This has been a speech of contradictions. The Prime Minister tried to be all things to all men and managed to fail on every possible count.
He stated that Britain should remain a member of the EU but he proudly listed all the things Britain is not part of. He said he wants an EU with the Single Market at its core but then declared his intention to unpick it, water it down and reduce it to a collection of bilateral agreements, based on the lowest common denominator.
He exclaimed his wish to work with his fellow European leaders to reform the EU but then put a gun (or is it a water pistol) to their head.
He argued that Britain should defend its interests and promote its vision of European integration but then raised serious questions as to whether Britain will continue being an EU member.
He claimed to be speaking for the benefit of the EU as a whole but he was addressing a small portion of his own party alone, defending his own job.
His schizophrenic tendencies aside Mr Cameron is going about this entirely the wrong way. If he is truly committed to Britain’s membership of the EU and wishes to ensure that the Union works even better for the benefit of all its member states he should join his European partners and engage constructively in efforts to continuously improve how the EU works.
Trying to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU, in effect unpicking the Single Market, the very thing he professes he wants to strengthen, can only achieve the opposite result. EU leaders have been for a while warning against such cherry-picking, stating clearly that a special kind of arrangement, tailor-made to afford a certain member state with all the benefits of EU membership but exonerate it from all its responsibilities and commitments is not possible. They have been quick to repeat that warning after the PM delivered his speech and caution that such an approach endangers rather than strengthens the EU and the Single Market. They are hence in no mood to indulge Mr Cameron in his descent towards Wonderland.
With a “renegotiation” unavailable, one is left wondering what the Prime Minister plans to put to a referendum. Having promised something he is not able to deliver he is actually putting Britain’s EU membership in real danger.
A Prime Minister confident of his position, responsible towards his people and honest with his partners must be working towards keeping Britain within the EU rather than putting its membership of the biggest common market in question. He should join other EU member states in common efforts to make the most of the EU, rather stand on the side-lines, threatening to unravel the process of European integration. If he wants others to take seriously his vision of the EU, he should not force them to question whether Britain will be a member in a few years’ time.
This is a time for leadership and statesmanship and Mr Cameron’s speech proved that he is not able to display either.
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About: European Movement UK
The origins of the European Movement
The origins of the European Movement lie in the aftermath of the Second World War. More than eight hundred delegates from across Europe gathered in The Hague in May 1948, under the chairmanship of Sir Winston Churchill, to create a new international movement to unite Europe and prevent further wars between its members. The British section of the European Movement was founded a year later.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the European Movement put forward the arguments for joining the European Economic Community, and it ran a major campaign in the early 1970s, both among the general public and in parliament, to win the battle for entry. In 1975, during the referendum on membership, the European Movement played a central role in the YES campaign. Other campaigns since then have included pressing for direct elections to the European Parliament in the 1970s and promoting the benefits of the single market in the run-up to 1992.
During the 1990s, the organisation became revitalised around the need to create a new national pro-European coalition. The rise in anti-European feeling threatens to undermine Britain's place in the European Union; our exclusion from the first wave of countries joining the euro is an example of how we lose out when the pro-European case is not put strongly enough in public.
Aims and activities
The European Movement is
- A rallying point: The European Movement rallies all those who believe that European unity is vital where the peoples of Europe have interests in common such as increased trade to improve economic prosperity, an improved environment to tackle climate change, and action to combat global poverty. A politically united Europe is needed to sweep aside the petty tribalism that has historically, at the very least, been an obstacle to progress or, at its worst, has led to bitter conflict and a catastrophic loss of human life. Europe must be united as a region of law, justice and democracy, equipped with the institutions capable of achieving these ends. Members receive a regular newsletter, euromove, with information and news about Pro-European developments. In addition, the office publishes updates on campaign ideas and issues an e-mail newsletter, e-News. Members take part in lively discussions in person and online, and the European Movement maintains an informative website.
- A campaign: The Movement has since its creation in 1948 sought to build and maintain public support for the unity of Europe. In the face of a backward-looking nationalist resurgence in some quarters, this role is as vital as ever. The campaigns include public information points, working with the media, and lobbying MPs and other decision-makers. In addition to the work of the London office, the branches and national councils organise campaign activities in their own areas, as well as political discussions and social events for members.
- A pressure group: The creation of the European Union has been an extraordinary achievement - democratic, sovereign states have created a common institutional framework in order to forge a future together based on the rule of law. But the European Movement is not the Union's information service or an apologist for its weaknesses. It must work to win support for the reforms necessary to improve its ability to meet the hopes and aspirations of its peoples.