Prime Minister David Cameron stressed the need for “tenacity and patience” after he began the formal process of renegotiating British membership of the European Union.
“Not all the issues will be easy to resolve,” he told reporters in Brussels Friday following an EU summit. “For the benefit of the whole of the European Union, we will have got off the treadmill to ever closer union. It will be a new and different membership.”
Cameron told EU counterparts there was no need for full treaty change before Britain holds its planned referendum, so long as he had legally binding guarantees. Opponents warn he runs the risk of the changes being rejected by parliaments and voters in other European countries after Britain has already decided whether to stay in the EU.
“I don’t think jam tomorrow will be sufficient any more,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, which campaigns for withdrawal from the EU. “Why should we believe any future promises?”
Cameron has pledged to win better terms and give the British people the final say no later than the end of 2017 on whether Britain should stay in the EU. According to the Guardian newspaper, he told an unnamed fellow EU leader that he could persuade voters to back staying in, so long as leaving was made to appear risky.
The prime minister says he wants to protect British sovereignty and ensure fair treatment for countries outside the euro area, while preserving the single market and imposing controls on migration within the EU. The reforms will need “full-on” change to governing treaties, he said on Jan. 4, a process that could take many months for all 28 member states to ratify.
“I’m making positive arguments for how Britain’s relationship with Europe will change,” Cameron said Friday. “There’s a lot of hard work to do; some of these things will be very tough to achieve.”
A dinner for European leaders took an eight-minute break from discussing the Mediterranean migrant crisis to listen to Cameron’s pitch late Thursday. Aides likened the gathering in Brussels to a passing-out parade or graduation ceremony after the frenetic diplomacy since the Tories were re-elected in the May 7 general election.
Cameron has already talked one-to-one with the leaders of all 27 other member states. Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas told the BBC on Friday morning that “European leaders are open to his ideas.”
Not For Sale
Discussion of the technical details of Britain’s demands will now be continued by officials from member states. British diplomat Jonathan Faull, who has worked for the European Commission since 1978, has been appointed by commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to lead a task force on U.K. renegotiation.
EU President Donald Tusk made clear on Thursday that the path will not be smooth for Cameron as he tries to reach a deal that’s acceptable to euro-skeptic members of his Conservative Party.
“There are some British concerns we should consider but only in a way which will be safe for all Europe,” Tusk told reporters ahead of the summit talks. “One thing should be clear from the very beginning -- the fundamental values of the European Union are not for sale and so are non-negotiable.”