Foreign Secretary William Hague sets out plan for Britain to claw back powers from the European Union

 

The Conservatives today began the process of trying to claw back powers to Britain from the European Union in another step towards a referendum on the terms of the UK’s membership.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, announced that the balance of power between London and  Brussels in 32 policy areas will be reviewed to see “what that means for Britain and our national interest.” The first six areas will be the single market; taxation; animal welfare and food safety; health; overseas aid and foreign  policy.

Although Eurosceptic Conservative MPs hope the review will pave the way for some powers to be handed back to Britain, early progress looks unlikely. Mr Hague admitted the exercise would not be completed before the autumn of 2014, adding: “The review will not produce specific policy recommendations.”

The Liberal Democrats are happy for a decision-making “audit” to take place but blocked the idea of drawing up a shopping list of powers to be repatriated.  They believe such demands would be dismissed by other EU members.

Instead, the Tories’ demands are expected to feature in the party’s manifesto at the 2015 election. They would form the basis of a “new settlement” with Europe David Cameron would seek if his party won a majority.  The demands would be tabled during discussions on a new EU treaty to entrench fiscal union among the 17 eurozone members, with the results of Britain’s renegotiation put to the country in a referendum.

Speaking in Berlin today, Mr Hague was at odds with his German hosts, who want closer integration. The Foreign Secretary said: “The eurozone countries must do what they must to resolve the crisis, but the way forward for the EU as a whole is not more centralization and uniformity but of flexibility and variable geometry…..There are obvious issues for countries not in the eurozone, for whom it will never be acceptable to have a situation in which the eurozone acts as a bloc in a way that determines the outcomes before the others have even met.”

But Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, told the  same conference the 27-nation EU, not just the 17-strong eurozone,  must deepen its co-operation. ”It is well known that diamonds are only formed under great pressure. And apparently good political solutions also need extreme pressure,” he said. “The pressure stemming from the current problems must now be put to use.“

Britain is seen as the main stumbling block to a deal on the EU budget for 2014-20 at a crucial summit next month. Mr Cameron will argue for a real terms freeze, limiting spending to about Euros 900bn over the seven-year period, but Germany is prepared to allow the ceiling to rise to about Euros 956bn. The European Commission wants to spend more than Euros 1 trillion.

At today’s Cabinet meeting, Nick Clegg backed Mr Cameron’s stance, saying the Government should stand up for the British taxpayer. At a time when national governments were tightening their belts, the EU should not be seeking an above-inflation budget increase, he said.

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence