Bri­tain’s PM ‘risks a party split’ over EU ne­go­ti­a­tions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron was put on no­tice Sun­day that 50 of his own back­benchers will lead calls for the UK to quit the EU if he does not se­cure ma­jor con­ces­sions from Brussels.

A new group, Con­ser­va­tives for Bri­tain (CfB), has pledged to ini­tially sup­port Cameron’s bid to rene­go­ti­ate Lon­don’s terms of membership of the 28-na­tion bloc.

How­ever, the group also stands poised to lead the cam­paign to leave if the pre­mier does not se­cure ma­jor changes, such as re­gain­ing con­trol over free trade pow­ers and Bri­tish laws.

“Un­less se­nior EU of­fi­cials awake to the pos­si­bil­ity that one of the EU’s largest mem­bers is se­ri­ous about a fun­da­men­tal change in our re­la­tion­ship, our rec­om­men­da­tion to Bri­tish vot­ers seems likely to be exit,” Con­ser­va­tive law­maker Steve Baker, the CfB’s chair­man in par­lia­ment, told The Sun­day Tele­graph news­pa­per.

Cameron has pledged to rene­go­ti­ate Bri­tain’s re­la­tion­ship with the Euro­pean Union then hold an inor-out ref­er­en­dum on the out­come by the end of 2017.

The pre­mier has been on a whirl­wind tour of Euro­pean cap­i­tals seek­ing sup­port for his touted re­forms, which in­clude mak­ing it harder for EU mi­grants to claim benefits in the UK and opt out of the com­mit­ment to an “ever-closer union.”

Con­ser­va­tive Euro­pean Par­lia­ment law­maker and CfB co-founder David Camp­bell Ban­ner­man warned: “If the EU is not will­ing to re­turn sig­nif­i­cant pow­ers to our shores, then Bri­tain should leave.

“Re­strict­ing free­dom of move­ment of EU cit­i­zens and mak­ing the UK par­lia­ment sovereign over EU law are likely to fea­ture heav-

ily on our agenda.”

‘Ground war’ over Europe

The ne­go­ti­a­tions are the first real test for Cameron af­ter an un­ex­pected elec­tion victory last month and a test of his met­tle as the leader of a party that has long been plagued by di­vi­sions over Europe.

Mean­while the United King­dom In­de­pen­dence Party, which is an­tiEU and anti-mass im­mi­gra­tion, said Satur­day it was start­ing the “ground war” for the cam­paign to leave the EU.

UKIP claimed the third-big­gest share of the vote (12.6 per­cent) in the May 7 gen­eral elec­tion, although the party only took one seat in par­lia­ment.

Leader Nigel Farage said if they wait for Cameron to fin­ish his ne­go­ti­a­tions, “the No cam­paign sim­ply wouldn’t have time to or­ga­nize and to mo­bi­lize.”

“The one thing Mr. Cameron is not ask­ing for, be­cause he knows he won’t get it, is an end to the to­tal free move­ment of peo­ple,” he told BBC ra­dio.

“So, as far as we are con­cerned there is noth­ing Mr. Cameron is ask­ing for that could be ac­cept­able.”

EU pow­ers want Bri­tain to stay in the EU, given its role as a global com­mer­cial power with diplo­matic and mil­i­tary mus­cle — and the in­cal­cu­la­ble sym­bolic dam­age its de­par­ture would do to the EU’s global stand­ing.

But im­pa­tience has risen in con­ti­nen­tal Europe about what some see as Lon­don’s de­mands for spe­cial treat­ment and “a la carte” EU membership.

“If the de­mands are too ex­treme, they are not go­ing to be met,” Poland’s Euro­pean Min­is­ter Rafal Trza­skowski told The Ob­server news­pa­per.

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