British ‘Special Status’ Deal: Victory for London, Time Bomb for EU

Cameron is right when he says that Britain won, because the EU has satisfied most of demands London put to stay in the bloc.

On Friday, February 19, EU leaders agreed unanimously on a package of measures giving Britain "special status" to avoid its leaving the bloc. British Prime Minister hailed the deal saying he would be campaigning “with all his heart and soul” to persuade the British people to vote for staying in the EU at the referendum expected in June.

The deal was a victory for Cameron, but it also raises the issue of a “multi-speed Europe”, with consequences, which are hard to predict now, believes Valdai Club expert Alexander Tevdoy-Burmuli.

“Cameron is right when he says that Britain won, because the EU has satisfied most of demands London put to stay in the bloc,” Tevdoy-Burmuli, Associate Professor at the European Integration Faculty, MGIMO-University, said in a telephone interview Saturday.

“First of all, Britain has reaffirmed that it remains a special member of the EU and was granted an exemption from the founding goal of “ever closer union,” he said. “Also, Britain has defended its position that EU citizens and legal residents coming to work to Britain will not enjoy the same level of social security that British nationals, at least in the near future” the scholar added.

Britain did soften its position on the welfare rights of migrant workers after pressure from other EU member-states, Tevdoy-Burmuli said. “EU migrants will have the British welfare rights after a transition period, but it was reduced from thirteen years, as Britain demanded, to seven,” he explained

Since British membership in the EU was at stake, the deal can be said to be a victory for the European Union, too, the expert said. “Cameron will now defend Britain’s EU membership, saying its ‘special status’ is much better than quitting the bloc,” he explained.

"I believe we are stronger, safer and better off inside a reformed European Union," Cameron told a news conference Friday.

At the same time, Britain’s ‘special status’ once again raises the issue of a “multi-speed Europe”, Tevdoy-Burmuli believes. “There is a core of countries which want closer integration, and there is a periphery, albeit as significant as Britain, which wants to stay on the sidelines,” he said.

Denmark, Sweden or the Eastern European countries may want to follow suit, the scholar said. ‘Britain’s legally binding special status is a time bomb. For now, the crisis is overcome (or at least it seems so), but new challenges resulting from yesterday’s decisions may emerge in the future,” the scholar concluded.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.