UK vote paves way for Brexit referendum

Following the election victory of British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, a referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2017 is almost a certainty. This is a chance to redefine relations between Brussels and London, some commentators write in delight. Others fear the debate over a Brexit could weaken the EU in foreign policy.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Brexit debate a boon for Putin

The negotiations between London and Brussels on EU reforms will weaken the Union as regards foreign policy, the conservative daily Financial Times fears: "The possibility of a British exit and the divisions that could open up during the negotiations with the UK will make it harder for the EU to keep a united stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin in the stand-off over Ukraine. Mr Cameron has already taken a back seat in EU diplomacy, leaving German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande of France to take the lead. As the prime minister devotes his attention to winning over his compatriots to the pro-EU cause, expect no changes there."

Welt am Sonntag (DE) /

Cameron prepares EU catharsis

David Cameron's plans for an EU referendum are forcing the Europeans to conduct a long overdue debate on what direction the union should take, writes the conservative weekly Welt am Sonntag approvingly: "Thank you, Mr Cameron! All the outraged talk above all from MEPs about the British prime minister trying to 'blackmail' Europe or inflict 'self-mutilation' on it is absurd. London and Brussels need to redefine their relations with each other. … New negotiations on concrete new forms of coexistence in Europe will start at the very earliest after a British referendum. But many things can be rearranged in the meantime. The goal must be a 'better EU' (Donald Tusk). But the Brussels elites should avoid a tactic many strategists are already contemplating: 'window dressing', or the idea of fobbing the British head of government off with a handful of minor adjustments that he can blow up into a huge success at home. That would be to underestimate Cameron and miss the chance of a catharsis for the EU."

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Time to redefine British-European relations

In the debate over a Brexit the liberal daily La Libre Belgique also sees a chance to put relations between Britain and the EU on a new footing: "No one in the Union is envisaging the prospect of a Brexit with equanimity. To help David Cameron win his risky gamble, the other member states and the European institutions will have to demonstrate a combination of firmness, flexibility, and creativity. ... The occupant of 10 Downing Street must be able to sell to his population the idea that the EU listens when he talks, without allowing the concessions that are made to him to compromise the European project in any way. A nice conundrum. But the next two years will also provide an opportunity to redefine the complex relations between the UK and its European partners."

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

See Brexit option as a chance

The planned EU referendum in the UK is an opportunity to introduce vital reforms in the EU, the liberal daily Sydsvenskan observes: "The euro crisis has strengthened hostility towards Brussels. Even after the economic crisis had subsided many countries were forced into radical austerity in a bid to get their economies back on track. Unemployment within the EU is at 11.2 percent. That's 24 million people without jobs. Boosting economic growth is therefore the main precondition for overcoming the current crisis of confidence. … The EU is a union for peace, stability and prosperity. To restore confidence we must fulfil these demands. … The threat of a Brexit must therefore be exploited to maximum effect."