sábado, 20 de fevereiro de 2016
UK heads for referendum after Cameron wins EU deal / Blood, sweat and fears: the fight for a British deal
UK heads for referendum after Cameron wins EU deal
Cameron can now announce a date for Britain’s In/Out referendum on EU membership.
By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG AND TARA PALMERI 2/19/16, 10:11 PM CET Updated 2/20/16, 12:31 AM CET
European leaders acceded to David Cameron’s demands for special status for the U.K. on Friday, prompting him to vow to campaign “heart and soul” to stay in the EU and avoid a historic schism that could herald the collapse of the bloc.
After a marathon two-day negotiating session in Brussels, the 28 leaders of the European Union agreed to the Tory leader’s demands, paving the way for him to call a referendum on his country’s membership of the EU, which is expected in late June.
“The British people must now decide whether to stay in this reformed European Union, or to leave,” he told reporters. The U.K. prime minister will brief his cabinet on Saturday and address parliament on Monday to set the referendum in motion.
The deal is the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between London and other European capitals.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė was the first to call it a done deal, tweeting: “Agreement #UKinEU done. Drama over.”
Although Cameron hailed the deal as a major breakthrough, won after a long and sometimes acrimonious fight, it’s far from certain it will be enough to convince a divided U.K. public to remain in the EU. Much of the British press is hostile to Europe and has joined the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party in assailing the reforms Cameron will bring home from Brussels.
Nonetheless, if the prime minister had failed to win a deal, the so-called Brexit would have been almost inevitable.
Even so, a number of senior EU officials — and the German government — worry the timing of the U.K. initiative has distracted attention from the more immediate threat presented by the refugee crisis. Though leaders discussed migration Thursday night, they made little headway, agreeing only to redouble efforts to enlist Turkey’s help in stemming the flow of refugees.
The contours of the U.K. deal were in place well before the summit. Though leaders had to bridge genuine disagreements, in particular over the British insistence on curtailing social benefits to EU migrants, the two-day meeting was more about symbolism than substance.
Europe wants UK in
As he entered the summit Thursday, Cameron said he would be “battling for Britain.” Leaders from France and Eastern Europe played their part as well, voicing skepticism over Cameron’s demands. The aim, diplomats acknowledged privately, was to make it appear that Cameron won bona fide concessions from a recalcitrant EU establishment.
French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meet on the second day of the European Summit
In truth, most European leaders had few objections and some even welcomed aspects of the reforms. Countries such as Germany and Austria, for example, both of which have sizeable populations of Eastern Europeans, support limiting child benefits to workers whose families reside in their home countries.
“Every member state will be able to describe it as a good deal for Europe and a good deal for the U.K.,” said Jonathan Faull, chief of the Task Force on U.K. Reform at the European Commission. “It shows that Europe wants the U.K. in it.”
Some aspects of the plan represented true concessions by core European countries. One of the most controversial points involved an agreement to give the U.K. and other non-euro members the right to formally object to changes in eurozone economic governance. The U.K. had pushed for an outright veto, but France was wary of giving London too much say. The compromise allows both camps to claim victory.
“The deal responds to all the concerns of the U.K. and respects at the same time the principles of the European Union. The deal does not deepen cracks in our Union, but builds bridges,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Now comes the hard part
Summing up the gains for Britain, Cameron said:”There will be tough new restrictions on access to our welfare system for EU migrants; no more something for nothing. Britain will never join the euro and we’ve secured vital protections for our economy.”
In a sense, convincing the EU to revamp the U.K.’s terms of membership was the easy part: his biggest challenge will be selling the package at home before the referendum, which is widely expected to be held on June 23. Then the prime minister, and his chief political operator George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, will get to work convincing the most influential figures in the Tory party not to back Brexit.
This week Cameron met London’s popular mayor, Boris Johnson, who is still sitting on the fence despite being named by one pollsters as the second most influential political in the debate after Cameron himself. “No deal as far as I know,” Johnson told reporters as he left Number 10 on Wednesday.
On Friday, U.K. media reports suggested Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a key cabinet ally of the prime minister, was about to make public his support for the Out camp.
Craig Winneker, Stephen Brown and Joanna Plucinska contributed to this article.
Matthew Karnitschnig and Tara Palmeri