Cameron to give strong­est warn­ing over likely EU exit

Bri­tish PM warns Euro­pean lead­ers on re­form

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LON­DON: Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron will this week give his strong­est warn­ing yet that he might back Bri­tain leav­ing the EU un­less other Euro­pean lead­ers agree to his de­mands for re­form of the bloc. Cameron is due to out­line Bri­tish de­mands for rene­go­ti­a­tion of its Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship terms in a let­ter to the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, Don­ald Tusk, to be pub­lished on Tues­day.

In a speech the same day, he will say that if no deal can be reached, he could back a Bri­tish exit when an in/out ref­er­en­dum is held be­fore the end of 2017.

“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 will say, ac­cord­ing to ad­vance ex­tracts of his speech. “As I have said be­fore-I rule noth­ing out.” Cameron has faced crit­i­cism both at home and abroad-in­clud­ing from his own eu­roscep­tic back­benchers-for not spell­ing out de­tails of the con­ces­sions he is seek­ing from other Euro­pean lead­ers with de­tailed dis­cus­sions ex­pected to ac­cel­er­ate be­fore a sum­mit next month.

Cameron’s let­ter to Tusk is ex­pected to in­clude de­mands such as bar­ring in-work ben­e­fits for EU mi­grants for four years, an ex­emp­tion from any closer EU in­te­gra­tion, and more pow­ers for na­tional gov­ern­ments to block EU leg­is­la­tion.

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said the let­ter would draw to­gether changes the gov­ern­ment has pre­vi­ously said it is seek­ing but would not de­mand spe­cific leg­isla­tive mea­sures.

“We don’t want to be ex­ces­sively pre­scrip­tive at the be­gin­ning of a dis­cus­sion,” Ham­mond told the BBC, say­ing that there were a range of ways to achieve most of Bri­tain’s ob­jec­tives.

“This let­ter is not the end of the process, it’s the be­gin­ning of the process,”he said.

“DIS­HON­EST GIM­MICK”

The Vote Leave cam­paign, which wants Bri­tain to exit the bloc, said Cameron’s re­form agenda lacked am­bi­tion, call­ing it a “dis­hon­est gim­mick”. “We ex­pect Cameron to get what he’s ask­ing for, but what he’s ask­ing for is triv­ial,” the cam­paign’s di­rec­tor, Do­minic Cum­mings, said. Cameron’s of­fice said that Bri­tain will be­gin a fresh round of meet­ings as the rene­go­ti­a­tion en­ters a new “in­ten­sive” phase, with se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tives of mem­ber states in­vited to Brus­sels to dis­cuss the let­ter along with Euro­pean Coun­cil of­fi­cials.

While Cameron has never ruled out cam­paign­ing to leave the EU if he failed to se­cure any agree­ment, the tone of the speech will be his strong­est as­ser­tion to date that the sta­tus quo is un­ac­cept­able.

How­ever, Cameron will also re­peat that he wants Bri­tain to re­main in the 28-na­tion bloc, which it joined in 1973, and is con­fi­dent a deal can be struck to sat­isfy Bri­tain and its part­ners.

He will also de­liver a strong mes­sage to those on both sides of the de­bate over a Bri­tish exit.

“Those who be­lieve we should stay in the EU at all costs need to ex­plain why Bri­tain should ac­cept the sta­tus quo. I am clear that there are real prob­lems with this,” he will say.

“Those who think Bri­tain should just leave now also need to think hard about the im­pli­ca­tions ... What would be­ing out­side the Euro­pean Union mean for our eco­nomic se­cu­rity?”

Opin­ion polls show most Bri­tons favour stay­ing within the EU al­though sup­port for re­main­ing ver­sus leav­ing has nar­rowed in re­cent months. — Reuters

LON­DON: Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron, right, and Leader of the op­po­si­tion Labour Party Jeremy Cor­byn (cen­tre) with SNP rep­re­sen­ta­tive An­gus Robert­son, left, at­tend the Re­mem­brance yes­ter­day cer­e­mony at the Ceno­taph in Lon­don yes­ter­day. — AP

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