EU negotiations: RT asks whether Cameron will get his way
Cameron will visit heads of state in The Hague, Paris, Warsaw and Berlin over the course of his European charm offensive on Thursday and Friday.
The tour follows Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech, the government’s first address to the new Parliament, which placed a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU at the heart of its message.
It also comes after news that Germany and France have agreed that any reforms to the EU should be delivered under current treaties, thus delivering a blow to Cameron’s ambitions of wholesale reform.
As the PM prepares to meet European leaders, RT looks at some of Cameron’s goals, his motives and the prospects for success.
Stop EU migrants claiming benefits
Cameron wants to prevent unemployed EU migrants from claiming benefits in the UK and also force EU migrants with jobs to wait four years before they can claim in-work benefits.
There are 1.73 million EU nationals working in the UK, 79 percent of whom are in employment, according to the April-June 2014 Labour Force Survey. The PM faces pressure from Euroskeptic Tory backbenchers and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) to clamp down on the benefits out-of-work EU migrants can claim.
Chances of success
Given that Britain is likely to gain support from Germany in his campaign for benefit changes, there is a moderate possibility of success. EU officials have already accepted there is scope to amend rules on access to unemployment or in-work benefits. However, leaders in Eastern Europe, including Poland, oppose any such reforms.
It is perfectly clear that the only way for the UK to be able to control those who cross the drawbridge is to leave the EU
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) May 22, 2015
Single market protections
The PM wants the UK to be given special treatment within the EU’s single market. Such measures would protect industries within the UK, such as finance, from EU reforms. The EU wants to curb risky trading by investment banks, but Britain is strongly opposed to such restrictions.
Financial services make up roughly 10 percent of the UK’s economy and any attempt to clamp down on the industry is strongly resisted by the British government. The Conservative Party itself received 51 percent of its funding from big business in 2011.
Chances of success
France is strongly opposed to any special protections for the UK on the grounds it is illegal and damaging to the common market. Germany, Italy and Belgium have also raised concerns. So chances are slim.
I'm meeting EU leaders at the #RigaSummit today. I plan to deliver EU reform before holding an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 22, 2015
Scrap the Human Rights Act
The PM wants to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. The HRA incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), an international treaty signed after the Second World War, which established the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France – a separate institution from the EU.
Critics of the HRA, including Home Secretary Theresa May, say it prevents the government from deporting terror suspects. Other detractors claim it erodes UK parliamentary sovereignty, while also costing the taxpayer money. Opponents of the HRA want to replace it with a British Bill of Rights, even if this means leaving the ECHR.
Chances of success
Cameron faces a rebellion from backbenchers in his own party if he seeks to scrap the HRA, so success is unlikely. Prominent Tories such as Ken Clarke and David Davis, both former ministers, have expressed strong opposition to the idea.
Former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve has said leaving the ECHR would be pointless, because legal cases would then be taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a separate judicial body with even more power than Strasbourg.