EU demands of Britain not ‘MI’
LONDON, Nov 11, (Agencies): Britain should be able to reach a deal on reforming its relationship with the European Union which all sides can endorse, even though some of its demands are “difficult”, Finland’s Economy Minister Olli Rehn said on Wednesday. British Prime Minister David
Cameron wrote a letter on Tuesday setting out his four main objectives in renegotiating Britain’s EU ties before a membership referendum due by the end of 2017.
“There are elements that could form a basis for an agreement ... there are elements that are more difficult to digest,” Rehn, a former European Commissioner, told BBC Radio.
“Overall I think a package of elements could be agreed that could be possible to endorse both in the UK and the rest of the European Union,” he added.
Rehn said Britain was “essential” in strengthening the EU’s external voice, and Finland supported Cameron’s push for reform in areas such as boosting competitiveness and protecting the bloc’s single market. “Definitely the European Union needs reform. That is why the UK has allies among other member states,” he said.
Cameron laid out his government’s demands for European Union reform Tuesday, saying a looser “British model of membership” would let him campaign “heart and soul” for his country to stay in the 28-nation bloc.
Cameron said the EU must agree to “irreversible changes” that would cede autonomy back to member states — and limit freedom of movement, a key EU principle, by allowing the UK to restrict benefits for immigrants from within the EU.
Britain will hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether to leave the EU. Cameron says he wants to remain in, provided he can secure the reforms he seeks.
He acknowledged that getting the other 27 nations to agree to Britain’s goals would be a major challenge — but not “Mission: Impossible.”
“I would argue that it’s Mission: Possible, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there,” he said.
The EU’s executive European Commission, however, called some of the issues raised by Cameron “highly problematic.”
Cameron outlined his demands in a speech in London and a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk.
He told an audience at the Chatham House think-tank that his country wants change in four areas, including protection for countries such as Britain that don’t use the euro single currency, less red tape and greater power for national parliaments to opt out of rules made by the Brussels-based EU.
“We are a proud, independent nation. We intend to stay that way,” Cameron said, stressing that Britain wanted a “clear, legally binding and irreversible” exemption from the EU’s commitment to an ever-closer union.
Most contentiously, Cameron said Britain wants to “control migration from the European Union.” He said Britain wants to bar other EU nationals who move to the UK from receiving tax credits and other benefits for four years. Such credits and benefits are currently paid to British citizens and citizens of other EU countries alike.
In the letter to Tusk, Cameron said Britain’s concerns “boil down to one word: flexibility.”
He asked for recognition that the EU has more than one currency and that changes made by the 19 euro-using countries — such as the creation of a banking union — must be voluntary for non-eurozone members like Britain.
He also said British taxpayers should “never be financially liable” for supporting the euro.
Some of Cameron’s proposals will likely find sympathy in other European capitals, such as his call for fewer regulations on businesses and for more powers for countries within the EU.
He said groups of national parliaments should get the power to stop “unwanted legislative proposals” from Brussels.
Cameron’s demands on migration within the union are far more troublesome.