UK Prime Minister David Cameron faces angering the British public, the opposition, and even factions of his own party after government officials acknowledged that it is highly unlikely that Cameron will be able to seal a new deal and get his reforms ratified before the referendum.
Britain’s ruling Conservative Party is delivering a referendum by 2017 over whether Britain will stay part of the EU or not. The Tories are largely against leaving the EU and UK Chancellor George Osborne has explicitly said that he would prefer to stay within the EU and negotiate “a better deal.”
Cameron was reportedly already putting plans in motion to bring forward an in/out referendum by a year. However last week, Cameron’s office performed a U-turn and ruled out holding a European Union membership referendum on May 5, 2016.
Last night, Cameron addressed 27 EU heads of government for 10 minutes. It was the first time he laid out the reforms he would like for Britain’s membership in the EU. The chairman of the summit and president of the European council, Donald Tusk, was the only person in the room who responded to Cameron, reported the Guardian newspaper.
The proposed reforms included banning EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years as well as giving national parliaments the ability to block EU legislation.
“It has been a long night and we have discussed some very important subjects, but above all I am delighted that the process of British reform and renegotiation and the referendum that we are going to hold — that process is now properly under way … we have started that process,” said Cameron.
A senior British official said that the prime minister is confident he will embed his reforms in a “legally binding and irreversible” process that will involve a revision of the Lisbon treaty. But the official said that the ratification of treaty change by all 28 member states, which can take years to complete, will not be completed by the time of Britain’s referendum.
However, a British official told the Guardian newspaper after the meeting that: “There will be political agreement [of] 27 that these changes will be done. Then there is a process of ratification of those which can take a long time because it needs to be ratified in all 27 countries.
“So there will be a process that will need to bring the changes to the treaties into force. But are we absolutely clear that the reforms we are seeking will require treaty change and will need agreement on that treaty change before the referendum? Yes, we absolutely are.”
Already, the British public, a slice of the Tories, and main opposition to the incumbent government are highlighting their lack of trust in Cameron securing any reforms at all.
A recent poll in the Daily Express showed that over 97% of the 1,926 people who took part in the survey said “no” when asked if Cameron would get “Britain a fair deal in the EU.”
However, UKIP’s leader slammed the comments and said that not being able seal a new deal and get it ratified before the referendum “sounds like a post-dated cheque.”
“There are so many big fundamental things happening that a promissory note of some kind to Britain may well finish up not being honoured. Post-dated cheques can bounce and one suspects that any post-dated cheque that was given to the Brits would be given by presidents and prime ministers in office now,” he said in a statement.
“By the time it came to be honoured there would be different prime ministers and different presidents who have been elected on a ticket saying we won’t honour this note anyway. It doesn’t work on any way you look at it.”