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UK with(out) EU: Pressure on Cameron mounting as crucial speech approaches

Published time: January 16, 2013 17:53
Edited time: January 16, 2013 21:53
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron holds a news conference during a European Union leaders summit, in Brussels December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron holds a news conference during a European Union leaders summit, in Brussels December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)

Ahead of a crucial speech on Friday on Britain’s relationship with the EU, Cameron is facing increasing pressure from within his own party to offer the nation a choice on whether to stay in the Union.

David Cameron has been facing massive pressure from within the Eurosceptic ranks of his own party, as a growing number of tory MPs are dissatisfied with Britain’s relationship with Europe and want it to be renegotiated and a referendum to be held.

They believe giving too many powers to Brussels is having a negative effect on UK democracy. Many of the bureaucrats in the EU who make crucial policy decisions are unelected and those that are, are voted in on low turnouts.

The Eurosceptics in his party also want action rather than words on the Conservative election pledge to bring back powers from Brussels to Westminster. They are also pressing for laws to protect the UK’s financial services industry, which contributes 10% of GDP, and the EU’s agricultural and fisheries policies to be changed.

The UK Independence Party, which is built upon the single issue of withdrawing Britain from the EU, and has seen its popularity rise in recent months, is also arguing for a referendum, saying that Britain would be fine outside the EU.

Pro-European politicians in the UK, which includes Europhile Conservatives, the coalition government’s junior partner the Liberal Democrats, and the Labor Party firmly believe that Britain should stay in the EU and that holding a referendum would have negative effect on the UK economy.

EU referendum to ‘hang a closed sign’ on UK businesses?

The pro Europeans believe that holding a referendum will have a negative effect on UK growth and jobs and leaving the EU would ultimately damage UK global interests and global influence.

In Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday Labour leader Ed Milliband said holding a referendum on the issue would “hang a closed sign” around British business and has accused the Prime Minster of sleep walking Britain out of Europe.

While Nick Clegg, the pro-European Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, has said that a prolonged period of uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with Europe could only have a “chilling effect” on jobs.

The majority of Britain’s business leaders have also urged Cameron not to damage ties with the EU, the UK’s most important trading partner.

Foreign partners alarmed

The Americans have also decided “to intervene in the UK debate”, urging Cameron not to hold a distracting referendum on the issue as it would only slow the sluggish European economic recovery.

Washington wants its closest ally in Europe to remain closely involved and influential in Brussels as a gateway into Europe for the US, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Britain’s ambassador to America until last year, told the Guardian.

Shienveld warned that in any case, the eurozone is dealing with its own problems and is more concerned with doing what is necessary for the Euro to prosper rather than making concessions to a whinging Britain that isn’t in the euro anyway.

France has stated its wants Britain to stay in the EU and said that on balance the British get more by being in it than being outside it.

“The single market has given a lot to the British, but they have also given a lot to the single market. It is not in the interests of the single market to see Britain leave. And the British know very well it is not in their interest to leave the single market. It’s up to the British to say what they want to do,” Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Europe minster told Reuters.

RT’s correspondent in London, Polly Boiko explained that “the Prime Minster has been accused of cherry picking what policies he wants and what he doesn’t want, while the EU is in the middle of a chronic financial crisis.”

In or out of the EU? Friday to show

On Friday in the Netherlands Cameron is expected to set out his view of the EU, and Britain’s relationship with it and discuss the referendum issue. He is also expected to put heavy emphasis on the return of powers from Brussels to Westminster, including areas of employment law and criminal justice.

However Cameron has also said he is opposed to Britain leaving the EU though the UK “would not collapse if we left the EU.”

It is unclear what would happen if the EU refuses to give in to Cameron’s expected demands. Cameron has said he wants to renegotiate Britain’s place in the EU and if the EU refuse to do this, then he might threaten to hold a referendum on UK membership.

A recent opinion poll showed that 50% of Briton’s would vote to leave the EU if they were asked for a straight in/out vote on Europe.

There is a very strong call for change at the moment in the UK; RT’s Boiko says quoting a Euroskeptic MPs. According to the MP, there is also a feeling that it was the previous generation who voted to enter the European Union in the 1970’s and now it’s time for the current generation to have a say.

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