World Economy

Cameron Sets EU Referendum for June 23

Cameron Sets EU  Referendum for June 23Cameron Sets EU  Referendum for June 23

Prime Minister David Cameron met senior ministers on Saturday to win endorsement of an EU deal he hopes will persuade voters to ratify Britain's membership of the world's largest trading bloc at a referendum to be held in June.

Cameron hailed a deal clinched with other European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels as granting Britain special status and said he would campaign hard now to convince voters to stay in the bloc that Britain joined in 1973, news outlets reported.

Cameron called his referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU for June 23, after the cabinet agreed to campaign to stay in.

Speaking from outside Downing Street, the prime minister said leaving the EU would “threaten our economic and national security”.

“We are approaching one of the biggest decisions this country will face in our lifetimes... This goes to the heart of what we want our country to be and the future we want for our children,” he said.

“You will decide and whatever your decision I will do my best to deliver it,” he added.

For and Against

Michael Gove, the justice secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, Chris Grayling, the leader of the House of Commons, Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, and John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, are among those likely to announce their plans to vote for the UK to leave.

As cabinet ministers began to arrive in Downing Street, the Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said Cameron’s deal in Brussels was a sideshow and largely irrelevant.

 “He has done nothing to promote secure jobs, protect our steel industry, or stop the spread of low pay and the undercutting of wages in Britain. Labor’s priorities for reform in the EU would be different, and David Cameron’s deal is a missed opportunity to make the real changes we need.

“We will be campaigning to keep Britain in Europe in the coming

referendum, regardless of David Cameron’s tinkering, because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers.”

Hilary Benn, the foreign secretary, welcomed the fact that the focus will now be on the arguments.

He said Cameron “has done what he decided he had to do because he was too weak to stand up to his political party” but welcomed some elements of the deal. Benn said only a very small number of opposition MPs would campaign to leave the EU.

“The vast majority of Labor MPs, the Labor movement, the Labor party conference, the trade union movement, supports our continued membership,” he said.

“Why? Because being in the EU has given us jobs, investment, growth. It gives us security and it gives us influence in the world. Why would we want to exchange all of that for a leap into the unknown?”

Key Demands

After the summit, the prime minister insisted he had strengthened his key demands since the European council president, Donald Tusk, outlined his draft agreement on 2 February. The key changes will mean that:

— A proposed “emergency brake” on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits will last for seven years. It will cover individuals for no more than four years, but the UK will be allowed to apply the overall restrictions for seven years.

— Restrictions on child benefit for EU migrants will kick in at a reduced rate–indexed to the rate of a migrant’s home country–for new migrants with immediate effect. Existing EU migrants will be paid at the lower rate from 2020. Eastern European countries had hoped that existing migrants would be exempt.

— Britain has a specific opt-out from the EU’s historic commitment to forge an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

— One country–in effect Britain–will have the right to impose a handbrake to refer contentious financial regulation to a meeting of EU leaders in the European council.