Today is a crucial day for Britain, as Prime Minister David Cameron meets European Union officials to discuss the country's EU membership. With little agreement on any of the UK's four aims, time is running short: David Cameron has just 24 hours to agree a deal to be put to EU leaders ahead of a summit on 18 and 19 February.
So what are the four aims? During a special address at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting this year, Cameron said he was prepared to wait for the right deal before contemplating a British exit from the EU. But if his nation were to remain part of the union, he added, four conditions would have to be met.
You can watch his entire address here:
1. Fewer bureaucrats, faster deals
The single European market of 500 million people is “an absolutely thrilling prospect”, said Cameron. But the continent still lags behind the United States in terms of technology and productivity. The PM wants tough action to tackle bureaucracy, to finish off the single market in digital, services and energy, and to inject some urgency into signing trade deals between Europe and the world’s fastest-growing economies. “I want to hardwire competitiveness into the European Union,” he said.
2. An equal playing field
The British leader wants fair rules for countries that are not part of the Eurozone. “It’s completely unacceptable to use the money of a non-Eurozone state to solve a Eurozone crisis,” he said, referring to plans in the summer of 2015 to bail out Greece using a fund paid into by Britain. The EU should be flexible enough that it allows countries to succeed whether they’re part of the euro or not.
3. Forget federalism
“Britain has never been happy with the idea that we’re part of an ever closer political union,” said Cameron. “We’re a proud and independent country.” But Britain can still be an enthusiastic European power, he conceded. After all, it led the charge on sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine. “But if Europe is about ever-deepening political union … then it’s not the organization for us,” he said.
4. Four years before migrants claim benefits
Although Britain is one of the most successful multi-ethnic democracies on earth, the pressures from migration have become hard to bear. Net migration into the UK last year topped 330,000 people. It’s the British public’s “number one concern”, Cameron said. Why? Because of the strain migrants put on public services and the welfare budget. There would have to be serious progress on his own proposal to make migrants live or work in Britain for four years before accessing in-work benefits, he said.
It’s the prime minister’s hope to secure agreement as early as February. But he is prepared to wait. “If there isn’t the right deal, I’m not in a hurry. I can hold my referendum at any time up to the end of 2017. It’s much more important to get this right than to rush it,” he said.
Author: Jonathan Walter is a freelance writer covering the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016.