Britain and other European countries should be given a new “red card” system enabling them to veto any unwelcome legislation from Brussels, the Foreign Secretary said.
William Hague argued that the move would boost the democratic accountability of the national parliaments in the EU’s 27 member states.
His call came in a speech in Germany to a foreign policy think tank. It was the Government’s first practical suggestion for clawing power back from Brussels since David Cameron announced plans to hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.
The proposal would be an extension of a “yellow card” system already in place under which parliaments can demand that a proposed law is reconsidered by the European Commission. The red card would go further by blocking legislation altogether.
Mr Hague said it was time “to make the EU more democratically responsive” and argued: “Trust in the institutions is at an all-time low. The EU is facing a crisis of legitimacy.”
Describing the frustration many Britons feel about Europe, he said: “Too often, the British people feel Europe is something that happens to them, not something they have enough of a say over.”
It was crucial, he said, to increase the role of individual members states in EU decision-making.
“Ultimately it is national governments and national parliaments that are accountable to our electorates. They are the democratic levers voters know how to pull,” Mr Hague said.
The Foreign Secretary is confident of securing backing for his proposals from other northern European countries, including Germany.
He said the Prime Minister would campaign with “all his heart and soul” for reform.