Wednesday

22nd May 2019

UK seeks Nordic support on EU reform

  • George Osborne is hoping to win support for the UK's EU reform plans from its Scandinavian neighbours. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

UK finance minister George Osborne will kick off his government’s bid to reform its EU membership terms on a tour of Sweden and Denmark on Monday (24 August), promising that the UK’s reform agenda will also benefit them.

Osborne, who is PM David Cameron’s closest ally in government and a likely replacement when the prime minister steps down ahead of the next general election in 2020, will meet with Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven and Denmark’s premier Lars Loekke Rasmussen, as well as foreign and finance ministers.

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He also met with Finland’s finance minister Alexander Stubb on Sunday.

Osborne will tell counterparts the UK hopes to “reform the EU so its works for all its citizens,” according to a statement released by the treasury office.

“We are determined to deliver a new settlement for Europe that works for everyone within it", he will say.

Having claimed an election victory in May which gave his Conservative party an outright majority, Cameron swiftly announced plans to hold an in/out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.

At an EU summit in June, he set out a list of demands, including guarantees that decision-making on the EU’s single market will not be dominated by the 19 eurozone countries; curbs on access to welfare benefits for EU migrants; and an opt-out from the preamble to EU treaties which talks of moving towards “ever closer Union”.

Like the UK, Sweden and Denmark are outside the eurozone and have no plans to join the currency bloc any time soon.

Both countries are also viewed as traditional allies of the UK in European affairs, being more sceptical of European integration, and voting with the UK on EU budget reform.

Meanwhile, the domestic battle over the UK’s EU status will begin in earnest next month.

The No campaign - likely to be dominated by eurosceptic Conservatives and Ukip - is expected to formally launch in the coming weeks, having amassed a war chest of over £7 million (€9 million), mainly from Conservative donors.

The group is likely to be led by Matthew Elliott, a former aide to Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope.

Elliott previously ran eurosceptic organisations such as Business for Britain and the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The government’s EU referendum bill will also face the report stage in the UK parliament this autumn, where it is likely to be amended by both the government and opposition parties.

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