Cameron’s ‘renegotiations’ (or Russian roulette) with the EU: An interim assessment

Monday, 28 September 2015
CEPS Working Documents
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Author: Michael Emerson

Series: CEPS Working Document  No. of pp: 9

Since the May 2015 general election when the Tory Party gained an absolute majority in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Cameron has put his campaign into high gear to get a ‘new settlement’ with the EU and invested much personal diplomacy to try to advance his objective. “What does he really want?” is still heard from other EU leaders, yet his agenda is taking rough shape with calls for results under four headings: “competitiveness, sovereignty, social security and economic governance”. These are only code words, however, for a mixed bag of more specific desiderata, which overall seem to be moderate. Impossible demands have been quietly dropped. Some items will still be tricky to negotiate while others can be placed on the agenda for ongoing EU ‘reform’ that can be widely supported. The Brussels side of the affair thus seems manageable, but the wild cards at home in the UK remain or are becoming even wilder. The standard hazards of the referendum instrument are now exacerbated by the unknown quantity of the new Labour leadership alongside the aggressively Eurosceptic majority of Tory MPs and the great migration crisis, which is translating now into a negative factor for the EU in UK opinion polls. This ostensibly very democratic process is looking more and more like a deadly serious game of Russian roulette.

Michael Emerson is Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.