Conservative Diary

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The Conservative Party's new Europe policy

Picture 7 Live blog of David Cameron press conference from 4pm. Highlights, not verbatim.

  • We cannot hold a referendum to stop Lisbon now that it has been ratified any more than we can stop the sun rising.
  • The betrayal of voters on a referendum on Lisbon by Labour and the Liberal Democrats is akin to the expenses scandal for undermining public trust in politics.
  • We will amend the 1972 European Treaty to give the British people a 'referendum lock' so that no further powers can be given away without their consent. This will be similar to what the Irish have.
  • I don't think a "made up referendum" would achieve anything and wouldn't bare scrutiny. Our manifesto will give us the mandate we need. It would be a waste of time and money to have a referendum which would have no practical effect.
  • A new United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill will be passed so that ultimate authority resides in Britain this is similar to what Germany already has.
  • Parliament will have to approve any use of the Lisbon Treaty's ratchet clauses that can take more powers by stealth.
  • We aim to renegotiate control of social and employment laws, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and criminal justice policy.
  • William Hague is beginning detailed work on the complex negotiations that lie ahead.
  • European integration must not be a one way street. We aim to establish the principle that powers can be returned to nation states as well as given up.
  • I know that some people want us to go further but Britain is facing the most serious crisis in the public finances. Addressing that will be a Conservative government's top priority.
  • I say to our European partners that we do not plan to sabotage the EU with these renegotiations but to put Britain's place in Europe on a proper basis that can command the confidence of the British people.
  • People were told that they were joining a Common Market, but they joined a European Union. The new Conservative policy is a credible policy that voters who have been treated badly can believe in.

Here is a PDF of Cameron's remarks.

During questions Cameron says he will use accession negotiations and budget reviews to press his negotiating demands but rejects 'a six month war' over Europe in which he attempts to achieve everything all at once.

Before the press conference begins at 4pm I have just received briefings from Tory MPs who have just attended the special parliamentary meeting with David Cameron. This is what I have learnt:

  • There'll be no referenda on Lisbon (we knew that), nor a referendum to achieve a mandate for a wider renegotiation (we suspected that and now know it for definite).
  • If elected to government David Cameron will seek to repatriate powers on 'fundamental rights', social and employment law and on criminal justice policy. 
  • There might be a referendum if Europe does not co-operate with renegotiations but no mechanisms were detailed as to how repatriations would be achieved.
  • There will be a British Sovereignty Act to stop further transfer of powers and a promise to put all future Treaties to referenda will be enshrined in an amendment to the 1972 European Act.
  • Apparently the Tory whips and key frontbenchers were coordinating applause for Cameron.


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