Friday, February 19, 2016

Cameron's Mission Impossible Catch-22 on EU deal

Some thoughts on the latest developments:

It’s increasingly clear Prime Minister David Cameron needs more time – and the clock is ticking fast. Not all EU leaders share Cameron’s enthusiasm for a deal. Fewer in the UK understand it. Cameron is struggling to get a deal done.

To make matters worse, he has a timetable more fitting to Mission Impossible than Eurocrats. A deal may well fall through the Prime Minister’s fingertips this week. But even if it is kept alive the deal remains in intensive care. Increasingly we look set for a referendum in June about whether to Remain or Leave Cameron’s newly reformed EU. But the deal may die or change beyond recognition anyway when the EU Parliament enters the operating theatre.

And that’s the half of it. Migration is the problem that refuses to go away. The International Rescue Committee predicts more refugees coming to the EU in 2016 than last year. A June referendum is thought to get the vote over with before numbers explode during the warmer summer months.

This week’s labour migration statistics are news Cameron did not want to hear. EU migration continues to reach new record heights. Migration from the original EU states like France, Germany and Spain have grown from 761,000 to 853,000 in the last year. Net migration has almost definitely risen too – despite repeated assurances it would be cut by more than half.

Cameron is caught in a Catch-22 situation. He must move quickly to get his reforms through before likely rises in migration numbers and refugees into EU that may fuel support for Brexit.

But the result is precious little energy to win agreement at the expense of further compromises. The further Cameron gets the EU to agree his reforms, the further he moves away from the public – and the longer this takes, the less likely it will succeed.

The stakes could not be higher.

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