as being disastrous if a country like Britain left the Union”, said Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
The US, a close British ally, also expressed this week its concern about British plans. Washington wants to see ‘a strong British voice in the EU’.
Britain joined the European Union in 1973. Since then, it has negotiated a number of opt-outs from key EU policy areas. The country is not part of the eurozone and has not signed the free-border Schengen Treaty.