Britain Reaches Agreement To Save Its Membership In EU, But Tough Road Is Ahead

After intense negotiations, British Prime Minister David Cameron was able to strike a deal with European Union leaders on demands for a changed relationship with the EU, which opens the way for Britain to hold a historic vote on whether to stay or leave the group.

A vote on the referendum was set for June 23, which gives Cameron only a few months to persuade conservative politicians, including Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, who are supporting a British exit, otherwise known as Brexit, from the EU.

Opinion reflected in a number of polls finds the British people remains divided, according to the latest polls. One poll found the public is equally divided between leaving the EU (39 percent) compared to those who want to stay in the union (36 percent).

The survey also revealed that almost three times more people believe the Prime Minister’s EU renegotiation has been “unsuccessful” rather than “successful”.

He stated that the deal struck with EU leaders will give the UK “special status” and he will campaign with his “heart and soul” to stay in the union. The Washington Post has a useful backgrounder on what events led to this decision and the politics involved going forward.

Cameron agreed to the deal after he secured protections for the nine EU countries that don’t use the euro single currency and language which stresses businesses in non-eurozone countries must not face disadvantages within the EU’s single market.

He also gained limited concessions from the EU on welfare. Under the deal, individuals coming to Britain for work will have to wait four years before receiving benefits such as tax credits and child payments. Cameron had sought a much longer period of time before migrants could claim welfare benefits.

The British prime minister’s mixed success in negotiations could spell trouble for his efforts to persuade politicians and the public to remain in the EU. The mixed results reflect the mixed nature of European politics, says Tim Montgomerie, a columnist for the Times of London.

The mixed results of Mr. Cameron’s renegotiation reflect the mixed nature of today’s European politics. A socialist is president of France, but he is widely disliked. A conservative is chancellor of Germany, but the migrant crisis has pulled down her popularity. Spain’s conservative prime minister has lost his majority and is clinging to power. An assertive new nationalist administration governs Poland,” he writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Montgomerie believes that a vote to exit the EU may be to the benefit of the EU if it spurs needed reforms. Even if it does not, he says it could spur individual nations to pursue those reforms, which would be in the interest of the US.

“The U.S. needs allies that are as nimble and fast-moving as global events. Multinational bodies like the EU and the U.N. only ever move as quickly as the slowest country in the convoy. The U.S. needs its allies to be strong and independent—not submerged within a clunky, clumsy EU that idly declares its distant hope for a unified front in matters of defense and foreign policy,” argues Montgomerie.

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