AFTER CAMERON’S LANDMARK SPEECH ON EU: A DEAL FOR BRITAIN?

Angela Merkel has said she is prepared to consider renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU in the wake of David Cameron’s landmark speech pledging an in-out referendum by 2017.

The London Telegraph on January 23, 2013, reported that Prime Minister Cameron wants to negotiate the return of some powers from Brussels to Britain, possibly within a new treaty. Excerpts below:

The revised relationship would then be the subject of a referendum in which Mr Cameron would campaign for Britain to remain a member — if the Conservatives win the next election.

There were signs that the German and Dutch governments will support exploratory talks over a new European deal, while Downing Street welcomed the backing of prominent business figures.

The issue was threatening to spark turmoil within the Labour Party after Ed Miliband, its leader, initially appeared to rule out supporting a referendum only for other senior figures to suggest this may not be the case in the years ahead.

The pledges were expected to unify the Conservative Party until the next election. However, the practicalities of renegotiating the thousands of different laws which define Britain’s EU membership could reopen old fault lines.

In the speech, which was… rearranged after being cancelled in Amsterdam last week, Mr Cameron said that “nothing should be off the table”. He called himself a “heretic” for challenging the apparent consensus over the EU.

…Mrs Merkel said: “We are prepared to talk about British wishes but we must always bear in mind that other countries have different wishes and we must find a fair compromise. We will talk intensively with Britain about its individual ideas but that will be some time over the months ahead.”

The Dutch government also complimented the speech.

Mr Cameron promised to personally campaign for Britain to stay in the EU after renegotiating a better deal and clawing back some powers from Brussels. “It does not seem to me that the steps which would be needed to make Britain — and others — more comfortable in their relationship in the European Union are inherently so outlandish or unreasonable,” he said.

“Countries are different. They make different choices,” he said.

“We cannot harmonise everything. For example, it is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the European Union, requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the views of British parliamentarians and practitioners.

“In the same way, we need to examine whether the balance is right in so many areas where the European Union has legislated, including on the environment, social affairs and crime. Nothing should be off the table.”

Mr Cameron also said that many problems blamed on the EU were actually legal judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.. …

In his speech, Mr Cameron said it will be the decision of the British people whether to remain in the EU and said that he “understood” those who said the country should leave immediately. “I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course,” he said. “But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads. Proponents of both sides will need to avoid exaggerating their claims.”

He added: “If we leave the EU, we cannot of course leave Europe. It will remain for many years our biggest market and forever our geographical neighbourhood.

We are tied by a complex web of legal commitments.

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, described the speech as “bang on” while Lord Lamont, the former Chancellor, said it would appeal “not just to the Conservative party but to a very large section of the British people who are uneasy about our position in Europe”. Bernard Jenkin, a member of the 1922 back-bench committee, called it a “watershed” speech, saying the commitment to give voters a say was “a very, very big moment in British politics”. However, Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, said Mr Cameron faced a major challenge in securing the support of all other EU leaders to back treaty changes and repatriate powers.

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