After his victory with a surprising majority at the last British General elections, David Cameron now gets a strong mandate to carry through with one of his key campaign issues: renegotiate United Kingdom’s term of adhesion to the European Union and hold a referendum on its membership before 2017. Shortly after his victory, David Cameron toured European capitals to convince his counterparts to let Britain secure more opt-outs, and of the necessity of EU treaties changes.
Ten years after the trauma of the French and Dutch “No” votes to the European Constitution, the issue of institutional changes comes back on the agenda. The EU architecture still lacks clarification. As Democrats and Federalists, we think that Member States should not fear this democratic debate and that this is the occasion to discuss what Europe we want, by putting forward our propositions for more integration.
As a starting point, it should be clearly said to David Cameron and the British people that the European Union is based on certain core values and this is impossible to compromise on them. These values are the heart of the European project. Suggestions to reduce intra-European immigration or deprive migrants of their welfare rights in Britain are not acceptable. Freedom of movement and non-discrimination between EU citizens are basic principles on which the EU is built. Removing these rights in order only to secure British membership would be a terrible mistake. It would give the illusion of strengthening the Union by actually weakening its foundations.
Moreover, David Cameron’s partners should respect British demands and work as much as possible to keep Britain inside the Europe Union. Indeed, the democratic mandate given by the British people for this renegotiation suffers no contestation. The United Kingdom is a major EU country and its departure would be a terrible precedent that would weaken the entire Union. Furthermore, some of Cameron’s demands are positive, such as his pledge to cut red tape and simplify EU rules, or his commitment to strengthen the common market for services.
Most important of all, negotiating in good intelligence with David Cameron would be a good way of obtaining more integration for the countries that desire it. Time has come to reinvent Europe’s architecture. The Euro zone should be the EU core, with more economic and political integration, while an outer circle of countries would merely be focused only on the common market. Those who want to truly build an “ever closer Union” should be able to do so.
A referendum will be held in the United Kingdom. In two years, the European Union could be paralysed, or become more democratic, pluralistic and integrated than ever. All European Democrats and Federalists should make their voices heard so only the latter occurs.
Vincent Delhomme (@VincentDelhomme)
(Photo: European Commission)