UK Politics

William Hague 'being held back by Lib Dems' on Europe

Foreign Secretary William Hague
Image caption William Hague fought a eurosceptic general election campaign in 2001 as the then Conservative leader

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he would like more powers returned to the UK from Europe.

He suggested the UK could "get ahead" by being distant from the European Union in areas other than the euro.

But Mr Hague said the presence of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government meant he had not been able to do exactly as he wanted on Europe.

He told the Times: "It's an area we've had to compromise on in return for other compromises."

Mr Hague's comments come after some Conservative MPs accused Prime Minister David Cameron of listening too much to Deputy PM Nick Clegg's pro-Europe views.

Some 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum on EU membership, enough signatures to trigger consideration of a parliamentary debate on the issue.

And about 80 Tory MPs are currently preparing to discuss ways of pressing for a renegotiation of the UK's position.

On Monday, they are expected to attend the first meeting of a new umbrella group designed to air grievances over Europe and build a platform for influencing government policy.

The gathering is designed to create a focused strategy out of different Conservative concerns and demands for action, ranging from changes to EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice, the repatriation of powers to the UK and outright withdrawal from the EU.

Mr Hague, who fought a highly eurosceptic general election campaign in 2001 as the then Conservative leader, suggested to the Times that the UK might stand apart from the rest of Europe in areas other than the euro.

He said: "It's true of the euro, it could be true of more areas in future. In fact we may get ahead as a result of being outside."

The foreign secretary also expressed sympathy towards Tory Eurosceptics who have challenged the prime minister, saying it was certainly not "career suicide" to take their position.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites