Wednesday

19th Jun 2019

UK referendum vote highlights anti-EU feeling

British MPs have voted against a referendum on EU membership. But Prime Minister David Cameron indicated he will try to claw back EU powers in an upcoming review of the Treaty.

Four hundred and eighty three deputies voted No and 111 voted Yes on Monday (24 October) on holding a referendum on leaving the EU.

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The vote highlighted the strength of anti-EU feeling in the ruling centre-right Conservative Party - Tory member David Nuttal proposed the idea and 81 Tory MPs voted Yes or abstained despite threats they would lose government posts.

"The tentacles of the European Union intrude into ever more areas of our national life ... We have increasingly become run by Europe," Nuttal told parliament in the preceding debate.

Cameron's defence of EU membership was also based on a eurosceptic discourse of national interest.

The Prime Minister said if the eurozone falls apart it would harm UK exporters and banks: "When your neighbour's house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help put out the flames, not least to stop them reaching your own house."

He noted that when the EU last changed its treaty in December - to create the European Stability Mechanism, a permanent rescue fund - the UK negotiated to stay out of EU bail-outs from 2013 and to take no part in the second Greek aid package in order to save money.

Cameron also indicated he will use an upcoming treaty change - to create joint economic governance in the eurozone - to take back EU powers.

"I support your [pro-referendum Tories'] aims. Like you, I want to see fundamental reform. Like you, I want to re-fashion our membership of the EU so that it better serves our nation’s interests. The time for reform is coming," he said. "We do not yet know how much of a treaty change will be proposed by the Germans and others, or how extensive it will be. The pledge I can make is that we will use that opportunity to further the national interest."

Conservatives have in the past said they want to take back EU powers on employment and social legislation.

In any case, Cameron's pledge will come as unwelcome news to fellow EU leaders who are keen to tweak the treaty without opening a Pandora's Box of 27 countries calling for non-euro-crisis-related changes in an intergovernmental conference.

Foreign minister William Hague reinforced Cameron's promise.

"We will use future opportunities to bring further powers back to the United Kingdom - to repatriate powers to the United Kingdom in those areas where we believe European integration has gone too far," he said.

Cameron faces tricky EU vote on Monday

British Prime Minister David Cameron has so far managed to keep his party’s tortured relationship with the EU in the background but a motion for EU referendum on Monday looks set to change this.

Sarkozy tells Cameron to 'shut up' on eurozone

Sharp tensions between Paris and London flared up on Sunday amid crisis talks on the eurozone, as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France hit out at British criticisms of the single currency.

Britain wants labour law opt-out in return for treaty change

British Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to have a "constructive" look at an upcoming treaty change German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for, but in return, he wants a reinforced British opt-out from EU labour laws.

EU commission sets up Brexit unit

The commission has appointed a special team for relations with the UK in the run-up to its in/out referendum.

Opinion

David Cameron’s Europe Problem

Cameron's position on Europe seems ever more the more convoluted, argues Mark Dawson, with the UK keen to benefit from a becalmed EU economy but unwilling to make sacrifices on its behalf when times get tough.

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The new far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) political group fails to muster enough support among other eurosceptics to become a heavyweight in the European Parliament. But with 73 MEPs, from nine EU states, it managed to secure the fifth spot.

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