Cameron backs UK-EU on draft deal

Cameron defends UK-EU draft deal amid mixed response


British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday defended a draft deal with the European Union after it had received mixed response.

British Prime Minister David Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron
“I do believe that with these draft texts and with all the work we’ve done with our European partners, Britain is getting closer to the decision point,” Cameron said at a parliamentary debate, referring to a referendum on whether Britain will stay in the EU.

He urged unity in his Conservative Party as he faced criticism from euroskeptics as well as from his own party.

Cameron has promised in electoral campaigns to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership by the end of 2017. He proposed a draft deal with Brussels, in which he demanded EU reform as a precondition for keeping his country inside the 28-member bloc.

Cameron wishes to seal a final deal at an EU summit scheduled for Feb. 18-19 and hold the referendum in his country as early as June.

EU Council President Donald Tusk, the bloc’s lead negotiator with Britain, announced a plan Tuesday that includes measures such as a four-year “emergency brake” on welfare payments for EU migrant workers, protection for non-euro zone countries and a “red card” system giving national parliaments more power to veto European regulations.

Many in Britain criticised the proposed deal for not touching fundamental issues.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party and an advocate of Britain’s exit from the EU, called the draft proposal “truly pathetic” since it does not change EU treaties and does not restore London’s ability to control its borders and laws.

He said it does too little to limit welfare payments to migrants and does nothing to close Britain’s “open door” to new arrivals. “There is no fundamental reform, there is some fiddling around the edges on migrant benefits.”

Conservative lawmaker John Redwood also criticized Cameron. “The prime minister is making the best of a bad job,” he told Sky News.

“As we are driven in the EU vehicle toward ever-closer union, how does it help to try and fit a couple of emergency brakes that lie within the control of EU?” Redwood had asked earlier.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament, in a plenary debate Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, largely expressed support for the idea that Britain should stay in the EU.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Cameron’s proposal. “The settlement that has been proposed is fair for the UK and fair for the other 27 member states,” he said. “The UK benefits from more protocols and opt-outs than any other member state,” he noted.

Analysts say it could be a hard sell for some EU countries as some fear the EU is giving too many concessions to Cameron.

“We should not add emergency brakes every time a European leader faces a problem with his public opinion,” said former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday called the proposal “an ambitious package,” but said Berlin would need more time to review them.

Witold Waszczykowski, foreign minister of Poland, the biggest supplier of migrant labor to Britain, said parts of the draft measures seem “beneficial.”

Cameron’s push for the referendum takes place when the EU is facing the largest influx of migrants since World War II.

Surveys conducted by a range of pollsters show British public opinion is split on the issue. A poll on Saturday showed that most Britons backed staying in the bloc, but support for an exit was rising. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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