David Cameron

Europe's Outsider

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Awkward pause: Angela Merkel and David Cameron's relationship has become increasingly distant.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Britain will hold a referendum on E.U. membership by the end of 2017.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Britain’s economy is the second-largest in the European Union.
    • David Cameron hopes to win major E.U. reforms on issues such as welfare tourism before the referendum.
    • He has been bolstered by a surprise victory in this month’s British elections.
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    Audio

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David Cameron is a unique figure in the European Union. No other politician feels such deep delight at playing the role of the outsider, despite being pro membership.

In 2009, the British prime minister made his Conservative Party withdraw from the center-right European People’s Party in the European Parliament and establish a euro-skeptical group.

In 2013, he shocked the rest of the European Union by announcing his intention to hold a referendum on the issue of Britain’s membership.

And at the E.U. summit in June 2014, Mr. Cameron insisted on a vote to confirm the appointment of the head of the European Commission so that he could officially deny Jean-Claude Juncker the vote of Britain, the bloc’s second-largest economy. Until then, heads of government were scrupulously concerned with ensuring unanimity when it came to selecting the commission’s top post.

Whoever thrusts his foot so often in front of his partners cannot expect any gestures of tenderness in the political arena.

Mr. Cameron certainly doesn’t have many friends left in Europe. The only ally standing beside him is Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán — a highly controversial figure. Even Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is ideologically close to Mr. Cameron with regard to political issues and economic policy, has taken up a demonstrative distance to the Briton on several occasions recently.

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