Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron is calling for a historic nationwide referendum on June 23 to decide whether the U.K. will remain in the European Union.
This comes a day after Cameron and EU leaders announced in Brussels that they have negotiated a new deal that changes the terms of Britain’s membership.
After negotiating these new concessions, Cameron strongly advocated that the U.K. stick with Europe. He spoke in front of 10 Downing Street after presenting the EU reform deal to his Cabinet.
“The choice is in your hands, but my recommendation is clear: I believe that Britain will be safer, stronger and better off in a reformed European Union,” he says. “Leaving Europe would threaten our economic and our national security.”
He adds: “Our special status also means we’re out of those parts of Europe that do not work for us, so we will never join the euro, we will never be part of eurozone bailouts, we will never be part of the passport-free no borders area, or a European army, or an EU super-state.”
NPR’s Kevin Beasley explains why this referendum is happening now:
“The prime minister promised to hold that referendum in the runup to last year’s election in the U.K., as he tried to fight off a threat from a far-right anti-EU party that threatened to take votes from Cameron’s Conservative Party.
“Having made that promise, Cameron now has to negotiate enough concessions from the other 27 countries in the EU to assuage the ‘euro-skeptic’ wing of his own party and win over the British public.”
Cameron fired back at these euro-skeptics in his remarks Saturday: “Those who want to leave Europe cannot tell you if British businesses would be able to access Europe’s free trade single market, or if working people’s jobs are safe, or how much prices would rise. All they’re offering is a risk at a time of uncertainty.”
As we reported, concessions in the newly-negotiated deal include exemptions from further political integration in future treaty amendments. It also excludes newly-arrived workers from benefits for their first four years in the U.K. and makes benefits claims for kids living in other EU countries proportional to the other state’s cost of living.
And as NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported, it also frees Britain from some EU financial regulations and restrictions. She says EU President Donald Tusk is hailing the deal as keeping “the EU intact without compromising what the bloc stands for.”
The BBC sums up how the U.K. new deal compares with what Cameron wanted:
“Critics argue that the final deal falls well short of what Mr Cameron originally promised when he announced his plan for a referendum, particularly when it comes to returning powers from Brussels.
“But most of the points in the draft agreement, with the exception of those mentioned above, have survived unchanged into the final deal.”
Recent polls suggest that U.K. voters are almost evenly divided on whether to remain in the EU.
But new betting odds tell a different story. Reuters reports that British bookmaker Ladbrokes “indicated there was now a 69 percent chance of Britain remaining in the EU with a 31 percent chance of Britain leaving.”