Boris Johnson adds to Tory EU referendum pressure on PM


Ed Miliband challenges David Cameron over Europe policy

David Cameron has said he would fight for the UK national interest in any EU Treaty talks after being pressed on the issue by his own MPs at question time.

The prime minister said: "The more eurozone countries ask for, the more we will ask for in return", including safeguards about the financial sector.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the UK had been "left on the sidelines".

After the exchanges, London Mayor Boris Johnson called for a referendum if the UK was asked to approve a new treaty.

Conservative Mr Johnson said the UK should oppose any change which created a "very dominant economic government" across Europe.

"If Britain was asked to sign up to such a thing within the 27 (all the members of the EU), it would be right to veto it and if we felt unable to veto it, I certainly think that it should be put to a referendum," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One.

However, he said the government could not "reasonably" have a referendum if the new arrangements were confined to the 17 eurozone countries only.


It was once said that the five most frightening words a politician could hear were "Michael Crick is in reception".

There's a new festive version of that for David Cameron: "Boris Johnson's on the radio".

The Mayor of London popped up to make a characteristically eloquent contribution on saving the eurozone. Its survival is crucial for the UK economy and particularly the City of London investors, bankers, accountants and lawyers he represents.

But he is worried about a democratic deficit. He said the UK should either veto major treaty changes that would create a fiscal union within the eurozone or hold a referendum.

The former is very unlikely, given that the global economy is teetering on the edge. The latter is equally unlikely, as far as the prime minister sees it.

He said there was a danger that saving the euro might be a case of "saving the cancer, not the patient".

And Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson told The Spectator magazine that if there was a new eurozone bloc created "there will have to be" a referendum "because the pressure would build up".

Earlier, Downing Street said any treaty signed by the UK "will need to go through Parliament". It has said that a referendum will not be necessary because the proposed changes would not involve a big shift in power from London to Brussels.

Asked if Mr Paterson's comments made his position untenable, the prime minister's spokesman said no - because the government had a "clear policy" that only treaties which transferred power would result in a referendum.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg backed up Mr Cameron, saying the position on holding a referendum was clear.

"Of course there should be a referendum if we as a country were to surrender new powers to the European Union," he said.

"But there's no question of us doing that now because the new powers that will be surrended by anyone will be within the eurozone and of course we are not a members of the eurozone so the question simply does not arise"

In a joint letter on Wednesday, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel called for the 17 eurozone countries to have common corporation and financial transaction taxes. They want a new treaty in place by March.

The government opposes any transactions tax that applies to the City of London but the PM's spokesman said, if it was limited to the 17 eurozone countries: "It certainly doesn't seem obvious to me that that is a threat to the City of London."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron faced questions from a stream of Conservative MPs who attacked any further integration in Europe.

John Baron said the PM should seize what he said was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to oppose further political union, while Andrew Tyrie warned against the risk of "a calculated assault" by the eurozone against the UK's position as Europe's leading financial centre.

Andrew Rosindell urged the PM to "show bulldog spirit" in a "resolute and uncompromising defence of British national interests".

If all 27 EU members were asked to sign a new treaty, Mr Cameron said the UK would expect to "get a price" in return. Should the members of the eurozone decide to pursue agreement on their own, the PM said the UK would still be able to exert "some leverage".

He said he would seek specific safeguards to give the UK "more power and control" in areas such as the single market and financial regulation.

"The more the countries in the eurozone ask for, the more we will ask for in return," he told MPs.

"The British national interest absolutely means that we need to help resolve this crisis in the eurozone... resolving this crisis is about jobs, growth, business and investment right here in the UK. At the same time we must seek safeguards for Britain."

'A handbagging'

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prime minister had promised to bring powers back to the UK in order "to quell a rebellion" by his backbenchers, but now could not name a single area where this might happen.

"Six weeks ago he was promising his backbenchers a handbagging for Europe now he is just reduced to hand-wringing. That is the reality for this prime minister.

"The problem for Britain is at the most important European summit for a generation, which matters hugely for families and businesses up and down the country, the prime minister is simply left on the sidelines."

Start Quote

If he lets this go on too long without there being a referendum it will wreck and destroy his government”

End Quote Nigel Farage UK Independence Party

More than 80 Tory MPs defied the government last month and called for a referendum on the UK's membership.

Chris Heaton-Harris, founder of the Fresh Start group of MPs seeking reform of UK-EU relations rather than outright withdrawal, told the Daily Politics Mr Cameron should not do anything to delay a speedy solution to the eurozone crisis.

"I'm not convinced it (the summit) is going to be as bad as lots of media commentators are making out," he said. "I think there's a very good chance the Germans and the French will be helping us help them."

But Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU, told the BBC he did not believe the prime minister as his "policy on Europe keeps changing".

"If there is a new treaty and he signs up to it, it is clear it will have implications for us and there should be a referendum. If there is not a referendum, then the implications are not just a split within the Conservative Party but an increasing number of voters coming to UKIP."

