By Dario Thuburn ,AFP
LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron is increasingly hawkish on Europe ahead of a key election battle, but his policies seem rudderless and could make an EU exit more likely, analysts said. As he tries to rally euroskeptics from his Conservative party and fight the rise of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), Cameron is resorting to what many observers describe as ��knee-jerk reactions.�� The focus for tensions on Europe is a Nov. 20 by-election where the UKIP’s lead over the Conservatives has many in government worried about more setbacks to come at the general election next year. The government’s new position on blocking migrants from other parts of Europe appears to contravene EU rules and its hard-line on the EU budget leaves little room for maneuver. Glaring contradictions between government ministers on hot-button issues like immigration have left analysts scratching their heads. ��There has been a complete loss of understanding about where the government’s position is on Europe over the past two weeks,�� said John Springford, a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, a think tank in Brussels and London. ��Cameron lacks a strategy, he is reacting haphazardly,�� said Iain Begg, a professor at the London School of Economics.
‘Brexit’ More Probable Cameron has agreed to hold an in-or-out referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017 if he wins the general election in May. He has promised to campaign ��heart and soul�� in favor of staying in a reformed European Union, but that vow has been looking increasingly frail since the UKIP won its first parliamentary seat in October. The British premier has also failed to outline both the precise EU reforms he envisages and what he will do if he does not achieve his demands. Begg said the loss of direction started with an ��ill-judged campaign�� by Cameron earlier this year to block Jean-Claude Juncker becoming head of the European Commission. ��Two conclusions can be drawn: first, that not enough effort is made to understand how the EU functions or to form alliances to head off potential trouble; and second, that there is too much of a tendency to shoot from the hip,�� Begg said in a report for the Chatham House think tank. He said this added up to ��a growing probability of a Brexit�� �X a term used for a British withdrawal from the European Union. Tensions with Brussels have come to a head over the 2.1 billion euro (US$2.6 billion) surcharge that Britain has been asked to pay for the EU budget by Dec. 1, causing howls of anger across the country’s political spectrum.