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UK’s "special status" blow to European Union but not devastating

February 20, 17:10 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© AP Photo/Frank Augstein

MOSCOW, February 20. /TASS/. The deal on the "special status" of the United Kingdom in the European Union which Prime Minister David Cameron described as "an historic moment for Britain" is not sensational and only reinforces the existing state of affairs, Russian experts say. In some way, of course, this is a bad example for other EU member countries that can now demand special treatment as well. For Cameron, however, this is first of all a trump card in domestic political struggle before the referendum on UK’s membership in EU which Cameron proposed to hold on June 23.

At last night’s EU summit in Brussels the British prime minister managed to secure the "special status" for UK in the European Union despite the Union’s resistance. "Britain will never become part of a European superstate," Cameron said. One of his key demands was that EU provides guarantees UK will not lose its national sovereignty. The prime minister said the British parliament will enjoy more independence from Brussels in accordance with the deal. Cameron said that power will be returned to the British parliament and other national parliaments citing the system of "red cards" as an example of more independence. The system will allow British MPs to band together with other parliaments in member states to block unwanted legislation if the move is supported by 55% of national EU parliaments.

The deal on EU migrant welfare payments in UK is considered as Cameron’s main victory. From now on, Britain may decide to limit in-work benefits for EU migrants during their first four years in the country. The so-called "emergency brake" can be applied but must be released within seven years.

The issue of payments to children of migrants has also been agreed. They will be calculated on the basis of rates in a migrant’s home country not of much higher British rates.

The British prime minister confirmed that UK will never become part of the Eurozone. The pound will be protected, he said. Cameron is confident that the deal on UK’s "special status" in EU is so favorable that the British will no longer want to exit the European Union.

"This is not defeat of EU but rather a reinforcement of the existing state of affairs," political analyst and editor-in-chief of "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine Fyodor Lukyanov said. "What was the point of these talks? This is a purely political act. Britain’s exit from EU will be very unfavorable, even dangerous, for the Union. That is why both sides at the talks had to make an impression that some really important agreements were reached. So that Brussels could say that it adhered to main principles but demonstrated flexibility on some issues. At the same time, Cameron could say that he won an historic victory, and Britain can now stay in EU. That was the whole point of this political theatre," the expert added.

However, Lukyanov warns that even UK votes in the referendum to stay in EU, negative consequence for the Union may emerge. "The fact that one of the countries firmly posed a question and made others hold talks on ‘special status’ clearly violates the principle that everyone is allegedly equal in EU. It is not ruled out that other countries will follow suit, especially on the issue of refugees. They will ask: why Britain can do this, and we can’t? why an exception was made for them on social issues, and not for us?" the expert said.

Statements that Britain will not become part of European superstate and will not lose its sovereign rights, are no longer relevant, he added. "There will not be a superstate. This idea that emerged at the start of the 2000s has already died, and everyone knows that. So, in this case, this is more of a statement of fact rather than something new," Lukyanov concluded.

Professor at the Higher School of Economics Maxim Bratersky also did not see anything surprising in the deal. "The British always stood against centralization and kept their national currency. In fact, in some sense they already upheld their political sovereignty a long time ago," Bratersky told TASS. The fact that this issue is very important for domestic politics may serve as a trump card for Cameron in the framework of the upcoming referendum on UK’s membership in EU, the expert went on.

The EU, in turn, "is already shaken on the matter of migration," Bratesrky said. "There are disagreements on currency issues, on economy. I don’t think that this is the last nail in EU’s coffin. The project is just transforming," he concluded.

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