Cameron: Euro crisis may provide “future opportunities” for EU renegotiation;
MPs could debate in/out referendum
In an interview on the first day of the Conservative Party conference, David Cameron suggested that forthcoming EU treaty changes to fix the eurozone could provide the Government with an opportunity to demand the repatriation of powers. “I have always made clear my view that we have given too many powers to Europe and there are some powers I would like back from Europe and there may be future opportunities to bring that about”. He said that this was an ambition “for the longer term” and there was no immediate prospect of treaty changes to make it possible. It did not form part of the current renegotiation of treaties, which will keep Britain out of the permanent eurozone bail-out mechanism, he told the BBC‘s Andrew Marr Show.
Meanwhile, the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee will decide on October 11 whether to give MPs the chance to debate holding an in/out EU referendum. This comes after a petition calling for a vote got 100,000 signatures.Foreign Secretary William Hague said that a referendum on EU membership would not be “sensible” at a time of economic crisis. “I have meetings with many Conservative backbenchers and I think we are very closely aligned – the party leadership, the Government and the great mass of the Conservative Party – on this,” he said, according to the Telegraph. Hague told the Observer, “It will be important in any changes in the way the European Union works to protect our national interest. We’re looking hard at that now. It would be very important that a caucus was not created to then impose decisions on the 27.”
The Times argues that Cameron “should insist” that any new arrangements for the eurozone are democratic and that he “should begin to sketch out the relationship he envisages between Britain and this emerging fiscal union.” In the FT, Danny Kruger, a former adviser to Cameron, argues, “The European project and the ‘paper-shuffling’ economy are born of the same anti-social impulse, the same contempt for the old and natural…Reforming them is a fit objective for this government.”
The Sunday papers noted that “Europe” will be a big issue at this year’s Conservative Party conference, with several fringe meetings calling for either the UK’s withdrawal from the EU or a renegotiation of the UK’s membership. A leader in the Sunday Telegraph noted that one of Cameron’s main challenges “is to show how Britain can free itself from some of the debilitating restrictions imposed by European institutions without destroying the Coalition or leaving the EU altogether.” A leader in the Mail on Sunday argued in favour of a debate on a referendum.
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Greek government approves further cuts ahead of eurozone finance ministers meeting
The FT reports that the Greek government is due to present its draft 2012 budget to parliament today. It is expected to envisage new spending cuts and tax hikes worth about €6.5bn, as well as the immediate dismissal of thousands of public sector workers. La Tribune reports that – ahead of the meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg – the Greek government has also announced that it will fail to meet the deficit reduction targets attached to the first EU/IMF bailout, with the public deficit expected to be 8.5% of GDP instead of the planned 7.6% in 2011. Anti-austerity protests continued over the weekend.
Meanwhile, following his meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would hold emergency talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel within days to discuss future plans to rescue the single currency. The FT quotes a UK Treasury official saying, “From the modelling we have done, the uncertainty [about the single currency] is already affecting the recovery and the risks [of a break-up] would be very, very great.”
Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson is quoted by La Tribune in a special feature assessing the role of several top European politicians – from Sarkozy, Merkel and Papandreou to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Council President Herman Van Rompuy – in the eurozone crisis so far.
In an interview with the Rheinische Post, Michael Fuchs, a deputy parliamentary floor leader for Angela Merkel’s CDU party said, “Greece is bankrupt. Probably there is no other way for us other than to accept at least a 50% forgiveness of its debts.” In an interview with Sunday’s FAZ, the speaker of the Slovakian parliament Richard Sulik insisted that his party will vote against expanding the EFSF bailout fund, adding, “The Greeks cannot be thrown out [of the eurozone]. They must decide themselves, maybe in a referendum,” if they want to remain in the eurozone. Slovakia’s Finance Minister Ivan Miklos told Czech daily Lidove Noviny on Sunday that he doubted whether Greece could meet the conditions for the disbursement of further loans from the EU and the IMF.
