UK Politics

Tory MPs set out demands for return of powers from EU

David Cameron
Image caption Mr Cameron says the UK needs to respond to changes happening in the rest of Europe

A group of Conservative MPs has given details of a "shopping list" of powers they want the UK to reclaim from Brussels as part of a "radically different relationship" with the EU.

Powers over justice, employment rules, energy and agriculture should be clawed back, the Fresh Start Group said.

It also raised the prospect of withholding funds for some EU schemes.

David Cameron said the UK must be part of the the EU but he was "committed" to changing how the relationship worked.

The Conservatives have said returning powers remains an aspiration once the immediate financial crisis in the eurozone has eased but the Lib Dems have warned against any showdown with Brussels over the issue.

The Fresh Start Group represents Conservative MPs such as Andrea Leadsom, George Eustice and Chris Heaton-Harris who want the UK to remain within the EU but say the prospect of closer economic and political integration in the eurozone in response to the debt crisis requires the UK to fundamentally reappraise its status within the EU.

The MPs are calling for:

  • A UK veto of EU financial services regulation
  • Far-reaching reform of the Common Agricultural Policy
  • Protection for Britain's fishing fleet and controls to prevent over-fishing
  • Opt-outs from "intolerable" social and labour market legislation
  • Earnings and skills limits for migrants entering the EU
  • Scrapping UK benefits for illegal migrants
  • Boycott of defence initiatives which duplicate Nato plans
  • Increases in EU budget to be limited

The MPs also raised the possibility of the UK withholding funds for EU development schemes if these were not reformed, to force a "meaningful negotiation" of budgetary priorities.

"Events in Europe mean that the way the EU operates is bound to change significantly," they said.

"Over the coming years, there will be a series of opportunities for the UK to take back power from Brussels. This is the perfect chance for us to negotiate a radically different relationship with the EU, one which properly serves Britain's interests.

"We believe strongly that the government must adopt an approach to these negotiations which is completely different from previous practice. There must be no more of Britain's traditional reserve - we must get the best deal for Britain and not worry about others' feelings.

"This is not the time for Whitehall's 'two key points' negotiating approach - we need a shopping list of requirements, which will enable ministers to secure the right package."

The Fresh Start document calls for any future new arrangement and balance of powers between the UK and Europe to be put to a referendum of the British people.

David Cameron has come under pressure from Tory MPs to spell out when a referendum on the UK's position in the EU might take place amid calls from many Conservatives for a straightforward "in-out" vote on the UK's future membership.

Asked about the report at a press conference in London with French President Francois Hollande, Mr Cameron said Europe was changing "very fast" and there should be scope "for different countries to have a different set of European relationships".

"I do think we need to make changes and I am committed over time to making those changes," he said.

However, he insisted the UK was "better off" inside the EU so that businesses could benefit from trade opportunities and could influence the rules of the single market.

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