Conservative Diary

« Pickles's integration showpiece - a Curry College for British workers | Main | You can be concerned about immigration without being an immigrant basher. You can support NHS reform without wanting to "slash health"... »

Will Clegg let Cameron renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels?

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter.

OSBORNE BLUE TIE George Osborne believes that the €urozone might be moving towards much greater integration of fiscal policy. Yesterday's emergency agreement for Greece, Ireland and Portugal and its talk of a Marshall Plan for the struggling economies can only have reinforced his belief*. This is what he told yesterday's FT (£):

“I think we have to accept that greater eurozone integration is necessary to make the single currency work and that is very much in our national interest... We should be prepared to let that happen.”

Reflecting on this development David Rennie of The Economist summarises the government's new position on the EU (in my view pretty accurately):

"(a) a big leap towards fiscal union is the only way of saving the single currency;

(b) Britain has a strong interest in the survival of the single currency;

(c) Britain must play no part in bailing out the single currency and will stand aloof from fiscal integration;

thus (d) our national interest now lies in allowing Europe to divide into markedly different zones of integration, with us on the outside."

Hannan Dan DP The big question for Eurosceptics is whether Britain will take this potentially historic oppportunity to reshape its own relationship with Europe or whether we'll simply allow the 'fast lane nations' to have the deeper arrangements they want without giving us some Treaty changes in return. Over at The Telegraph Dan Hannan MEP has drawn up a shopping list of the demands that the UK should be making:

"We should demand the return of a series of competences, especially in fields where EU jurisdiction is compromising our ability to pursue a domestic growth strategy. We should withdraw from Brussels rules on employment law, social policy, agriculture and fisheries, regionalism, industrial policy and justice and home affairs. We should, in other words, aim for a Swiss-style amplified free trade agreement, which would release me from my present employment."

Nick Clegg probably had the likes of Dan Hannan on his mind yesterday when he warned that “anything now which suggests we are somehow trying to distance ourselves from [the EU] would in the long-run be economically self-defeating." (See FT (£) report).

CASH WILLIAM On this morning's Today programme Bill Cash is alive to the danger of Clegg blocking boldness. He described what was now happening in the EU as "probably as big" as Maastricht and perhaps bigger. Without renegotiating our relationship with the EU, Britain would - he said - be locked into existing Treaties and would be pulled along by the rest of an even more powerful EU "aircraft carrier". (Listen to Bill Cash's interview).

David Cameron has said that the €urozone crisis presents "opportunities" for Britain to renegotiate our relationship with Europe. At Wednesday's meeting of the 1922 Committee he said that he was "sharpening his pencil" in preparation for such negotiations. The hopes of the assembled MPs were raised. Moments later, however, the PM said that any renegotiations would have to be agreed with the Liberal Democrats. Yes, Britain's most pro-EU party. Hopes were dashed.

My guess is that unless Tory MPs organise themselves Britain will get little from any renegotiations. Perhaps our budget rebate will be protected and there'll be some talk of CAP reform. It won't be anything like Hannan, Cash & Co hope for.


* Andrew Lilico rightly worries aloud that the EU's talk of using "structural funds on competitiveness and growth, job creation and training" to "relaunch the Greek economy" could mean Britain is participating directly in Europe's second Greek bailout unless these are new structural funds.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.