UK seeking backing for 'reform' bid
British prime minister David Cameron, who has vowed to hold a referendum on the UK’s European Union membership in five years’ time, has urged other EU states to support his calls for reform.
“We’re not putting a list of demands on the table and saying we’ll storm off if we don’t get them,” said Mr Cameron at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Saying that the UK would be “better off in a reformed EU”, Mr Cameron insisted that some of the “downsides that have grown up” must be tackled – “too much cost, too much rigidity, too much of the EU interfering into parts of national life where it really shouldn’t go.”
Unhappy with Mr Cameron’s referendum pledge, Liberal Democrats deputy prime minister Nick Clegg indicated that it would not stop him sitting down to negotiate a coalition deal after 2015.
However, he questioned Mr Cameron’s strategy, saying the Conservative Party leader was acting for his “own political purposes” rather than in the national interest.
“Either it is basically a bit symbolic – so you tweak the working time directive and a social law here, or an environmental law there that everybody will agree with, so, in which case, what is the fuss all about?
“Or you are going to do something which I think is wholly implausible which is basically totally rewrite the rules to benefit us and disadvantage everybody else which is clearly not going to be agreed to,” Mr Clegg said.
However, the issue will do little to harm relations between Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers for now and certainly not until a final report from a team already examining EU powers that should be repatriated is finished.
Liberal Democrats MP Martin Horwood went further than his party leader, saying Mr Cameron’s actions were “crazy” at a time when the UK was facing such economic woes. “If even a significant proportion of our potential foreign investors have been freaked to the extent they question whether to invest in jobs in this country, I think we will have done the people of Britain a grave disservice by raising this spectre,” he said.
But even Mr Horwood conceded the Liberal Democrats agreed with many of the changes proposed by Mr Cameron – a speech that had been six months in preparation.
However, he said they believed the UK should try to get support from like-minded EU member states rather than engage in “a debilitating debate” that will dominate EU politics over the next four years and more.