It was months in the making, persistently delayed and then twice rescheduled. But when British Prime Minister David Cameron's speech on the future of the U.K.'s relationship with the European Union finally arrived late last month, at least it did not lack ambition.
Cameron hopes to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and push forward a process of reform for the whole union. His aim is to secure a looser relationship with a streamlined Europe, one that all but the more strident europhobes in his party and the public would prefer to full departure from the bloc. Should the Conservatives win an outright majority in Parliament at the next general election, there will be an in-or-out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017. Until then, Cameron plans to make the “in” option appear as attractive as possible to euroskeptics.
The speech was more a British vision for Europe than a list of specific items to negotiate. Cameron outlined five principles for reform: competitiveness, in particular more effort toward extending and improving the single market, which Cameron views as the core of the European project; flexibility for different countries to integrate to different degrees; democratic accountability through a greater role for national parliaments in the EU legislative process; fairness between euro and non-euro member states; and subsidiarity, a commitment that powers can flow back to national capitals as well as to Brussels.