David Cameron didn’t really want Britain to have an EU referendum – he has made it clear he wants Britain to stay in the European Union.He promised in the last General Election that there would be a referendum, though. Why? Because he was worried about losing voters and party members to UKIP – the UK Independence Party headed by Nigel Farage whose lifeblood comes from wanting to leave the EU.
Also, many members of Cameron’s own Conservative party also want Britain out of the European Union. Cameron was basically pressured into promising this referendum.
But there are still ways for Cameron to get what he wants, and by the end of this week’s EU summit on Friday we should know how likely this is for him. So what does David Cameron want with the EU referendum? And what’s happening with this EU summit?
The date for this nationwide vote is not set yet – but hints are putting it on 23rd June 2016.
Cameron wants to get it over and done with. There are lots of reasons for this, but here are two big ones.
(a) No one knows for sure which way this vote will go, and as long as there is this uncertainty then people and businesses don’t want to invest money in Britain because they can’t plan for the future properly.
(b) Possibly the biggest issue for the British public on the EU referendum is migration – this includes “illegal” migration of people arriving in Europe by boat – the argument for some being that Britain can’t fully control its borders if it is part of a European Union that allows free movement on the continent. More people try to come to Europe during the summer months because the water is safer. Like we saw last summer, when lots of people arrive in Europe all at once, the media goes wild. As some newspapers make their money through selling sensational stories rather than reporting clear informative news (which is why we need Scenes of Reason), another summer like this could distract from a properly informed debate on how the pro and con realities of the EU. Cameron would like to avoid this.
Cameron is part of the camp that reckons Britain benefits from being part of the EU and has a stronger position on the world stage as part of the club. He especially likes being part of Europe’s “single market” – where goods and migrants are able to move freely around the EU, making trade easier and more profitable.
But Cameron thinks the European Union could be much better at doing what it is supposed to do, like allowing a more competitive economy – meaning if companies are free to try and outdo one another in terms of price and product, then companies tend to be more productive and reactive to what the customer wants. He has argued in the past for staying in the EU to help improve these things.
His position is that Britain should stay in the EU, but should have a better deal on what it gets out and puts in to the EU: For example where Britain’s government should have more powers to opt-out of European laws it doesn’t like. More on that below…
A lot is riding on this “better deal” for Britain. If Cameron claims that it is right for Britain to stay in a “reformed” and improved EU then he needs to prove that he can make those changes happen. Otherwise his argument for staying in the EU doesn’t really have a leg to stand on.
This is why Cameron has been smooth-talking his way around Europe – from Brussels to Warsaw – trying to make sure there is sympathy for his case in different EU member states. As part of the effort to get people on his side, he has promised to help boost NATO activities in Eastern Europe.
This Friday, EU leaders from all 28 member states will either accept or refuse the deal Cameron is offering. He will need the support from all these countries at the EU Summit in order to get the changes he wants. This will probably involve a compromise – it’s what sort of compromise this will be that we’re waiting to find out about.
This is the bit where we tell you the changes Cameron wants to make.
His showboat issue is reducing the benefits the UK gives to migrants from other EU countries – as control over migration policy is what he thinks voters will most care about.
Cameron wants four specific changes from the EU:
(a) More power to the UK, less to the EU: The EU is founded on an idea of working towards an “ever closer union.” That’s brought us things like the Euro, the Schengen area with free movement, as well as decision making power for the EU to decide, for example, how we tax certain things. When governments club together and make these common decisions on how to run their countries, it’s called integration. Cameron wants to officially say “No thanks” to being roped into any further integration. Instead he wants to create more powers for national governments to block EU legislation: and has talked up his “red card” system where a law would be scrapped if a majority of national governments opposed it.
(b) Less regulation so the market can be more competitive: Cameron sees the “single market” as a very good idea – where goods and migrants are able to move freely around the EU, making trade easier and more profitable. Currently, though, Cameron sees there being too many different regulations or what’s called “red tape” – and that’s getting in the way of this single market idea.
(c) EU migrants should work 4 years before they get benefits: Cameron’s plan: People working in the UK who are from other EU countries should not be able to claim social housing or child benefits until they have worked for four years. They shouldn’t be able to claim any Job Seekers’ Allowance and if they can’t find a job within 6 months then they should have to leave.
(d) Recognition that it’s not all about the Euro: Britain, and a few other countries like Denmark, don’t have the Euro – and Cameron wants that to be officially recognised in EU legislation. That would ensure, he reckons, that Britain’s financial interests would be better protected in the future. He’s after safeguards and legal safety nets here. For example, he wants reassurance that at no point will Britain ever have to bail out a Eurozone country.
Scenes of Reason could not authenticate this from an independent source, but we learned from our GCSE To Kill A Mockingbird paper and put ourselves in his shoes.
David Cameron has a lot of people to convince that he’s going to get a good deal for Britain. He has to simultaneously sell his deal to both “in” and “out” camps, and is getting criticism from all angles.
At the same time, Cameron has to convince other EU countries that what is good for Britain is good for the EU. Meanwhile, the biggest roadblock Cameron is likely to face is on his reforms on migrant benefits. It both challenges the principle of free movement, which is important to many Eurocrats, and gives migrant-sending countries like Poland a reason to claim that their citizens are being directly discriminated against.
Will Cameron get the deal he wants for Britain? We will know by Friday.
JEEZ, look at that heavy stuff we just decoded. I mean JEEEEEEZ. If you like us, go ahead and sign up to our weekly news explainer The Week: Decoded, like us on Facebook and follow @scenesofreason