Sunday

23rd Jul 2017

UK opposition leader to avoid 'bust-up' on Europe

David Cameron, leader of the UK Conservative opposition, has abandoned talk of holding a referendum on the EU's latest treaty but has promised to seek repatriation of powers in key European Union policy areas should his party come to power next year.

In a speech as keenly watched in Brussels as among his own backbenchers, Mr Cameron said he would "not rush into some massive euro bust-up" and, in a pointed message to the most eurosceptic wing of the party - for whom Europe has long been a thoroughly divisive issue - he said he was not willing to "concoct a new pretext for a referendum."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • David Cameron doesn't want a "bust-up" on Europe (Photo: Ewan McIntosh)

Instead, he made a series of other promises including repatriation of social and employment legislation; a strengthened opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and preventing EU judges from extending European jurisdiction over UK criminal law any further than currently is the case.

He also pledged that a referendum will be held on any future EU treaty as well as before joining the euro while a United Kingdom sovereignty bill will be introduced to underline that "ultimate authority" lies with the UK parliament. British law-makers should also have the last say over what he called a 'ratchet' clause, under which member states may agree to abolish their vetoes in an area without the need for a new treaty.

"I believe these things can stop Britain's relationship with the EU from heading in the wrong direction," said Mr Cameron, who is tipped to become prime minister after a general election next spring.

He was galvanised into making his position on Europe clear after the Czech Republic earlier this week ratified the Lisbon Treaty, a move that will allow it to go into force next month.

While the state of ratification was still in flux, the British Conservative had been making noises about holding a referendum on the treaty but had not been clear about what they would do if the treaty was already part of law.

The Conservative leader said he believed he would be able to negotiate what he called the "return of the powers", but said he will do so "firmly, patiently and respectfully." He also gave himself the "lifetime of a parliament" to achieve his pledges. That would give him five years, taking him up to 2013, the year when the EU will be negotiating its new multi-annual budget.

Doable?

The speech was marked by a high degree of pragmatism designed to calm the most eurosceptic Conservatives and not rock the Brussels boat too much, but it is unclear how much will be achievable.

"It's hard to see how this would be possible without reopening the entire treaty negotiation process, and after the trouble they have had getting Lisbon through, there isn't the slightest chance of anyone in Brussels agreeing to that," said a comment piece in the anti-EU Daily Mail, referring to social and employment law and the rights charter pledge.

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok wrote in the UK's Independent newspaper that he did not believe Mr Cameron would be able to pass "even the very first step" of the process needed to bring about these changes.

"Any change in the relationship would formally require a modification of those treaties, which means that this would first have to be unanimously supported by all EU member states. We would then have to organise comprehensive renegotiation on the nature, scope and the modalities of these new EU reforms," he pointed out.

Although Mr Cameron was careful not to take an overtly abrasive line on the EU, his party's position has already drawn negative comments.

French Europe minister Pierre Lellouche told the Guardian newspaper that the plans were "pathetic."

"It's just very sad to see Britain, so important in Europe, just cutting itself out from the rest and disappearing from the radar map."

Correction - The article previously referred to Edward Heathcoat Amory, a political commentator for the Daily Mail, as a Conservative MP. Apologies for this confusion.

Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU

Lawmakers in Poland adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court, despite warnings from the EU that the move could trigger a sanction procedure over the rule of law.

EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions

EU and UK negotiators presented their Brexit positions to identify common grounds this week, but that was made difficult by the scarcity of UK position papers.

Opinion

Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive

Candidates from all political families should be presenting their vision on where the Union should be headed. European socialists want to keep the Spitzenkandidat procedure for future elections.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions

EU and UK negotiators presented their Brexit positions to identify common grounds this week, but that was made difficult by the scarcity of UK position papers.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary