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UK proposes a two-speed Europe

Most EU media comment that London has only a month left to convince European leaders to support its proposals for reforms. Only once a deal on a package of reforms is agreed will David Cameron announce the actual date of the referendum, Le Figaro reports.

In Berlin yesterday, British Finance Minister George Osborne offered Germany a “deal” that would endorse a two-speed Europe, setting out UK demands for its future EU membership in a speech to German business leaders. According to FAZ, the demanded reforms include a strengthening of national governments, a better relationship between euro area and non-euro states, as well as increased European competitiveness. Osborne said: “What we seek are principles embedded in EU law and binding on EU institutions that safeguard the operation of the union for all 28 member states. We want to design a simple mechanism to ensure […] the kinds of checks and guarantees that exist in other parts of the EU’s governing rules,” most UK media quote him as saying.

Under the deal Britain would be among a group of non-eurozone countries enjoying the freedoms of the EU’s single market but not committed to the ever closer union he believes is essential to make the single currency work. Angela Merkel admitted that “today’s Europe is no longer a single-speed Europe,” most media report, adding that many of the British concerns regarding the EU are shared by Germany. The British government is due to set out its full list of demands for a new EU deal in the coming days so that EU leaders can discuss them at their December summit, The Times and Publico report.

Several media also continue to comment on the UK’s EU membership. In The Evening Standard, former European Commissioner Chris Patten strongly backs British membership of the EU, arguing that while it has suffered recent difficulties, the EU project has been of huge benefit to Britain and should not be abandoned. Klaus Treichel, head of the ABB Communication Division, is of the same opinion, and adds in Italian media that George Osborne’s proposals might enable Britain to enjoy the benefits of EU membership without paying the costs, which would be “unacceptable.” Hinter Den Zahlen writes in Salzburger Nachrichten that the European Union must not agree to London’s proposals as the unity of the economic and monetary union would be at risk in the long term. In an article in Il Sole 24 Ore, Leonardo Maisano writes that Brexit could be a dangerous precedent and expose other countries to anti-European movements.

An editorial in The Evening Standard suggests Osborne’s visit to Berlin was useful in clarifying some of the UK’s demands, and suggests that he should go further and argue that candidate nations need not be obliged to join the single currency, as the situation in Greece shows that some countries may benefit from EU membership, but not that of the eurozone.



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