On the Spectator‘s Coffee House blog, Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel argued, “Markets are already setting their eyes on something bigger than the [eurozone’s bailout fund, the] EFSF. It may not be long before Merkel has to go cap in hand to her Parliament again…This will test Germany’s commitment to the Eurozone, transfer union and the rest to an unprecedented degree.” In Saturday’s Times, Labour MP Gisela Stuart argued, “None of the proffered solutions to the euro crisis will work because they do not address the nub of the problem…Holding all this together requires transfers (‘gifts’) from countries with current account surpluses to those with deficits so that the latter are spared the (unsustainable) cost of attempting to restore competitiveness through deflation. This means transfers in perpetuity from Germany.”
Meanwhile, net contributors to the EU budget are opposing European Commission plans to pay out €2.9bn worth of structural funds to six EU member states – including Greece, Ireland and Portugal – at a reduced co-financing rate of only 5%.
FT Reuters FTD FT: Dizard La Tribune FT: Münchau Sun: Kavanagh EUobserver Saturday’s Independent Saturday’s Guardian FT Weekend Times: Stuart Sunday Telegraph: Halligan Coffee House blog: Ruparel
EU agency workers rules come into force putting 28,000 young workers’ contracts at risk
The Sunday Times cited Open Europe’s research which estimates that 28,000 temporary contracts for people aged 16 to 24 are under threat due to the EU’s Agency Workers Directive, which came into force on 1 October. Open Europe Research Director Stephen Booth, was quoted in Saturday’s Times saying, “Making it more expensive for employers to take on agency workers for longer than 12 weeks will create greater uncertainty and fewer opportunities for young people looking for work.” Stephen also appeared on BBC News 24 and argued on Conservative Home that, “In the long-term, the Government should explore the repatriation of employment law from the EU level altogether.”
Meanwhile, an opinion poll for the Sunday Express showed that 54% of British voters think that the UK should opt out of European employment legislation,15 think not, and 31% are unsure.
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In his Sunday Telegraph column, Christopher Booker argued that “The euro project was always based on a colossal act of make-believe”, quoting Open Europe’s estimates of the cost of a financial transaction tax to the UK.
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Some non-eurozone EU member states are expressing concern with plans for deeper economic integration in the single currency area. In an op-ed in FAZ, Sweden’s Foreign and Finance Ministers – Carl Bildt and Anders Borg – warned, “We are seeing the emergence of a new divide in Europe, a divide that would, in the long term, undermine the strength of the Union.”
The Sunday Times reported that there are fears that Dexia, one of Belgium’s biggest lenders, may be in need of a state bailout amid fears over the banks’ large exposure to Greece.
Saturday’s Telegraph reported that EU figures published last week show that the average British household paid £672 towards the EU budget in 2010, and got back only £373.
The FT reports that the UK insurance industry is putting pressure on the FSA to implement some parts of the EU’s Solvency II capital requirements at the start of 2013, although other EU member states will almost certainly delay implementation until January 2014.
Saturday’s Mail reported that Nick Clegg on Thursday warned Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso against taking the UK to court over its “right to reside” test, applied before non-UK EU citizens are able to claim certain welfare benefits.
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The Sunday Telegraph reported that David Cameron said he agrees with Home Secretary Theresa May that the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, should be replaced by a British Bill of Rights.
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In a letter to EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier, Europe’s biggest users of derivatives have warned that European Commission plans for reform of the derivatives markets risk “embedding lack of choice”, suggesting that the business of clearing should be opened up to competition.
Saturday’s Telegraph reported on the ongoing organisational problems within the EEAS, the EU’s new diplomatic service – with expenses for foreign missions being paid months late and EU Foreign Minister Baroness Catherine Ashton’s private office still not equipped with a top-level-security-cleared computer, according to a diplomat. The article followed reports that almost 60 staff left the EEAS in the past nine months due to bad working conditions.
The Sunday Times reported that landlocked Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic get £20m a year in fishing subsidies. Separately, the Independent on Sunday noted that Greenpeace has urged the European Commission to end the EU’s ‘corrupted’ fisheries policy.
Independent on Sunday
A leader in the FT argues that the EU should pay more attention to its Eastern neighbourhood, and suggests aiming for a trade deal with Ukraine in the near future.
This post originally appeared on Open Europe.