Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Eurozone crisis: PM vows to fight for national interest

David Cameron has said he will fight to protect the UK national interest in discussions over a new EU Treaty.
The prime minister told MPs "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" and unable to influence events.
And Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has called for a referendum if the UK is asked to approve a new treaty.
Earlier Downing Street said any treaty signed by the UK "will need to go through Parliament", although it did not say whether this would require new legislation.
EU leaders will discuss plans, backed by France and Germany, for a new EU treaty to deal with the eurozone debt crisis at a summit in Brussels this week.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron faced a succession of questions from Mr Miliband about his stance in negotiations.
He also faced questions from a stream of Conservative MPs attacking proposed further integration in Europe and urging him to use the summit to redefine the UK's relationship with Europe.


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 the global economy is teetering on the edge. The latter is equally unlikely, as far as the prime minister sees it.
The government is committed to a referendum, in law, if further powers transfer from London to Brussels. That's not what Boris thinks and it's not what cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson think. The list is growing.
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.
The PM was asked by Conservative Andrew Rosindell 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 be "looking out for the interests of UK plc" by seeking 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. "We will judge that on the basis of what matters most for Britain."
"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."
But Mr Miliband said the prime minister had promised his Conservative backbenchers that he would use the eurozone crisis to bring powers back to the UK in order "to quell a rebellion" but now backed down and 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 PM.
"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 PM is simply left on the sidelines."
Referendum issue Germany and France are pushing for EU treaty changes enshrining new budget rules for eurozone members by March although it is not clear how this would be brought about.
Downing Street has said none of the proposed treaty changes would trigger a referendum in the UK, as they did not involve a significant transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels, but that Parliament would be asked to approve them.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling told the BBC any new treaty would "certainly have to come before Parliament".
More than 80 Tory MPs defied the government last month and called for a referendum on the UK's membership.
Asked about the referendum question, Boris 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, 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 Radio 4's World at One programme.
However, he said the government could not "reasonably" have a referendum if the new arrangements were confined to the 17 eurozone countries only.
'Helping us' He said there was a danger that saving the euro might be a case of "saving the cancer, not the patient".
Chris Heaton-Harris, founder of the Fresh Start group of MPs seeking reform of UK-EU relations rather than outright withdrawal, said 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 told the Daily Politics show. "I think there's a very good chance the Germans and the French will be helping us help them."
The UK Independence Party, which wants the UK to leave the EU, said Mr Cameron's pledge to safeguard UK interests in negotiations was "blurred and undefined".
"David Cameron has retreated so far to please his EU partners he is now supporting the federalist dream of fiscal union for the eurozone to save the Euro," the party's leader Nigel Farage said.

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