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 170.

    With "Friends" like DC The Euro is Doomed. It is one thing for the Tories to put the interests of the City ahead of the British public, but I don't think MerCozy will buy them apples.

    DC should be offering a helping hand. Does he not see how serious this crisis is.

    The Capitalist financial model is broken, protecting the city won't fix it

    Soup anyone

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    141.BBC iD
    UKIP is your only hope. Ha ha ha ha.
    Besides shouting, usually offensive insults directed at MEP's, I have not read or heard anything concrete Farage says or thinks that gives me even a hint of an impression that he is capable of leading a country, let alone function efficently on a world stage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Fears/phobias of most things are common knowledge and it's easy for politicians & media moguls to twist things a bit to suit their own biased objectives.
    Often, even the smallest mistake,error, incompetance (human nature/we are NOT a perfect species, anyone!!) is blown up into relative nuclear fallout.
    At this moment in time, politicians & other vested interests are playing fear game to the full

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    As long as London avoids the financial levy that Germany and France want to invoke, we should be ok. Then we need to focus on developing new export markets. 50% of our current exports are to Europe; a market expected to stagnate for the next 5 years. That's the real problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I don't believe that Britian can remain on the outskirts of Europe any longer.
    We have survived hitherto - but the situation has changed and to be honest, I think we would be better off economically by joining the Euro.
    The Eurozone will not fail (this is pure fiction) because the Germans and French will not allow it - so why not join the club?
    It's no good Britain being on the periphery now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    131. BigJim1
    'He has destroyed the UK economy'
    I think the UK economy was destroyed a long time before Cameron came to power - lets not give him any credit for actually acheiving anything.

    'now for the EU.'
    They seem to be doing a fine job on their own or is the Eurozone crisis a figment of peoples imagination?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    He's going to sell us out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Most people want to see the EU run on sound, open principles and they can do that by a) producing an Annual Audit and b) realising that we ALL have our special needs and interests. It is not good enough to think that ONE size (the Franco/ German size ) fits all.
    I want good European ideas but NOT their dud ones....and all OUR politicians, including Clarke, need to grasp that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    The British public were subjected to countless lies by the previous government which ultimately lead to its downfall. Now we hear The Prime Minister making idle threats and Mr Clarke admitting that we should be ruled from Brussels.It is time for the people of this country to have their say and settle this issue once and for all. We need a referendum on the issue of remaining an EU member.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Reading the nationalistic comments contained on this site makes me realise that most Britons have no idea just how parlous a financial situation they are in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    For the younger people in this forum you may wish to reflect that those of us can remember a time when Britain was a global trading nation, right up to the 1960's, when we decided to dump the rest of the World and play with the EU experiment. Now we have our fingers burnt. It is 1938 all over again. In 1938 people also said we should join the new Europe and not stand up for Great Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Oh Boy, what a hole that clown Cameron has dug himself into!
    He wants to sort out the Euro but to keep his own party happy by stubbornly demanding concessions.
    The Euro countries are not going to want to listen to the UK's squabbles at this time, so all he will achieve is to make the UK even more hated in Europe than we already are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    14 Gary Melville
    Perhaps the previous two prime ministers have not called an election on EU membership precisely because the know that the majority are too dumb to know why remaining within the European union is in their best interests...

    The politicians think carbon & population reduction are in our best interest will you be the first to give up your car and your freedom to have children?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Try reading something other than the Mirror. We do not get back very much thanks to Blair and Brown!
    Are we really all that bothered about losing trade in German, French, Italian and Spanish cars? Without the EU we might get our motoring industry back and trade with EVERYWHERE else in the world?

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Every time Dave appears on the Telly I have to leave the room. There is something about him that upsets me! I think it is the public school manner, the arrogance, the assumed superiority, the menace and horror of it all! There are so many of these people in government now! It is quite terrible to watch!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Go Dave! Fight for our right to eat crooked bananas!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    We either want to be part of the federal europe/euro project or we don't.
    I would have thought the sentiment of the great majority of Brits outside the 'we know best' Westminster bubble was obvious.
    We need to examine very critically the German plan for the eurozone. Adopting policies because of desperation and bullying by the strongest is not necessarily the way forward, for anybody.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    We have all the worst and none of the good the EU offers, we urgently need EU federal law, as an innocent family mortally afected by the nonsense indecent images laws here, naturist friends in Holland are agast that one is jailed and life ruined here for having family videos depicting one's and others' children in the naturist environment. UK the dumping ground of the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Ignore the likes of Ken & just get us out, 'Dave'.
    If anyone had any doubt that the EU is little more than a Franco-German club with a few provinces added on, this has been dispelled lately, with Sarkel/Merkozy holding one meeting after another while presuming to speak for the whole Eurozone. If you're Dutch, Finnish etc, you must be wondering when you elected these new leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    To be honest - the way things are going I could not rule out the UK joining the Eurozone and adopting the Euro!
    As the old saying goes - "if you can't beat them, join them."
    The UK is very weak now compared to what it was even as much as 10 years ago and certainly in the last 3 years we have dropped like a stone - yet Germany, France, Netherlands and others have strong economies.


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