Britain's EU renegotiation: The view from our partners
A new Policy Network paper providing insight into the stances of the UK's main partners ahead of Britain's EU renegotiation talks
Before British citizens get to vote on staying in or leaving the
European Union in 2016 or 2017, David Cameron has embarked a very
uncertain renegotiation with its European counterparts. This report aims
to provide an objective assessment of where the UK’s main partners
stand on British demands, and the type of concessions they would be the
most likely to contemplate. Policy Network’s research team conducted 30
interviews with senior policymakers, politicians and opinion leaders in
six key European countries that will play a pivotal role in the
discussions (Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and
Poland), as well as a dozen of high-level conversations in Brussels.
The report highlights three main findings:
First, EU member states strongly wish to keep Britain in, yet not at any price.
All our partners share fundamental sympathy for Britain, and genuine
fear of Brexit, but they are not ready to be blackmailed to give
Conservative backbenchers satisfaction. Even in traditional allies like
Sweden or Poland, patience with Britain’s distant attitude is in short
Second, there are ‘low hanging fruits’, for which
legal and political solutions could be found despite the absence of
immediate treaty change: an agreement on a looser interpretation
of ‘ever-closer union’; a bigger for national parliaments; a renewed
commitment behind the EU’s competitiveness agenda.
free movement of people and the relationship between the eurozone and
other member states are the most difficult areas of discussion.
the refugee crisis, Cameron fails to convince that the EU’s freedom of
movement of people is fundamentally flawed. In most capitals, the
perception is that the British problem is home-grown, and that only
domestic reforms can address it. There is overall sympathy for the idea
that more can be done to tackle welfare tourism, but little prospect
that a majority can be constructed in the European parliament for
legislative changes on social security coordination on the UK prime
Finally, Britain’s demand to build a
firewall between euro-ins and euro-outs sounds premature and excessive
to most UK partners. The question can only be addressed in the context
of new integration measures in the eurozone, something which is unlikely
to happen before 2017. More fundamentally, countries like Poland and
Sweden sympathise with British concerns, but they prioritise
inclusiveness, transparency and access to eurozone deliberations over
changing the voting rules. Core eurozone countries do not oppose giving
verbal assurances against ‘caucusing’ but they are not bought into the
idea of new special powers for non-euro countries.
This project has benefited from the financial support of the City of London Corporation.
Ben Dilks, email@example.com, 020 7340 2207