Brexit could trigger disintegration of EU

David Cameron is set for showdown talks with the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Junker today as he seeks to secure a new settlement between Britain and the European Union as part of his ongoing renegotiation. The British Prime Minister will meet with the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg in Brussels ahead of a crucial two day summit between European leaders which gets underway on Thursday. In a sign that the UK is asking too much of its European partners, Mr Cameron was forced to make a flying visit to Paris last night in order to try and assuage French fears about his country’s push for an opt-out from Eurozone regulations. France is concerned that the Brits are trying to win a competitive advantage for the City of London – something they regard as unpalatable, especially at a time when their own economy is stagnant. The French objections underline the intractable task Mr Cameron faces in keeping European members states on side, while hammering out a deal that is acceptable to the British public and the majority of his own party.

The gravity of the situation was made clear by President of the EU Council Donald Tusk on Monday night when he warned Brexit could trigger the break-up of the European Union. Tusk, who is responsible for overseeing the negotiation, said the bloc had reached a “critical moment” and he urged all parties involved in the process to act responsibly. There is particular concern that some European countries could now use the British renegotiation as leverage to win their own concessions. It has been suggested that Greece, for example, might refuse to acquiesce to British demands unless the EU does more to help with the refugee crisis. Eastern European countries are also said to be worried that the richer member states could now seek to copy the rule-changes to welfare payments being proposed by the British. Such anxieties illustrate the fragility of the talks and the difficulties David Cameron will encounter in reaching a consensus. By demanding to alter the terms of their membership, it would appear that the Brits have lifted the lid on Pandora’s Box. The question now is can it be closed or will calls for reform from other European countries scupper Cameron’s hopes of a deal.

Chris Warne

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search