After months of waiting, the British government has finally revealed its main demands in its attempt to renegotiate the country’s European Union (EU) membership, and eurosceptics are unlikely to be happy.
The Sunday Telegraph states that the government has four key requirements. They are:
An “explicit statement” that Britain will not be part of a European superstate.
An “explicit statement” that the currencies other than the euro are welcome in the EU, and that the euro is not its official currency.
A “red card” system that would give groups of national parliaments the right to repeal existing EU law.
A “new structure” for the EU to prevent the nine non-eurozone members from being dominated by the others.
Tory and Foreign Office officials believe this list is the best deal they can likely achieve, however many will be disappointed.
There is no mention, for example, of curbing EU free movement rules at a time when immigration is a major concern for voters. There are not even any legally binding treaty changes, something many eurosceptics believe essential to deliver any meaningful, lasting reform.
Although Britain is not part of the Schengen area, where border checks are completely eliminated, citizens of other EU states have a right to travel to and work in the UK without visa restrictions. This has led to a massive rise in immigration from poorer, Eastern European states.
The weak demands will likely boost the “leave” campaign, who can now say that Britain will never be able to negotiate true reform while it remains in the EU.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson also took to the airwaves to criticise the four requirements, accusing the government of not going far enough and saying most of what they want will happen anyway:
He told Sky News this morning: “The EU is leaving us, they are going to move towards an integrated country… where you shift money around from the parts that can make money to the parts that sadly can’t. We are going to be left outside with something called associate status.
“That is being rebranded [by these demands] as some exciting new position but it’s absolute rubbish, it’s not. It’s rather worse than where we are at the moment.
“What I want to have is a complete new relationship with our European neighbours based on trade and friendly cooperation but above all making our own laws in our own parliament, and that sadly does not appear to be what our negotiators on behalf of the UK are looking for.”
Downing Street is now backtracking but not denying the story outright. A spokesman said the Sunday Telegraph story is “based on speculation” and there will be discussions on benefit reform. There was still no mention of treaty change or free movement, however.