"British Prime Minster David Cameron much anticipated talk on Britain's future role in Europe and in the European Union seems to be ill-faded: Already once postponed before (when British officials realized that the talk was scheduled on the fiftieth anniversary of the Elysee Treaty) it was cancelled again last Friday in light of the unfolding crisis in Algeria and Mali. Yet, already the announcement of this repeatedly postponed 'historic speech' has created a lot of political chatter nationally and internationally: While it is not even clear yet how far Cameron will take his announcement to re-negotiate Britain's relationship with the EU (some even speculate about a referendum on the country's EU membership) some key actors have already positioned themselves in the debate: On the one side of the spectrum are the EU skeptics representing a formidable faction of the British Conservative Party. They have pushed the Prime Minister into demanding a re-nationalization of key policy competencies, - if not re-considering British membership in the EU altogether. On the other side, a considerable part of the country's elite has raised serious issues regarding the effects of the tough position that Cameron is expected to communicate this Friday: Nick Clegg, the deputy ministers from the Liberal Democrats, has warned of a 'chilling effect' on the British economy that the announcement of a referendum and lengthy Treaty negotiations about Britain's role in the EU would produce. From continental Europe and even the United States there are alarmist announcements pointing to the damaging consequences that the United Kingdom would have to face embarking on a course toward self-marginalization in the EU. They paint the ominous picture of Britain as moving towards political and economic isolation in Europe.
Not at least driven by the concern to appease a rampant speculation of what he is about to announce Prime Minister Cameron has just leaked parts of his speech to the press. At the core of his announcement seems to be a profound anxiety about, first, the insufficient response of the EU to the current economic crisis and the inability to promote Europe competitiveness in the global economy. Second, Cameron emphasizes the lack of popular, democratic support of the EU, a "lack of democratic accountability and consent" that, in his view, is gradually undermining the authority of the EU. So far the messages coming out of London are short of specifics with respect to what this means for Britain. One thing is certain: Everybody will listen very carefully when the British Prime Minster - eventually - will outline his master plan for Britain's future in Europe."
Dr. Oliver Schmidtke is director of the Centre for Global Studies. He is leading the research team "Immigration and Social Policy", that is part of the SSHRC Strategic Research Cluster "Canada Europe Transatlantic Dialogue" and is one of our main experts for the "Europe Canada Network" (EUCAnet).
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