Foreign Secretary William Hague sets out plan for Britain to claw back powers from the European Union
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 23 October 2012
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.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...