Friday 19 January 2018

Cameron threatens treaty veto over EU reforms

Sam Lister and Andrew Woodcock

DAVID Cameron will head to Brussels tomorrow with a list of demands for Britain in return for support for EU treaty change.

The British Prime Minister warned last night that he would veto reforms aimed at securing the future of the single currency without key safeguards being agreed for the UK.

They include measures to protect Britain's financial services amid fears the City of London will be hit hard by a possible transaction tax and protections for the single market.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel renewed calls for reform of the treaty after emergency talks in Paris on Monday.

The aim would be to allow far tougher rules and sanctions governing the eurozone in future to reassure markets about the euro's long-term stability.

Mr Cameron said he was heading to the European Council summit tomorrow "to defend and promote British interests".

Asked if he was prepared to reject a treaty that would save the single currency, Mr Cameron said: "To save the single currency you need more than a treaty, you need to address the competitiveness problem, the deficit problem, you need to take action to convince the markets that you are serious.

"You need all the institutions of the eurozone, including the European Central Bank, to get behind that.

"What I'm saying is that if - and eurozone countries do need to come together, do need to do more things together - if they choose to use the European Treaty to do that, Britain will be insisting on some safeguards too.

"As long as we get those, then that treaty can go ahead. If we can't get those, it won't."

Discussions at the Brussels summit will focus on the plan agreed by President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel on Monday. They said they would like treaty change backed by all 27 member states, but were ready to forge ahead with an agreement of the 17 eurozone members if that proved impossible.

In an article for The Times Mr Cameron insisted Britain's demands would be "practical and focused" but warned EU leaders not to mistake that pledge for a "lack of steel".

He said the most "credible" way of pushing Europe forward was with treaty change involving the 27 EU members.

The move sparked renewed calls from increasingly disgruntled Conservative backbenchers for a referendum on any new treaty.

But Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it would be "illogical" for the UK to hold a referendum while Mr Cameron indicated a vote would only be held if there was a significant Brussels power-grab.

Meanwhile, Shadow chancellor Ed Balls ruled out any possibility of a British government joining the euro in his lifetime.

Mr Balls, who as a Treasury adviser to Gordon Brown during the Labour administration was instrumental in keeping the UK out of the single currency, said the euro was "not succeeding".

Challenged on Labour policy on joining the euro in the Commons, he told MPs: "The euro is not succeeding as a single currency. That is why we were quite right not to join the single currency in 2003.

"There is no possibility of the euro being joined by a British government at any time in my lifetime."

Ken Clarke has urged eurosceptics not to expect the repatriation of powers from Brussels at this week's EU summit.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Justice Secretary called on the Prime Minister to focus on maintaining the "financial stability of the western world".

He said it would be a distraction to try to open up discussions about the "wider structures of the union".

Mr Clarke told the newspaper: "We're not going to renegotiate any transfers of powers, in my opinion."

He argued that Britain should be prepared to accept "proper" financial regulation from Brussels, but rejected the idea of an EU "Tobin tax" on financial transactions, adding: "It's the devil's own job to collect."

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