UK foreign minister favours leaving EU if no reforms
Deep reforms on how the EU operates and is governed are needed if the UK is to remain a member of the Union, Britain's new foreign minister has said.
Tory minister Philip Hammond, who was appointed to his new role last week, told the BBC in an interview on Sunday (20 July) that “the status quo is not an acceptable way to run Europe in the future”.
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He said he stood by his answer given in an interview last year that if he had to choose now, he would vote for withdrawal from the EU. "I haven't changed my mind", he said.
Seen as more anti-EU than his predecessor William Hague, Hammond said he wants to renegotiate Britain’s relations in the run-up to a promised in-out referendum in the second half of 2017.
The referendum to withdraw from the EU is set to take place should the David Cameron’s Conservatives secure a victory in next year’s general election.
The former businessman and Oxford graduate said if the EU refuses to negotiate or to change then the British would cast their vote to scrap Union membership.
"If the offer by our European partners is nothing – no change, no negotiation – I am pretty clear what the answer of the British people will be,” Hammond said.
Among his priorities is to repatriate certain powers from Brussels back to the UK and ensure the interests of non-eurozone states are protected in their relations with those using the euro.
"There has to be a repatriation of powers to the nation states, a recognition – and this is not just a British demand, it's a demand from other countries too – that what can be done at national level should be done at national level,” he said.
Hammond noted the UK benefits from the single market but said he would still vote to leave the EU rather than accept the status quo.
His appointment to the key post is being interpreted in Brussels as a sign of London's hardening stance on the EU.
Hammond had worked with Cameron in their failed efforts to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker from taking the EU helm as European commission president.
The 58-year old also spoke about withdrawing the UK from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Before taking up the foreign affairs portfolio in July, Hammond was the UK’s minister of defence from 2011. He was also a transport minister for a year in 2010.