Over pork belly and lime cream, David Cameron and Jean-Claude Juncker have kick-started efforts toward EU changes to thwart a possible Brexit. The UK's leading manufacturing association wants Cameron to move up the vote.
David Cameron (right in photo) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (left) met Monday at the UK prime minister's residence to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership. The UK's top Conservative has called for the bloc to change its policies on immigration, welfare eligibility and the power to refuse further integration - at least those that specifically affect Britain.
"The prime minister underlined that the British people are not happy with the status quo and believe that the EU needs to change in order to better address their concerns," Cameron's office announced.
Cameron's Tories won a majority in general elections May 7. Nicking voters from Britain's Euroskeptic right en route to his second term, Cameron promised an in-out referendum on membership in the European Union by 2017.
Earlier Monday, Cameron announced that citizens of most EU countries residing in Britain would not get to vote in the referendum. Snipping 1.5 million people in total from the rolls, Cameron's plan would limit the polls to voters currently eligible for general elections: citizens over 18 and UK residents from Ireland or the Commonwealth, which includes nationals of Malta and Cyprus, both of which are EU members. Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar and British nationals who have lived abroad for less than 15 years could also vote.
'Get on with it'
Britain's leading manufacturing association, the EEF, called on the prime minister to move the referendum forward to 2016. Formerly known as the Engineering Employers' Federation, the EEF group - which represents 20,000 manufacturing and technology firms, including Rolls-Royce and BaE Systems -called for the referendum as early as May 2016.
"Having trailed this since early 2013, the government must surely have a clear idea of its proposed areas for negotiation and it must now be a priority to get on with it," EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said.
The group doesn't want a Brexit: 85 percent of British manufacturers support the country's continued EU membership, according to Scuoler, and it would make no sense to disengage from a major export market while having to keep to the bloc's rules to maintain trade access. Other business alliances have also called for Britain to remain in the EU. Last week, the biggest employers group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), urged company bosses to make the case to voters for staying in the bloc.
Over the weekend, the Bank of England announced that it had begun researching a Brexit's potential economic effects.
mkg/ng (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)