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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Appeasing David Cameron

Sensing discontent with the EU and its regulations, populist European leaders will now be tempted to do a Cameron, rendering the EU’s laws and regulations an à la carte menu. 

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
1 March 2016, 7:21am
UK Prime Minister David Cameron (left) makes a point to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
UK Prime Minister David Cameron (left) makes a point to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
British Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to solve a mess of his own making. In the run up to the last general election, he promised the British electorate that a new Conservative government would hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Last week, Brussels, its institutions and EU leaders spent two days in a joint effort to save his face – instead of telling him, loud and clear, that his populist promise might now translate into economic disaster for Britain, should his electorate opt to pull out. 

Unfortunately, they had little choice but to play ball – a Brexit would spell financial trouble for Britain and the rest of the European economy. But Britain’s renegotiation with the EU is likely to create a very dangerous precedent. Sensing discontent with the EU and its regulations, populist European leaders will now be tempted to do a Cameron, rendering the EU’s laws and regulations an à la carte menu. 

Not that the EU and its institutions are not in need of a radical shake-up – it is in deep crisis as people are losing more and more trust. The EU needs a change of course. Poverty and inequality are on the rise. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer – and it is shamefully obvious that the political elites in Europe can’t be bothered to act. There is a growing social problem in Europe.

A stronger social policy agenda for Europe is needed. New rules for decent work need to be created, and instead of more austerity policies, a long-term growth path is needed to create more jobs which are better paid. Business as usual is not an option. A comprehensive plan for change and a more caring agenda is needed. However, requests by EU members to be allowed to choose the positive reasons to be part of the club and refuse to share any risk with the other member states should not be entertained. Such political appeasement would spell the end of the EU and the reason for its existence. 

If David Cameron really and truly wants an EU that is closer to the people, and one which is more flexible on its rules and regulations, he should have used Britain’s political muscles to implement a much needed radical shake up within the EU and its institutions. But Cameron wanted to secure another victory at the polls – that was, and remains, his sole concern. 

Cameron knows that being part of the EU brought jobs and investment to Britain. Pulling Britain out of the EU would be catastrophic, first and foremost, to Britain herself. The ratings agency Moody has warned that a Brexit will threaten the UK’s credit score, and risk the country’s rating. Exports, according to Moody’s, would likely suffer, as would investment. On Monday, the pound hit a seven-year low of $1.4067, down 2.3% which, according to financial reports, was the biggest one-day fall since 2009. 

Although the odds in this 23rd June, 2016, referendum are still in favour of IN, shortly after returning to London, from Brussels, Cameron received a political blow as London Mayor Boris Johnson, widely seen as a potential Cameron successor, became the highest profile politician to back Brexit. Along with Johnson, six Cabinet Ministers are backing OUT. By the looks of it, it will be a close fought campaign. 

Even if the IN campaign prevails, in the long term Cameron’s renegotiation is likely to prove trivial as disappointment with the EU and its institutions among the British electorate remains. 

At the Justus Lipsius, the building that is home to the EU council, EU leaders appeased David Cameron and created a very dangerous precedent. Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on appeasing the populist leaders among them, they should get their act together and strive towards bigger reforms of the Union. In appeasing David Cameron, although they had little choice but to do so, EU leaders risked setting up a different category of EU membership – pick and choose. 

More flexibility is fine, but having an à la carte Europe would be the beginning of the end for the European Union. EU leaders, including prospective Prime Ministers, should be told that having an à la carte Europe is just not possible. They should then pull up their socks and strive towards a more caring agenda for the European Union.

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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