LONDON, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The announcement by British prime minister David Cameron that he would seek to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union (EU) and then hold a referendum on membership is something of a gamble, according to experts.
Cameron's speech in London on Wednesday is one of the most significant of his career.
It sets out the domestic political playing field for the next few years and defines discussion and actions on Anglo-EU relations in a new and more urgent perspective.
The consequences of what Cameron is seeking are important not just for him, his party, and for domestic politics they also have a wider significance that embraces the future shape of the EU and relations between Britain and other significant continental countries like France and Germany, and also with Britain's closest ally, the United States.
Tom Raines, the Europe co-ordinator at the Chatham House think-tank, told Xinhua that Cameron's speech demands attention from politicians across Europe.
Raines said, "People will have to take seriously the reform agenda Cameron is proposing because with the pressure of a referendum looming gives it a currency it might not have had."
However there are other EU states who share some or all of Cameron's concerns about the future direction of the EU.
Ryan Bourne, head of economic research at the Center for Policy Studies, said that Cameron had voiced concerns other European nations held too.
Bourne said, "The EU as currently set up has a commitment to ever-closer union and I think Cameron was almost saying the unsayable when he said that Britain was not committed to that principle. And I suspect that there are other European countries that have concerns over that principle."
In order to make the Eurozone work, Bourne said, the zone nations are going to have to integrate further and that is going to require treaty change "and if we are having that treaty change, for countries outside the Eurozone it makes sense to renegotiate their position because Eurozone nations need their support to make the treaty work, in the same way that Britain needs Eurozone nations' support to renegotiate," Bourne said.
Bourne explained his analysis of Cameron's decision, arguing that the EU is going through drastic changes as nations in the Eurozone seek to make it work. This gives Britain an opportunity to renegotiate its relationship with the EU.
It might add impetus to some of the reform agendas the British have been trying to push for some time.
Raines said Single market reform in the areas of services, digital, and energy, was a long term British aspiration.
"There are a number of states supportive of that, but resistance comes from France and a few other countries," Raines explained.
"Progress for Cameron will be a matter of compromise and we will have to see if he is willing to build alliances with other nations and make concessions in other areas in order to do that," he said.
There was likely to be movement towards Single Market reform in the next few years, Raines predicted as it was one of the more easily achievable of the aims set out in Cameron's speech.
Cameron also called for repatriating powers to Britain ceded to the EU.
Social and employment law, particularly the Working Time Directive -- which regulates working hours, leave and vacations for firms -- was cited by Raines as areas where Cameron would meet resistance.
Many small and medium-sized businesses were keen for the Working Time Directive to be repatriated as they found its requirements restricting and costly, Raines said.
Cameron would also be likely to seek an opt-out from some of the policing and criminal justice legislation not already covered by a block opt-out recently taken up by the British.
There would also be pressure to restrict regulations in financial services, which is an area of the British economy Cameron is keen to protect, said Raines.
UNCERTAINTY OVER THE FUTURE
There is uncertainty over the whole process. By committing himself to a referendum and a timeframe, Cameron has made himself hostage to two forces he cannot control, said Raines.
First is the treaty renegotiation process, and the second is the referendum in Britain which might not happen as it's dependent on other events, notably who wins the next general election in 2015.
"All of this creates huge uncertainty; will there be a referendum? Will there be a formal renegotiation of the treaty or will there be a new treaty," said Raines.
"There is one thing business does not like -- uncertainty," said Raines.
Industrial investors in Britain might now be more reluctant to invest in Britain if there is a significant possibility that there could be a vote on EU membership which could result in an exit, Raines added.
Bourne echoed that assessment. "Cameron's speech is likely to have an effect on multinationals looking to invest in the Single Market who have to weigh up whether Britain is a desirable location," he said.
The speech has pleased the right-wing of his Conservative Party, which is strongly Eurosceptic.
Raines predicted, "There will be a significant domestic boost for Cameron and he has pleased many in his party who are not keen on staying in the EU. The commitment for a referendum has won widespread support among backbenchers and grassroots and the press were strong in their praise."
However, Bourne believed that Cameron's strategy was something of a gamble.
"Cameron only really wins if he gets a good renegotiation to satisfy his Conservative backbenchers; no substantial renegotiation or an inability to persuade EU leaders will put his position in jeopardy."
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