UK & World News

  • 16 January 2013, 9:19

Europe: Tory MPs Demand Return Of Powers

Tory MPs will today demand that David Cameron seizes back powers from Brussels, warning "the status quo is no longer an option".

A report called Manifesto for Change backed by Foreign Secretary William Hague calls for a "new and different relationship" with the European Union.

The Fresh Start group, which is said to have wide support in the party, has told the Government it "should not settle for anything less" than the complete repatriation of powers.

Mr Hague, one of the most senior Tories at the Cabinet table, has called the document "well-researched and well-considered" and suggested some of it could become party policy.

It piles more pressure on the Prime Minister ahead of his key speech on Britain and the the EU this Friday, where he is expected to set out how he plans to renegotiate the relationship.

Mr Cameron is due to meet Tory Cabinet ministers today to brief them on details of the long-awaited address, which has been moved forward.

He will reportedly tell ministers they can campaign for a British exit from the EU if he retains power and tables a referendum in the next parliament.

Downing Street appears confident that the public will vote to stay in the union if powers in a swathe of policy areas are returned to Britain.

But it is claimed the commitment to a referendum will only apply if the Tories win the next election outright and would not hold if another coalition was necessary.

Fresh Start, founded by George Eustice, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Heaton-Harris, will use the intense focus on Europe to launch its manifesto this morning.

It will demand the repatriation of key powers considered vital if the UK is to retain "national democratic accountability".

Proposals are set to include:

:: The repatriation of all social and employment law, such as the Working Time Directive;

:: An opt-out from all existing policing and criminal justice measures;

:: An "emergency brake" on any new legislation affecting financial services;

:: Stopping the European Parliament moving between Brussels and Strasbourg.

Other non-treaty changes that could save billions a year are identified, according to the Daily Telegraph, including reforming the EU budget for agricultural and fishing policy.

Mr Hague, who is carrying out an audit across Whitehall of all EU powers, wrote in the foreword: "It is a well-researched and well-considered document full of powerful ideas for Britain's future in Europe and, indeed, for Europe's future.

"Many of the proposals are already Government policy, some could well become future Government or Conservative Party policy and some may require further thought."

Mr Eustice, a former press secretary to Mr Cameron, said: "Although it would be a mistake for the Prime Minister to set out a detailed shopping list this far in advance of any negotiations, these proposals are intended to stimulate debate, to highlight those areas where change is required and also to help inform the Government's ongoing balance of competences review."

In his speech on Friday, Mr Cameron is expected to announce plans for a referendum on a new settlement with Brussels after the 2015 general election.

But he has already rejected calls for a straight immediate in/out referendum on British membership, which he said would present voters with a "false choice".

The Tory party as well as the coalition are deeply divided on the issue, and business leaders and the UK's international allies have warned against withdrawal.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned on Tuesday that uncertainty over Britain's membership could have a "chilling effect" on the economy by driving away investors and jobs.