May 24, 2013
Britain's Cameron under new pressure to dilute EU ties
British Prime Minister David Cameron came under renewed pressure to loosen his country's ties with the European Union today, two days ahead of a major speech in which he will spell out plans to renegotiate Britain's membership of the EU.
As different interests jockey to influence the content of his speech, which some politicians believe may end up reshaping Britain's role in the world, a group of influential lawmakers in Cameron's own ruling Conservative party published a list of areas where they want decision-making brought back to London.
The fact that the group, who represent about one third of Cameron's parliamentary party, drew up the "Manifesto for Change", illustrates how much pressure Cameron is under from within his own party, the senior partner in a two-party coalition, to dilute Britain's four-decade-old EU links.
Cameron will deliver his speech - one of the most closely-watched Europe addresses by a British leader since World War Two - in Amsterdam on Friday, a choice meant to underline the fact that some other EU member states such as the Netherlands are sympathetic to many of his policies towards the bloc.
He is expected to say he will offer a referendum on any new settlement he manages to hammer out with the EU, probably in 2018. His prospects of success are uncertain, however, as it is unclear whether some other EU member states, notably Germany and France, will go along with his plan.
Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative MP and one of the group's founders, said she thought Cameron's proposed EU renegotiation strategy and the specific ideas her own group was pushing were realistic.
"In our manifesto we are very carefully treading a fine line between calling for things that are just going to be a non-starter, where the rest of Europe will say 'just forget it', and choosing those topics that are really important to Britain, that would really be a game-changer for Britain's relationship with the EU," she told BBC radio.
Areas where the MPs, who call themselves the Fresh Start group, would like to see powers clawed back include large swathes of employment, social and criminal justice law. They are also pressing for an "emergency brake" on new laws that could affect Britain's powerhouse financial services industry, and are demanding that the EU's agriculture and fisheries budget be overhauled.
The MPs are also asking Cameron to withdraw Britain from the EU's "regional policy" which sees EU funds handed out to poorer regions, and to press him to restrict the rights of future immigrants from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.