EU chief challenges UK on unity

EU chief challenges UK on unity

EU chief challenges UK on unity

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a EU summit in Brussels. AP photo

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to win back powers from the European Union could cause the 27-nation bloc to fall apart, its president Herman Van Rompuy said in an interview Dec. 27.

Cameron, who is under pressure from “euroskeptics” in his Conservative party, said last month he still supports British membership of the EU but wants a “new settlement” that involves winning opt-outs on key issues. “If every member state were able to cherry-pick those parts of existing policies that they most like, and opt out of those that they least like, the union in general, and the single market in particular, would soon unravel,” Van Rompuy told The Guardian newspaper.

“All member states can, and do, have particular requests and needs that are always taken into consideration as part of our deliberations,” he said.

“I do not expect any member state to seek to undermine the fundamentals of our co-operative system in Europe,” Van Rompuy said, adding that changes to EU treaties under Cameron’s proposed opt-outs would involve a “lengthy and cumbersome procedure” needing the unanimous agreement of all states in the bloc. A day after Van Rompuy’s remarks, former EU Commission chief Jacques Delors said Britain could leave the union and enter into a different sort of partnership with the political and economic bloc instead. “The British are solely concerned about their economic interests, nothing else. They could be offered a different form of partnership,” Delors said. “If the British cannot support the trend toward more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis,” the French former minister said. “I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free trade agreement,” Delors said.

Britain was “strategically and economically important,” and should remain “a privileged partner,” he insisted.