Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

MP group calls for European change

David Cameron is due to meet Conservative Cabinet members to brief them on the details of his long-awaited speech on Europe
David Cameron is due to meet Conservative Cabinet members to brief them on the details of his long-awaited speech on Europe

Conservative backbenchers will continue to keep up pressure on David Cameron over Europe as they demand he claws back full British control over social and employment law.

The Fresh Start group, which is said to have the backing of around 100 Tory MPs, has called for the complete repatriation of the powers to be a priority and warned the Government it "should not settle for anything less."

Mr Cameron is due to meet Conservative Cabinet members to brief them on the details of his long-awaited speech on Europe and is almost certain to face questions about its keenly-anticipated contents at Prime Minister's Questions.

Meanwhile, Fresh Start, founded by George Eustice, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Heaton-Harris, will launch its "manifesto for change" of Britain's relationship with the EU.

The document will demand the repatriation of key powers that the MPs believe are vital if the UK is to retain "national democratic accountability". It calls for "significant revisions" to EU treaties, including the repatriation of all social and employment law, such as the Working Time Directive, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The UK should have an opt-out from all existing policing and criminal justice measures and an "emergency brake" on any new legislation that affects financial services, it adds.

According to the newspaper, MPs also want an end to the European Parliament's venue switching between Brussels and Strasbourg as well as non-treaty change moves that could save billions annually, including reforming the EU budget for agricultural and fishing policy and repatriating regional policy.

Mr Eustice, a former press secretary to Mr Cameron, said: "Although it would be a mistake for the Prime Minister to set out a detailed shopping list this far in advance of any negotiations, these proposals are intended to stimulate debate, to highlight those areas where change is required and also to help inform the government's ongoing balance of competences review."

Mr Cameron is expected to announce plans for a referendum on a new settlement with Brussels after the 2015 general election when he makes his Europe speech in the Netherlands on Friday. He has rejected calls for an immediate in/out referendum on British membership, which he said would present voters with a "false choice". But he said it would be right to seek the "fresh consent" of the British people after negotiating a new settlement for the UK.

The Prime Minister is at the centre of an increasingly tempestuous storm within his own party over Britain's future in Europe and relations with Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues are strained on the issue. He faces demands from some Tory backbenchers for a public vote on EU membership while business leaders and grandees including Lord Heseltine have warned of the dangers of UK withdrawal.

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