British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a late night speech about EU reforms as part of a British renegotiation of EU terms for the first time in an official EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. Cameron has said he is “delighted” that negotiations are now under way.
After taking part in a heated debate over the Greek crisis and migrant quotas, Cameron began his speech at 1am on Friday. With time for a ten-minute-long speech, Cameron was not able to hear responses from the 27 political leaders of the other 27 EU countries.
Cameron said that “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.”
"People always say to me that these things aren't possible, that you'll never get them done. Well once again we've proved we will get them done. We've started that process and it's underway," he added.
We've made significant progress at this European Council. It's been agreed a renegotiation of our membership of the EU can begin. #EUCO
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) 26 Haziran 2015
After Cameron’s speech, EU president Donald Tusk said that the EU wants to help Britain, however the “basic values [of the EU] were not for sale.”
"The British prime minister set out his plans for an in/out referendum, so the talks on UK renegotiation will now get underway. It was the first step in a longer process," Tusk added.
"One thing should be clear from the very beginning: the fundamental values of the European Union are not for sale and so are non-negotiable. We should consider British concerns, but only in a way which will be safe for all Europe. We will come back to this in December."
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) 26 Haziran 2015
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said that "I think treaty change is quite difficult and the UK government should not only exclusively focus on treaty change."
Germany’s Minister of Europe Michael Roth talked about Cameron’s insistence on changing the EU treaty. Roth said that with substantial changes to EU policies Britain may be able to find a way to stand with the EU without treaty change.
"Substantial changes doesn't mean a treaty change. There is room for maneuvering but it is up to the British friends to put concrete ideas on the table," he added.
EU treaty changes
The changes to EU treaties Cameron desires include the banning of EU migrants from in-work benefits for four years, the ability of national parliaments to block EU legislation, Britain’s exclusion from the EU’s historic commitment to for an “ever closer union,” as well as guarantee for non-eurozone members to not be outvoted by eurozone members.
David Cameron promised to achieve these reforms before the in/out referendum in 2017 over the UK’s EU membership.
British government officials have confirmed that Britain will likely hold the referendum before any treaty changes take place. They also stress that the British prime minister want legal guarantees that the proposed changes to the EU treaties will take place.
Leader British right-wing populist political party Ukip, Nigel Farage, criticised Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum before treaty changes take place.
“It 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,” Farage added.
“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.”
Cameron spoke at the EU summit after meeting all 27 EU political leaders since he won the general elections in May as part of his commitment to renegotiate Britain’s place in the EU.