Cameron pitches for new Europe deal
Published 14/12/2012 | 04:39
David Cameron has made a blatant pitch for a new British deal with Europe.
After another summit in Brussels - the seventh this year - he made clear he wanted favours in return for agreeing to sweeping new rules which the eurozone countries had been demanding.
"We did not stand in the way of the eurozone having a banking union... now there are opportunities for us to seek changes in our (EU) relationship, changes that the British people will be more comfortable with. They (the eurozone countries) want to make changes, and we can ask for changes too".
The Prime Minister began his campaign earlier this year, saying he would be demanding a "new settlement" with Brussels. And when he arrived at the latest summit on Thursday he signalled his focus was now on getting a "better deal" for Britain.
He joined other leaders in signing a summit deal for a comprehensive timetable for tough new measures to shore up the ailing euro, from a central supervisor overseeing eurozone banks, to longer-term plans on bank "resolution" - how to wind up ailing banks - and how to set minimum standards for deposit guarantee schemes. Completing the work will last into 2014, but Mr Cameron considered he had already played his part.
None of the elements of a full "banking union" would directly affect the UK, he said, but any changes did ultimately affect the wider EU "of which we are an important part". Mr Cameron continued: "So there has to be flexibility. We did not stand in the way of the eurozone having a banking union. We said you can go ahead - but in return for that we need proper safeguards for those outside. We can get changes to help us safeguard the things that are important to us such as the single market."
The Prime Minister added: "As this plays out, it does change the EU, and as the eurozone makes the changes it needs, so there are opportunities for others, including the UK, to make changes ourselves."
French president Francois Hollande issued a warning to Mr Cameron at his own post-summit press conference, saying: "When a country makes a commitment, it's for life. The (EU) treaties must be respected. One can't take competences (powers) away from Europe."
Mr Cameron, meanwhile, dismissed talk of creating a two-speed or two-tier EU with the UK in the slow lane. He said such talk was "cliched and outdated", adding: "We already have a multi-faceted Europe and I think you will see a growth of this multi-faceted Europe." The UK, for example, was not part of the Schengen border-free system in the EU and was not in the single currency. But the UK had been instrumental in pushing the single market and EU enlargement, policies from which Britain benefited. Mr Cameron added: "We can be confident in the future. Let us be confident about what our national strengths are, and confident that we can negotiate hard and well in Europe."
A UK Government source challenged Mr Hollande's claims, insisting: "It's wrong to say you can't repatriate powers. There's no clause written down anywhere that says this can't be done. Indeed, this Government has already returned the bailout power from the EU and the last EU Treaty provided for the UK to return powers on home affairs and justice if we choose. And even today, leaders agreed to scrap unnecessary regulation. The point is that there needs to be flexibility to ensure that the interests of all EU members are respected. And clearly as the eurozone seek changes to allow for the closer integration they need, so others can seek changes to advance their interests too."