Entry 25

The British government officially sets out its agenda for EU reform

After months of leaks, the changes that the British government wants from the EU are now officially public. They are:

protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro states;

a target date for reducing the “burden” of red tape;

Britain to be outside an “ever-closer union”

bolstering national parliaments,

and restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits.

This list was in a letter (10.11.15) from UK Prime Minister Mr Cameron to the President of the European Council of Member States, Mr. Tusk.

The leaks had made sure that its content came as no surprise to EU politicians but the negotiations over its contents will be hard fought for months and months ahead.

Within hours of the letter’s release, The European Commission was saying that restricting benefits to migrants was “highly problematic” because that limited the “fundamental freedoms of our internal market”, and amounted to “direct discrimination between EU citizens”.

MR Cameron said he was on ‘mission possible’ but his UK and EU critics started testing him within hours of Mr Tusk opening his letter.

Entry 24

Mixed opinions about staying in the EU

The case against Brexit – Britain leaving the EU – all share a common and powerful weakness: they reduce the UK’s national sovereignty.

This is the conclusion of an analysis of the main alternatives to UK membership (the Norwegian, Swiss, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and UK Free Trade Agreement models) by the left-learning Policy Network (November 2015). All these options are different but share a single problem – they don’t increase national control because each reduces Britain from being a rule-maker inside the EU to a rule-taker outside.

But this argument for staying in the EU is being undercut by a flux in British politics, says the left-leaning Guardian. Columnist Jonathan Freedland notes factors making prediction about staying in the EU more difficult, especially with a narrow 44% to 39% poll lead of Britons wanting to stay in.

He lists anti-establishment feelings; the rise of UKIP populism; the Scottish Government’s threats about another independence referendum for their country if England and Wales vote to leave the EU, and rising doubts about Europe on the British left.

Entry 23

Britain flatters Germany to pave the way for EU reform talks

The UK’s finance minister flattered his German counterpart on his visit to Berlin on November 1. He did so as he gave the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, an advance, detailed account of what Britain wants a reformed EU to become.

George Osbourne described the UK and German economies as “the beating heart of Europe” and “the engine for growth and jobs”. “Together we make the world’s third-largest economy, behind only America and China and, since the [credit] crisis ended, we have generated two-thirds of EU growth,” he said.

He told a conference of German business leaders that he wanted a modern EU fit ‘. . . for today’s challenges and working for the benefit of all 28 member states. The UK’s reform and renegotiation plans aim to achieve this . . .”

His audiences knew that the flattery was timely as the UK revealed a week later (Nov 9) what changes Britain wants the 27 other member states to concede.