Newspaper article International New York Times

Cameron Tours E.U. to Seek 'Better Deal'

Newspaper article International New York Times

Cameron Tours E.U. to Seek 'Better Deal'

Article excerpt

The British prime minister is carrying a warning to several key counterparts that Britain will leave the European Union without concessions from Brussels.

Prime Minister David Cameron, with a majority mandate from the British people, is off on a whirlwind tour of European Union capitals to seek "a better deal for Britain," warning that otherwise, Britain will leave the bloc. Not so very long ago, Alexis Tsipras, with a fresh mandate from the Greek people, tried the same with the threat of an exit.

But Mr. Tsipras has found the Europeans less accommodating than he had hoped, and a crisis over Greece is looming. Mr. Cameron is likely to find some willingness to listen and help -- but only up to a point, given the unwieldy nature of exceptions in a bloc with 28 members that could all crave special treatment.

While the two cases are obviously different, they signal an important inflection point for the European Union, especially when euroskeptic parties have had recent election victories in Britain, Finland, Poland and Spain, and the National Front in France continues to challenge assumptions about French membership in the union.

Greece is the more pressing problem, with negotiations on a new bailout going down to the wire, and with default and a possible euro exit to follow. But even if Greece left the euro, it could remain a European Union member.

The possibility of a "Brexit" -- a British exit -- raises perhaps an even more existential question about the future of the union, and Mr. Cameron is trying to concentrate minds on the possibility. He visited Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and President Francois Hollande of France on Thursday, and he was scheduled to see Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz of Poland and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Friday.

While little is expected now except conversation, Mr. Cameron will ask Britons by the end of 2017, "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?" Before that, he wants concessions, including a treaty change that he is unlikely to get before a referendum, since it would involve approval by all 28 governments, some requiring their own referendums.

Mr. Cameron says he wants change in four broad areas. He wants to restrict the right of legal European Union migrants to claim social welfare benefits and require them to wait up to four years to claim benefits for those with jobs. He wants to ensure that countries that do not use the euro, like Britain, cannot be hurt by rules made to govern the eurozone, to protect free trade in goods and financial services. …

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