He added: "If he lets this go on too long without there being a referendum it will wreck and destroy his government."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    The overwhelming factor in preserving British interests is the survival of the Euro. Eurozone fiscal union with re-introduction of old currencies of member states in tandem with the use of the Euro will provide a micro-economic barometer that will provide intense focus on diverging performances and structurally significantly 'beef up' the 'Euro club'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Let's just stop all the bickering, moaning, gnashing of teeth etc. and just get on with it! We are in the EU - for better or for worse- so our leaders should get their heads down and start working like hell to get the best out of our membership that they can. No posturing, no point-scoring, no being macho or petulant, just get working for the good of all of us in the UK, now!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    lets stay on the fringes of EU - most of us have problems being british, let alone european... and i think there may well be an advantage in being close to EU but not a part of it - acting as importer/exporter for the EU to rest of the world would have tax breaks for all concerned.
    And at the end of the day, Mammon will win out

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    128. "His wife's father got £3m from EU"

    UK farmers need subsidies, Baldrick's turnip soup must be kept in production ready for the big day. The referendum is nigh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Just keeping our existing powers would be the challenge now. EZ countries have been backed into a corner and so are likely to be fighting harder. Cameron and co will therefore find it hard to protect what we already have, let alnoe try and grab power back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    oh dear what a mess the Tories have gotten themselves into. Cameron knows he needs to work like an actual member of the EU to safeguard our interests with our biggest trading partners. But his apeasement to the ring wing nutters in his party leave him hopelessly unable to represent our country in europe. The fat lady is clearing her throat Dave, time to move along

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    The EU discussion needs to be sorted, once and for all, referendum please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I think DC would do better if he kept his mouth in gear with his brain he will have an option to sign or not if he does not the results will be catastrophic for the UK so he will have to decide country or party it seems in this instance he cannot satisfy both

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I am sick and tired (like many I suspect) of being represented by this incompetent buffoon on the world stage.
    He has no idea how to debate with anyone who has an opposing view and can only bluster and primp and preen in the limelight.
    His stance will(thankfully) lead to many other nations within the EU calling for the UK to be thrown out as they refuse to co-operate. Give us a referendum now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    The Conservatives took us in, Labour kept us there and you couldn't get a more pro-European party than the Liberal Democrats.

    So forget all this posturing from the back-bench politicians, the UK will never leave the EU while the main parties are in government and while we are in we should abide by the 27 member state consensus.

    UKIP is your only hope. Ha ha ha ha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Whether or not the UK should “grab back” legal powers previously given to the EU is pure sophistry. There was never any need for the UK to join the EU in the first place and we can leave it whenever we wish by not paying its dues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I have a pretty good idea what the Lib Dems want and the Conservatives but where are Labour with Europe? I haven't a clue from what I read or hear on TV, except of course that they signed up to everything that was shoved under their noses when in power. They did the same thing with the USA from what's been reported about the extradition treaty! I agreed to Europe as a trading group not as a state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    The ancestoral comforts of Westminster is where the British belong not Eurocrat land!

    Don't think that Dave will come back with anything at all. It is perfectly clear that Murkozy's are all sewn up, hand in glove, the awkward Englishman relegated to the back of the line up

    Not even in Euro, what is he doing here thinks M. Sarkozy. They thought they won the war whispers Angela, grinning!

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Why is it that people believe what the Sun, Daily mail and tories minority right wing xenophobia. We do get money back from the EU not just put into it, there are jobs linked with the EU and there is trade. For those that say the EU is corrupt, let's look at things closer to home, Liam Fox... what about all the expense fiddles and all them money they take from corporations/lobbyists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Some people should just grow up period!
    The UK can no longer stand alone despite the frothing and wishful thinking of pouty Colonel Blimps and a sycophantic party leader pretending to be all right wing and macho to ingratiate himself with a disillusioned voter base.

    It is not impressive...displaying utter cretinism and the rabid delusion of self grandeur is not a solution...just pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    And so we move in to the end game, not of the Euro but of the Euro Federalist plan. Don;t ask the people, claim urgency that the politicians have created now requires riding rough shod over democratic accountability. It would appear the only recourse now is the streets, so ends the West's experiement with democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    There was no need to say anything Ken. We already know where you stand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I find it amazing that time and time again the British public are manipulated into supporting measures deterimental to themselves.

    We do need better financial regulation and any discussions with our European neighbours should be to protect Britain as a whole, not just a sector of it. Assisting the EU in sorting this out is the right thing to do, our own commercial existence depends on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    you all elected the mps that put cameron in charge. your just going to have to put up with it till next election where will we probabl get eds brother as PM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Cameron is absolutely the wrong person to solve this problem, his arrogance and grasp of economic policy make him entirely unacceptable to the EU. This coupled with his proven litany of lies (called spin in his world) and his total ignorance of how real people live makes him a (bad) joke on the EU stage and all he can do is bluster and shout. He has destroyed the UK economy - now for the EU.


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