Britain’s pledge to repatriate powers likely to be resisted, says Day

Top EU civil servant sees no appetite for treaty change among member states

Catherine Day, secretary general of the European Commission: suggested that a change in the economic climate over the next few years could change        tenor of the debate. Photograph: Alan Betson

Catherine Day, secretary general of the European Commission: suggested that a change in the economic climate over the next few years could change tenor of the debate. Photograph: Alan Betson

 
in Brussels


Britain’s desire to repatriate powers from Brussels is likely to meet resistance from other EU member states, the secretary general of the European Commission, Catherine Day, has said.

Speaking at a breakfast briefing organised by European Movement Ireland and accountancy group BDO in Brussels yesterday, the European Commission’s top civil servant said that while it was too early to anticipate the outcome of the debate, there was no appetite for treaty change among member states.

“It is the position of the British government that they want to repatriate competencies. That , to my knowledge, is not the position of any of the other member states. They want to discuss what’s done at European level, what’s done at national level, how it’s done, but they are very clear in saying they are not talking about repatriating competencies.”


Climate
While Ms Day warned against pre-empting the decision, she suggested that a change in the economic climate over the next few years could change the tenor of the debate. “When the European economy is stronger, when it’s clear that the euro is a strong currency, I think that can also colour the mood at the time when those decisions will have to be taken.”

British prime minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU in advance of a referendum on EU membership, should the Conservatives win next year’s general election.

Ms Day said the recent referendum in Switzerland showed the limits of “only wanting to take the advantages and not wanting to take any of the responsibilities that go with membership”. “The union is about give and take and you can’t only take,” she said.

On Scotland’s position regarding membership should it vote for independence, Ms Day said comments by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso over the weekend had been misunderstood.

“It’s a question of fact. If Scotland was to choose independence, they would have to negotiate to join the European Union. He wanted to make the point that you could not take that for granted [. . .] as there are a number of member states that have separatist fears.”

Britain’s pledge to renegotiate its relationship with the EU was identified by Ms Day as one of the three main challenges facing the next commission and parliament. The economic challenge and migration will also mark the new administration’s five-year mandate, she said.