UK Politics

Conservative MPs call for UK veto over EU laws

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Media captionChris Grayling: "Not realistic to have situation where one parliament can veto laws across EU"

A total of 95 Conservative MPs have written to David Cameron urging him to give Parliament a national veto over current and future EU laws.

They urged him to hand the Commons the ability to block new EU legislation and repeal existing measures that threaten Britain's "national interests".

But Foreign Secretary William Hague rejected their demand, saying it would make the single market unworkable.

"We have to be realistic about these things," he told Sky News.

Downing Street said it was working on a new settlement with Brussels.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Conservatives must "make up their minds" on whether to stay in the EU.

And Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling suggested it would not be "viable" to allow any "one (national) parliament to veto European legislation".

The ideas proposed by the MPs were first put forward by the Commons European Scrutiny Committee last month.

In the letter, they said the move would enable the government to "recover control over our borders, to lift EU burdens on business, to regain control over energy policy and to disapply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights".

According to the Sunday Telegraph, signatories to the letter included James Clappison, Conor Burns, John Baron, Anne Main and former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth.

'Make reality'

They told the prime minister: "Each time you have stood up for British interests in Brussels, you have achieved a great deal.

"Building on your achievements, we would urge you to back the European Scrutiny Committee proposal and make the idea of a national veto over current and future EU laws a reality."

Mr Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership of the European Union and hold a referendum in 2017, but many Conservative MPs want the prime minister to give more detail about exactly what changes he would like to see.

Senior Tory Bernard Jenkin, who drafted the letter, told BBC Radio 4's The World this Weekend: "What makes this so acidic and corrosive in politics is that members of Parliament, and national governments who are elected to be responsible and accountable for this, have had their power of decision taken away from them."

He said Mr Cameron should be able to "stand up in Parliament and say 'this is what I have decided in the national interest should be the case'.

"But he can't say that. He has to say 'I can't control who can claim benefits'."

He added: "How long is it going to take us to change this? We're a democracy and we should be able to decide these things for ourselves."

'Red card'

Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, Mr Hague said: "On the specific (parliamentary veto) proposal, when you think about it, of course if national parliaments all around the EU were regularly and unilaterally able to choose which bits of EU law they would apply and which bits they would not then the European single market would not work and even a Swiss-style free trade arrangement with the EU would not work."

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "Conservative MPs now need to make up their minds. If they want full exit from the European Union, they should be free to argue it, but they should be candid."

He added: "You can't safeguard a single market if you say the rest of Europe has to play by the rules but we can't... You are either in or out."

Mr Clegg, whose party is strongly supportive of the UK remaining in the EU, also said: "We already have a procedure where parliaments can club together and national parliaments can say 'We don't like this particular proposal' and can hold up the red card."

'Not convinced'

Mr Grayling told BBC One's Sunday Politics: "I don't think it's realistic (that)... any one parliament can veto laws across the European Union."

He added: "We have got to have a system that's viable. I'm not convinced we can have a system where one parliament can veto European legislation."

Meanwhile, a survey has suggested that more people think Britain should stay in the EU but try to reduce its powers (38%) than want to leave (28%).

The poll of more than 2,000 people for think tank British Future also found that people thought migrants who came to the UK from other European countries should learn English (69%), get a job and pay taxes (64%) and not claim benefits (48%).

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