Cameron: EU reform is ‘mission possible’

Yesterday David Cameron set out his plans to renegotiate Britain’s terms of EU membership ahead of next year’s referendum. But should facts or ideology determine how people vote?

‘The poker game has begun’, said French newspaper Le Monde. In a speech yesterday, David Cameron outlined how he will tackle the issue that may define his time as Britain’s prime minister — the question of Britain’s European Union membership. For the next year, Cameron will aim to negotiate a ‘British model’ of EU membership in order to convince the electorate to stay in the EU.

There are four points to Cameron’s plan. First, he wants the single market to protect countries that do not use the euro, such as Britain, Sweden and Poland. Second, he wants to ‘boost competitiveness’ in the EU. Third, he would like Britain to be exempt from an ‘ever-closer union’. Fourth is the plan to restrict EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits.

According to Ian Traynor in the Guardian, EU officials ‘are not publicly admitting how modest’ these demands are ‘for fear of stirring up resentment among anti-EU Britons’. The pro-EU side hope that the concessions are realistic enough to persuade people to stay inside the EU. It is a fair compromise, they say, between the extremes of being part of a superstate and being cut off from the world.

The pro-EU side’s lead in the opinion polls has narrowed to around 3% in the last months, and the ‘leave’ camp will try to convince the electorate that the concessions do not go far enough. Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s main anti-EU party UKIP, called re-negotiation a ‘myth’.

There has been a building tide against the EU ever since the financial crisis in 2008, with mass immigration from poorer Eastern European countries and a perceived lack of democracy being the main reasons. Cameron’s terms primarily focus on the economic issues, but others feel this is much more a question of identity and personal beliefs. Should cold, hard facts or romantic idealism win the day?

Head or heart?

This is a ‘once in a generation’ vote, according to Cameron, and for something as important as this, people must put aside their ideology and simply vote for what is best for Britain. People should carefully examine the facts in a balanced manner, form their judgement and come to their decision. The result will have a huge impact on Britain’s future: vote carefully and logically.

You can read as many articles and find out as many statistics as you want, say others; but because of the complexities and imponderables it is difficult to arrive at an objective evaluation of the cost or benefit to Britain of leaving the EU. But a choice must be made. Either you favour the strong, independent nation state, or you are an internationalist who advocates countries working together. Decide which you believe in, and vote that way.

You Decide

  1. Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave it?
  2. What sways your opinion on issues more: facts and evidence or personal ideology?

Activities

  1. Design a poster either supporting or opposing Britain’s membership of the EU.
  2. Imagine the year is 2027 and it is ten years since the UK voted to leave the EU. Describe what the effect has been.

Some People Say...

“Most voters have no idea about how the country should be run.”

What do you think?

Q & A

How am I affected by whether or not Britain is a member of the EU?
It affects you in huge numbers of ways. For example, a couple of legal and economic points: we all live under the rule of law, and at present around half our laws are made in the European Parliament. Every public body and every business is affected by our membership of the EU. If we were to leave, there is a chance we could jeopardise trade agreements with European countries, meaning things in Britain become more expensive.
And am I allowed to vote?
Unlike in the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 where 16 and 17 year-olds could vote, you have to be 18 or over to cast your ballot in the EU referendum. But there could still be more than a year until the vote, so some of you will be lucky!

Word Watch

Britain’s European Union membership
Britain voted to join what was then known as the Common Market in a referendum in 1975, when around two thirds of people voted in favour of membership.
Boost competitiveness
Cameron wants to encourage businesses by setting a target for the reduction of the ‘burden of red tape’.
Tax credits
A tax credit is an incentive which allows taxpayers to pay less tax. It can be used as a form of state support for low earners. Two weeks ago the Conservative government suffered a major defeat as the House of Lords voted to delay its plans to cut working tax credits.
Building tide against the EU
In most European countries anti-EU political formations have been on the rise, from right-wing formations such as UKIP and Alternative For Germany to left-wing parties like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.
Lack of democracy
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), chosen in national EU elections, vote to elect the President of, but only to approve the members of, the European Commission. Only this body can propose legislation, on which MEPs vote.

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