Cameron’s four conditions for staying in the EU
The UK prime minister doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave, saying he’s prepared to wait for the right deal
“Brexit” was not a word that passed David Cameron’s lips when he addressed leaders and shapers at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. But it was certainly on everyone else’s lips.
So what are the UK prime minister’s four “Fs” for avoiding Brexit?
1. Fewer bureaucrats, faster deals
Cameron confessed that he found the single European market of 500 million people “an absolutely thrilling prospect”. But it still lags behind the United States in technology and productivity. Cameron wants tough action to tackle bureaucracy, to finish off the single market in digital, services and energy, and to inject some urgency into signing trade deals between Europe and the world’s fastest-growing economies. “I want to hardwire competitiveness into the European Union,” he said.
2. Fairer rules for non-euro nations
The British leader wants fair rules for countries not part of the Eurozone. “It’s completely unacceptable to use the money of a non-Eurozone state to solve a Eurozone crisis,” he said. He was referring to Eurozone plans in summer 2015 to bail out Greece using a fund which Britain pays into. He’s looking for an EU flexible enough to allow countries to succeed whether they’re part of the euro or not.
“Britain has never been happy with the idea that we’re part of an ever closer political union,” Cameron: “We’re a proud and independent country.” Britain can still be an enthusiastic European power. After all, it led the charge on sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine. “But if Europe is about ever-deepening political union … then it’s not the organization for us,” he said.
4. Four years before migrants claim benefits
Although Britain is one of the most successful multi-ethnic democracies on earth, the pressures from migration have become hard to bear. Net migration into the UK last year topped 330,000 people. It’s the British people’s “number one concern”, he said. Why? Because of the strain migrants put on public services and the welfare budget. The prime minister needs serious progress on his proposal to make migrants live or work in Britain for four years before accessing in-work benefits.
So, hardly the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Cameron says he hopes to secure agreement as soon as February. But he is prepared to wait. “If there isn’t the right deal, I’m not in a hurry. I can hold my referendum at any time up to the end of 2017. It’s much more important to get this right than to rush it,” he said. He doesn’t sound ready to ride off into the EU-free sunset just yet.