Article by Ukraine's Ambassador Galibarenko.
LONDON – The deal made by the UK government during the EU summit, February 18-19, to keep Britain inside the EU and redraw the terms of the UK’s membership remains key subject within the British political community and among experts.
From day one it was clear that Prime Minister David Cameron’s requirements were expressly ambitious, especially considering such sensitive – for the Eastern European countries – issues as migrant labor, social benefits, and advantages in the EU financial system for non-eurozone countries that had everything to do with the French interests.
Mr. Cameron has to be credited for his tenacity. He had actively traveled from one European capital to the next for several months prior and especially shortly before the summit, holding meetings and telephone conversations with his colleagues. As a result, he had succeeded in making the EU realize the importance of reaching an agreement with Great Britain, the sooner the better, and having his four requirements met in full or at least halfway. Making a deal with the Visegrad Four – a seven-year term for the emergency brake to restrict EU migrants in the UK claiming in-work benefits along with child benefit payments indexed to the cost of living for children living outside the UK for all new arrivals to the UK – was an exploit. The British government received clear-cut guarantees that any further integration within the EU will not affect the UK, and that the non-eurozone countries will not have to make payments to support the euro.
Expectedly, the Euroskeptics are saying that the deal made has left as many additional questions as answers. As befits a true democracy, the British government’s performance will be assessed by the citizenry of the Commonwealth during a referendum scheduled for June 23, 2016.
Another important issue is whether Mr. Cameron will keep his party united. Today there are two groups within the Cabinet, Conservative faction, and in Parliament that support and oppose the UK’s membership. London Mayor and influential Conservative Boris Johnson’s joining the Euroskeptic Club is an alarming signal for the EU proponents. Be that as it may, it is the sovereign right of the British to remain in the reset EU or call it quits.
The very idea of upgrading the EU can hardly threaten the united Europe. I agree with the European leaders who say that the British aspiration for reform can give the EU a fresh impetus on the world arena and in enhancing business competition while easing the red tape burden.
Ukraine is apparently interested in a stronger United Kingdom capable of defending common European values, in terms of four basic freedoms and Russia’s challenge to European security while waging a war of aggression in Ukraine. There are reasons to assume that the outcome of the UK referendum will not affect London’s support for Ukraine’s European aspirations because it is a long-term issue and a civilizational choice.
Recent polls show that the EU proponents are ahead of the Euroskeptics, but it would be premature to make any conclusions at this stage. Some 20 percent of the respondents are still undecided. A lot will depend on the information campaign in both political camps. One thing is clear: Great Britain is about to make one of the most important decisions in modern political history.
The British have repeatedly shown common sense in determining their priorities over the centuries. If they decide to remain in the EU, this will be a graphic example of compromise achieved for the common European good