UK & World News

  • 16 July 2014, 13:41

Fallon: Britain Is Now A Eurosceptic Country

Britain is a Eurosceptic country now, the new Defence Secretary has claimed, marking a significant hardening of the Conservatives' stance on Europe.

Michael Fallon pledged the Government would seek to strike a new deal with the European Union and that it was then right for the people to have their say on membership for the first time in 40 years.

Mr Fallon was promoted to Defence Secretary in Tuesday's reshuffle when Philip Hammond was moved to the Foreign Office.

Both are notable Eurosceptics and their appointments signalled a shifting of position ahead of the General Election, in an attempt to curtail the surge of UKIP seen at the European elections.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Fallon said: "I think the whole country is pretty Eurosceptic now.

"You saw the European elections, we don't want to see Europe going on as it has been.

"We all now want reform of Europe, a different kind of Europe and that is the agenda that's going to be pursued now.

"To get those reforms and then to give people a choice, which they haven't had since 1975, as to whether to continue to be members or not."

His comments echo those made by Mr Hammond following his appointment on Tuesday.

It comes as David Cameron prepares to travel to Brussels to attempt to secure a top economic portfolio for Britain on the European Commission.

Mr Cameron announced Britain's commissioner would be Lord Hill of Oareford, former leader of the House of Lords but a relative unknown.

The new head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, was said to have had to search for his name on Google to find out who he was.

Mr Cameron fiercely opposed the appointment of Mr Juncker, who is viewed as a Brussels insider and arch-federalist, because of fears it would make it harder for Britain to win back powers from Europe.

He must now battle to secure a good post for Lord Hill, a former businessman and education minister, on Mr Juncker's council in a meeting with other foreign leaders.

The Prime Minister denied Lord Hill was a "nobody" in Europe, saying: "In terms of the UK portfolio, our view about the importance of economic priorities to us hasn't changed and Lord Hill's nomination is fully consistent with that."

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, told German radio Lord Hill's nomination could be rejected by MEPs because he held "radical anti-European views" so could be seen a prejudiced.

Lord Hill has expressed his support for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU in the event of a further transfer of powers to Brussels, but it not widely viewed as a radical Eurosceptic.

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