London, 15 Muharram 1437/28 October 2015 (MINA) – David Cameron is considering plans to radically downgrade the U.K.’s status in the EU as part of a renegotiation of Britain’s membership, according to local media.
Advisors to the prime minister have suggested that Britain become an “associate member” of the 28-nation bloc while the 19 eurozone countries continue to strengthen their monetary union, Anadolu Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
The Sun newspaper reported Tuesday that the idea was “now being looked at afresh” after Cameron initially rejected the proposal in June. “Associate membership is a neat way of tying everything together,” a source told the newspaper.
The speculation comes amid mounting criticism of Cameron’s tactics ahead of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership tabled to take place before the end of 2017.
The precise date will be announced once Cameron concludes a renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms with other European leaders.
Cameron has not publicly spelled out what his negotiation will involve but Chancellor George Osborne hinted in an interview last month that it might involve restructuring the EU to allow separate tiers of membership for countries that use the euro currency and those, like Britain, that do not.
Associate membership is not a formal category in the EU and would have to be introduced following negotiations between member states.
Campaigners who support Britain’s exit from the EU were quick to attack the suggestion.
Daniel Hannan, a European Parliament deputy from Cameron’s Conservative Party, said it was “sheer cynicism” to rebrand Britain’s membership deal “rather than making substantive changes”. The anti-EU U.K. Independence Party’s Patrick O’Flynn dismissed it as a plan to “bamboozle” voters.
Last month, Osborne told the New Statesman magazine: “If you are someone who believes in the European Union and wants Britain to stay in, you cannot ignore this issue because the European Union was not designed to accommodate two classes of members, where one group, the majority, is rapidly integrating to try to make the single currency work and the other group, particularly Britain, doesn’t want to be part of that ever-closer union.”
He added: “If we don’t resolve this issue, it’s going to cause more and more problems for Britain’s economic national interest. So we need to resolve it. These are the sorts of things that are going to require changes to the treaty.” (T/P010/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)