Brexit, Voice and Loyalty: What ‘New Settlement’ for the UK in the EU?

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron has finally found time to write a letter to the European Council President Donald Tusk setting out the basis for the UK’s renegotiated membership of the EU. Although in recent weeks, European leaders have complained that they lacked clarity as to what it was that Mr Cameron would seek in these negotiations – despite his recent tour of European capitals – in the end, the themes contained in the letter have been well rehearsed both by the Prime Minister, and more recently by the UK Chancellor in his speech to the BDI in Germany. There are four pillars to the ‘new settlement’ sought by the UK government: economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and immigration. The Prime Minister’s stated aim is – through voice – for the UK to remain a member of the EU, albeit an EU with differentiated membership obligations. As he reiterated in a speech at Chatham House to trail the letter to Donald Tusk, if he succeeds in his negotiations, the Prime Minister will campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. He also made clear that a vote for Brexit would be just that, with no second referendum to seek a better deal. So what then are the key policy planks supporting the four-pillars?

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Cameron’s EU reforms: political feasibility and legal implications

David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, has set out his objectives for EU reforms in a speech at Chatham House on 10 November 2015 – objectives which he later clarified in a letter to the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Cameron’s demands fall in four categories – i) safeguarding Britain’s position in the Union’s ‘variable geometry’; ii) strengthening the competitiveness of the Union’s internal market; iii) bolstering the democratic authority of the EU by strengthening the role of national parliaments in the EU’s decision-making process; and iv) ensure changes to the principles of free movement and equal treatment of Union citizens in access to welfare systems in the host state. The political feasibility and legal implications of these objectives differ quite significantly. More crucially, each of the stated objectives can be interpreted and implemented in different ways. Generally, it seems, Cameron’s success seems to depend on presenting reforms that at the same time address British domestic issues as well as strengthen the EU’s functioning.

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