Sunday

16th May 2021

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us