Faced with considerable doubt over his pledge to achieve to reform in Britain’s membership of the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron managed to secure some concessions, agreed by the other 27 EU heads of state on Friday, to dismantle restrictions placed on Britain. Cameron portrayed it as a victory – which gives Britain “special status” within the EU. Others, who are desperate for Britain to remain, greatly endorsed this event. Angela Merkel is a prominent example, displaying unambiguous support for Britain’s allegiance to the bloc.
Cameron’s speech after gaining the deal.
It has been cited by many as a turning point. Numerous voices among British and European politics have lauded it with support. Others believe not enough has been achieved; while many will simply be set on leaving the EU regardless.
Soon after the deal was announced, leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn labelled the reforms as a sideshow, and largely irrelevant. “His priorities in these negotiations have been to appease his opponents in the Conservative party,” Corbyn said. He also added that it is “irrelevant to the problems most people face”.
To an extent, one could say that Corbyn is correct on this matter. For the duration of Cameron’s promise to deliver reform, it appears that he was torn between trying to silence his Eurosceptic colleagues, along with the electorate who are inclined the same way, and not trying to offend his EU counter-parts.
Perhaps the most distinguished ‘reform’ gained was the fact that benefits to EU migrants has been limited. Yet many who vote to leave based on migration issues hold greater concerns than this. To them, it’s not solely the fact that migrants were able to claim benefits so easily (or what they view as easy); rather, it’s the fact that mass migration is occurring in the first place. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that this will have any effect on the levels of annual net migration in the UK; levels of which make it the current number one concern of the British public, according to most polls.
Even with this initial promise which many considered painfully irrelevant, Cameron still had to compromise on his deal, to gain the approval of the other 28 EU states. Rather than being able to block migrant benefits for years, it will alternatively be ‘massaged out’ over this period. Many will see it as a chink in Cameron’s armour in his battle to stand up for British sovereignty.
Obviously, even if you consider the issue of migrant benefits being a problem; it is largely exaggerated. Those more favorable towards mass immigration will see this as harmful to those who want to come to Britain and work. David Cameron’s weak stance on this matter could harm his electoral chances and popularity polls in the long run.
Perhaps what is really the most successful element of Cameron’s renegotiation was retaining the Pound Sterling, and exempting Britain from being obliged to bail out other EU states with funds, such as Greece in recent years – personally, I think the latter option sacrifices Internationalism, but it’s a notable factor nonetheless. This will conciliate some who were erring on our membership.
On the whole, it is doubtful that it has swayed the minds of many. As stated earlier, people who are hell-bent on leaving will retain the desire to do so anyway, regardless of how many concessions have been granted to Britain. The situation is comparable to Ireland, prior to their independence in 1922. Even though slightly more favorable land ownership laws had been granted by Westminster, many Irish folk still felt constrained by British rule; retaining their burning desire for independence. This is what the Irish pushed for, and it is likely that the Brexit crowd will follow the same path. Key figures like Boris Johnson recently pledging his support for leaving will invigorate the campaign to leave, and potentially attract more support for Britain’s exit.
With the referendum being announced for June 23rd, the reform will become irrelevant. This date will be the single-minded focus of those who want to leave. These concessions will soon be meaningless; with the announcement of the referendum being a more pivotal event. Of course, if the Prime Minister was able to secure a greater deal, such as limiting the looming prospect of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), or gaining controls on mass migration, this may have clinched enough support guaranteed to keep Britain within the union. Unfortunately, the deal won’t make a shred of difference.