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During his election campaign in 2010, Cameron promised to thoroughly re-examine and then renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU.
This, he had said, would be followed by a referendum (after 2015), which could remodel the UK’s position in European and global affairs.
His speech this week is expected to make good on that promise.
In an interview with the BBC last week, Cameron said that he would not want to leave the EU but he also believed that Britain would not collapse if it did.
“The question is what is in our national interest: and I’ve always been very clear it’s in our national interest as a trading nation to be in the single market, but not like Norway just accept all the rules of the single market, pay for the privilege of being part of it, and, as it were, be governed by fax from Brussels,” Cameron told the BBC.
Despite being buoyed by recent comments from Chancellor George Osborne that Britain would remain within the EU on the condition the bloc undergo change; there has been strong opposition to Cameron’s vision even within his own ruling coalition.
Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says that Cameron’s approach risks UK business interests because it puts to question London’s commitment to the EU.
Such uncertainty, Clegg says, would negatively impact business at a time when Europe appears to just be on the brink of economic recovery.
Cameron’s own economic adviser Lord Heseltine has echoed Clegg’s fears and said the prime minister’s approach could contribute to unemployment while deterring European investment in Britain.
Opposition leader Labour’s Ed Miliband has also slammed Cameron’s strategy as incredibly dangerous and ultimately harming Britain’s national interests.
Irish deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore also criticised Cameron’s approach as cherry-picking the EU membership terms it was comfortable with.
Cameron rejected such criticism adding that debate about Britain’s relationship with Europe was already happening.
Nevertheless, political heavyweights from rival parties are putting aside their differences and lobbying to keep the UK in Europe.
Conservative Party member Ken Clarke and fellow Coalitionist Liberal Democrat Chris Rennard will reach across the aisle to ally with Labour’s Peter Mandelson to form the Centre for British Influence in Europe.
The prime minister is unlikely to find an ovation waiting for him in Holland, one of the bloc’s founding members, which has enjoyed its eurozone membership.
Euro-skeptic parties who would have stood behind Cameron’s speech were handed a bitter defeat in Holland’s general election last year.