THE opening salvo in Britain’s attempt to realign its relationship with the European Union was fired on the fringes of a two-day Eastern Partnership summit which began last evening in Riga.
Patience on a George Mitchell scale and the space to allow for compromise are vital in a process like this but, in this instance, everyone’s best interests would be served by reaching as speedy a resolution as possible. That position resonates with suggestions that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Social Democrats party is in favour of an early referendum following suggestions that British prime minister David Cameron may schedule one for late next year.
Already battle lines are drawn. France’s minister for European affairs, Harlem Désir, played down the possibility of a treaty change to facilitate Britain’s demands. However, moves to cut EU red tape are already underway.
Countering that declaration, Mr Cameron laid down his own marker: “Changes to welfare to cut EU migration will be an absolute requirement.” Recognising that he cannot avoid the debate around immigration, Mr Cameron said he wanted to end the automatic entitlement enjoyed by EU migrants as soon as they arrive in Britain. It would be pointless and foolish to pretend that, if that particular treaty change was secured, it might not have profound and very costly implications for Ireland. An early decision please.
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