Swoboda on Cameron EU speech: „Much ado about nothing“

Following repeated delays, British prime minister David Cameron today set out his vision for the future relationship between the UK and the European Union, announcing his hopes of a „renegotiation“ of Britain’s position in the EU and a subsequent in/out referendum. Both would take place only after the general elections in the UK in 2015.

Hannes Swoboda, President of the S&D Group, reacted to the speech:

„The tragicomic speech delivered by David Cameron today fell far below any expectations, right or left, British or continental. He should have spent less time scouting locations for his speech and more time looking at the ways EU membership benefits the UK.

„Mr Cameron today launched an absurdly early re-election campaign, with the promise to renegotiate the UK’s place in the EU two and a half years from now, and subsequently put that decision to a vote by the British people. Surely, there are plenty of issues Mr Cameron could do some governing on right now. Starting to campaign for 2015 is not what will help the British people find jobs or affordable housing today.

„The British prime minister is also mistaken if he thinks he can blackmail European institutions and leaders into granting the UK endless individual exemptions. If Mr Cameron were to subscribe to these changes, he would find an ally in the European progressive forces. But for genuine change, he will need to work together with other European countries and with the European Parliament and Commission. Threats and lists of unilateral demands will not help win the support of the partners he needs to convince.

„Constant evolution has always been a central element of the EU and Britain’s interest in making changes in Europe is welcome: we too want to see Europe evolve. We believe that Europe must become a Union of greater solidarity and social equality, one where the gap between rich and poor is closed, not widened.

„I regret that Mr Cameron has been taken hostage by his own party – as I warned him in my letter, pandering to the nostalgic daydreams of a few vocal backbenchers will condemn Britain to an inevitable decline in influence and economic clout. In these times of flat-lined growth and real issues to be addressed at national level, talk of an EU exit is not what the British people need, deserve, or want. Diverting massive political energies into soothing the anti-European neuralgia of some noisy backbenchers and feeding the anti-European paranoia which drives voters into the arms of UKIP increases the uncertainty which can only damage both the British and European economies.

„No one in the S&D Group wants to see the UK leave the European Union. We value the great contributions the UK has made to the EU over four decades of membership, in particular relating to the creation of the single market. But full membership in the EU also benefits the UK. The British industry, the US administration, a large majority of the British youth and many leading Conservatives have been trying to instil this fact in David Cameron’s thinking.“