To be or not to be in EU: UK referendum on June 23!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
British Prime Minister David Cameron said recently a renegotiated deal has been secured from EU leaders that will give the UK “special status” and he will campaign with his “heart and soul” to stay in the union.
Later, after a rare cabinet meeting on February 20 in London, the UK prime minister said his ministers supported his goal of keeping Britain inside the 28-nation bloc. He said Britain would be safer and stronger inside a reformed EU. Cameron praised a deal that Britain reached on Friday night in Brussels with other EU nations and told the British people the decision about their nation’s fate is now in their hands. Cameron said the deal would give Britain “special status” in the bloc. UK Prime Minister announced that a historic EU referendum will be held in UK on June 23. The British people must now decide whether to stay in this reformed European Union or to leave. This will be a once-in-a-generation moment to shape the destiny of our country
The referendum date announcement comes after renegotiations on the UK’s relationship with Europe were finalized on Friday night after intense wrangling at a two-day summit in Brussels. The agreement, which will take effect immediately if the UK votes to remain in the EU, include changes to migrant welfare payments, safeguards for Britain’s financial services and making it easier to block unwanted EU regulations. The agreement, reached late on Deb 19 after two days of talks in Brussels, gives the UK power to limit some EU migrants’ benefits. It also includes a treaty change so the UK is not bound to “ever closer union” with other EU member states, he said. Some Conservative MPs have announced their intention to back the prime minister. The Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems are also in favour of staying in.
The European Union – often known as the EU – is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries. It began after World War Two to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. It has since grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas – including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges.
The key points of the deal are: An emergency brake on migrants in-work benefits for four years when there are “exceptional” levels of migration. The UK will be able to operate the brake for seven years; Child benefit for the children of EU migrants living overseas will now be paid at a rate based on the cost of living in their home country – applicable immediately for new arrivals and from 2020 for the 34,000 existing claimants; The amending of EU treaties to state explicitly that references to the requirement to seek ever-closer union “do not apply to the United Kingdom”, meaning Britain “can never be forced into political integration”; The ability for the UK to enact “an emergency safeguard” to protect the City of London, to stop UK firms being forced to relocate into Europe and to ensure British businesses do not face “discrimination” for being outside the eurozone. The prime minster had to make concessions to get a deal with the leaders of the 27 other EU members.
British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years are eligible to vote. Members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be eligible, unlike in a general election. Citizens from EU countries – apart from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus – will not get a vote. Cameron had originally wanted a complete ban on migrants sending child benefit abroad but had to compromise after some eastern European states rejected that and also insisted that existing claimants should continue to receive the full payment.
The agreement on renegotiating the UK’s EU membership was announced by European Council president Donald Tusk, who tweeted: “Unanimous support for new settlement for UK in EU.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel predicted the package of reforms would “elicit support in the UK for the country to remain in the EU”. The French president and eastern European leaders mounted fierce opposition to the British proposals. However, after more than 30 hours of negotiations, the Prime Minister is understood to have been presented with a plan that would allow the UK to restrict the payment of benefits to EU nationals under certain circumstances.
Once the date is confirmed, ministers will be allowed to campaign for whichever side they want – one of Cameron’s closest political allies Michael Gove has already been named as supporting the Leave camp. Others, such as Iain Duncan Smith are expected to follow – but a question mark remains over which way London Mayor Boris Johnson will jump.
David Cameron wants Britain to stay in the EU, once he has got some powers back from it. He has so far refused to say whether he would start calling for Britain to leave if he does not get what he wants from the other EU leaders, saying instead that he “rules nothing out”. Cameron had originally wanted a complete ban on migrants sending child benefit abroad but had to compromise after some eastern European states rejected that and also insisted that existing claimants should continue to receive the full payment. On how long the UK would be able to have a four-year curb on in-work benefits for new arrivals, Cameron had to give way on hopes of it being in place for 13 years, settling for seven instead.
The focus has switched to the substance of what David Cameron has achieved and – possibly an awkward question – how many of his colleagues will argue against him. The focus will move to whether the prime minister can keep his party politely together during a period of public disagreement. The ability to restrict benefits to migrants is an important victory for Cameron – ammunition for his argument that he has achieved changes to help reduce the number of EU migrants coming to live and work in the UK.
The proposals are complicated and do not exactly match the promises he made in the Conservative Party manifesto. But with it – and the other commitments – it becomes harder for his critics to make the case that the agreement is flimsy and will change nothing. Cameron said he had achieved the reforms he wanted, claiming they would put the UK “in the driving seat” of one of the world’s biggest markets and create a “more flexible” EU. “We have permanently protected the pound and our right to keep it,” he added, saying that, for the first time, the EU “has explicitly acknowledged it has more than one currency”.
Cameron said he had also protected Britain from further political integration inside the EU, adding: “Let me put this as simply as I can: Britain will never be part of a European superstate.” Outlining his case to remain “in a reformed Europe”, Cameron said “turning our back on the EU is no solution at all”. “We should be suspicious of those who claim that leaving Europe is an automatic fast-track to a land of milk and honey,” he added.
However, the EU exit campaigners said the “hollow” deal of Cameron offered only “very minor changes”. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed Cameron’s deal as a “sideshow” designed to “appease his opponents in the Conservative Party,” adding that he had done nothing to protect jobs and fight low pay. “We will be campaigning to keep Britain in Europe in the coming referendum, regardless of David Cameron’s tinkering, because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers,” he said.
Those who want the UK to stay in the EU believe Britain gets a big boost from EU membership – it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argue, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. They also believe Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the bloc. Conservative MP David Davis said it was time for Britain “to take control of its own destiny”, while UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the cross-party campaign was “absolutely united in fighting to get back our democracy”.
Those who want the UK to leave EU believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to work. One of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of “ever closer union” and any ultimate goal to create a “United States of Europe”.
Despite the polite promises of civilized debate, Cameron is risking the unity of his party with the referendum. Cabinet ministers like Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, finally allowed to speak out today, rushed straight from Downing Street to work the phones for one of the leave campaigns.
Cameron warned that leaving the EU would be a “leap in the dark” as he urged voters to back his reform deal. “The choice is in your hands – but my recommendation is clear. I believe that Britain will be safer, stronger and better off by remaining in a reformed European Union.” Home Secretary Theresa May said the EU was far from perfect but “for reasons of security, protection against crime and terrorism, trade with Europe, and access to markets around the world” it was in the national interest to remain in.
There is no real threat to UK irrespective of whether it remains in UK or leaves it. But being inside the EU has great benefits
The anti-Islam leaders in UK and elsewhere argue that UK must stay in EU to oppose Turkey’s entry into EU. Turkey is the only Muslim nation in entire Europe.