Public Affairs Networking
28/05 – EU-wide reaction to UK referendum proposal

Queen speech confirms UK referendum on EU membership

Many European media focus on the speech given by Queen Elizabeth II to the British Parliament, in which she confirmed that an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU will be held by 2017. The Daily Express speaks of a “historic announcement”. A Sun editorial argues that “the EU referendum is of colossal importance”. Libération reports that all indicates that the referendum will be held in 2016.

Surveys suggest that Britons would vote to stay, although the public opinion on the issue remains fickle, the INYT comments. David Cameron will require restricting voters’ qualifications to Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, which means that over a million EU citizens who lived in UK will have no right to vote, China National Radio says. David Cameron has made it clear the Bill will be published with a parliamentary schedule that will allow it to reach a second stage debate by June, and the prospect that the vote could be held next year, the Irish Times notes.

According to CNN’s Max Foster, David Cameron wants to reconcile the Eurosceptic right wing of his party with its more centrist pro-European elements by offering the country a referendum on its membership of the EU. A Financial Times’ editorial takes a sceptical view of the government’s ability to implement the policies announced, due to the slightness of its majority. Indeed, the announced government’s agenda for the coming session contained other issues, but the media mainly focus on the referendum.

For now, it is unclear what Mr. Cameron wants, but, until his re-election, he has adopted a more conciliatory tone, evidenced by the fact he received European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday. Rather than “reforming Europe”, it is more likely that British PM David Cameron may obtain a broadened British “exception” before he asks voters to decide on the UK’s membership of the EU, Le Figaro notes. Moreover, the idea of changing the Lisbon treaty seems ruled out, especially in such a short period of time.

Ethnos reports that the unwillingness of European partners to listen to British demands regarding the amendment of the European treaties does not seem to daunt David Cameron. According to El País’ editorial, the UK referendum puts at stake the role of the country in a united Europe, but also the very functioning of the EU, as the ploy devised by David Cameron is to negotiate with his European counterparts, but always with the threat of a referendum on the table. In an interview with La Croix, Elisabeth Guigou, the head of French National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, says that she does not want a Brexit but that maintaining the UK in the EU must not come at the price of doing away with “projects that we have been trying to build for decades”. She calls on member states to “stand firm” on the treaties that have already been signed.

Meanwhile, David Cameron will make a European tour to present his wishes for EU reforms, Politiken writes. STA writes that PM David Cameron will visit France and the Netherlands today to continue his talks on the reform of the EU. La Libre Belgique reports that Cameron said that he would use every European summit to talk about the renegotiation of the links between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and the reform of the latter. The European Commission has already presented proposals to accommodate the British expectations, but this will not be enough for Mr. Cameron who has promised the Brits real treaty changes.

However, according to Trouw, an improved relationship should be feasible. In an interview with Le Monde, Commissioner Hill says that the British case is not an exception in Europe, and that David Cameron could find support in other EU countries. He also states that “the EU has always been good at finding solutions to complex problems”. As EUHR Federica Mogherini suggested, the election results should be a wake-up call for the EU, the Irish press notes.


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