European Commission working to circumvent UK veto on financial transaction tax Open Europe yesterday hosted a panel debate at the 2011 Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, discussing the coalition Government’s record on EU policy. Speaking at the event, Dr Kay Swinburne MEP warned of the climate of “hostility” towards the UK in Brussels, arguing that the Government should focus its efforts on increasing the number of British civil servants in the European Commission, which is in charge of drafting EU legislation. She also suggested that the Government should have “killed off” plans for an EU-wide financial transactions tax earlier, noting that EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta had “already started work” on presenting the FTT as a value added tax (VAT) – which could be imposed without a unanimous vote and therefore strip Britain of its right to veto.
Europe Minister David Lidington stressed the need for the UK to engage further in bilateral talks, especially with smaller member states, as this was the best way to win support on key EU-related issues. He added that, if a change to the EU treaties involving all 27 member states were to take place, the UK should use its negotiating leverage to promote its interest.
Chris Heaton-Harris MP argued that the Government “could do better” on the EU. He pointed out the role of the UK’s independent civil service, noting that parts of it still genuinely believe that the UK should “continue to integrate more deeply in the European Union”. He suggested that some British civil servants should be political appointees, mentioning the staff of the UK’s permanent representative in Brussels as an example. The Telegraph’s Peter Oborne described the Government as “very pro-European” and argued that, although the situation is extremely uncertain at the moment, if eurozone countries want to move further towards a “United States of Europe” the UK should seize the opportunity and seek a looser relation with the EU as a “semi-detached member.”
The Telegraph quotes Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson, saying, “Any attempt at circumventing the UK veto, and passing an FTT via the back door, would be a disaster for the UK and the City of London. Trying to get around the veto in this way is unlikely to work, but the UK Government still needs to be absolutely clear that this is a complete non-starter.”
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Osborne: “Eurozone’s financial fund needs maximum firepower”;
Rehn: Leveraging eurozone bailout fund is an option
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne said that more decisive action was needed from eurozone leaders, arguing that: “the eurozone needs to end all the speculation, decide what they’re going to do with Greece, and then stick to that decision”. He also argued that the eurozone’s bailout fund, the EFSF needs “maximum firepower”, and that the eurozone’s banks also needed to be strengthened. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the EU’s Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, has said that leveraging the EFSF is being considered as an option for enhancing the bailout fund.
FT Deutschland reports that, according to sources close to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou,he has raised the possibility of resigning twice in the past three weeks with members of his inner circle. One insider was quoted as saying that Papandreou feels powerless, as “Greece does not decide anything anymore.”
Meanwhile, the FT reports that that long-standing disagreement over Finland’s demands for Greek collateral in exchange for participating in the second Greek bail-out has been resolved, with Finland agreeing to pay its contribution to the new permanent bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism, upfront when it becomes operational in 2013 in return for collateral, while other eurozone members will be able to spread their contributions over five years.
Separately, Reuters reports that France and Belgium’s Finance Ministers François Baroin and Didier Reynders have said that they will step in to guarantee the financing of stricken bank Dexia. The bank has one of the largest exposures to Greece among overseas lenders, approaching €5bn.
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The Independent reports that Home Secretary Theresa May will today announce plans to tighten immigration rules and make deportation of foreign criminals who have settled in the UK easier, a move which could potentially clash with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Osborne: UK could drop carbon targets
The Times notes that George Osborne told the Conservative Party conference that he recognised that UK carbon targets do not help to curb overseas emissions and promised to rewrite the rules if the rest of the EU failed to be as ambitious as Britain. Government policy is to increase Britain’s cuts in emissions from 20% to 30%, based on 1990 levels, by 2020. But Mr Osborne said that if by 2014 other EU governments were lagging behind, he would be ready to ditch the target, and could even move below 20% if Europe fell farther behind.
The Mail reports that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will announce later today that measures will be taken to circumvent EU rules which have prevented the NHS from testing whether foreign doctors have sufficient English language skills.
Philip Stephens writes in the FT, “Barring a euro break-up, Britain and its partners are now set on different courses. At some point, the divergence will become unsustainable. The Tory sceptics may be right after all. There is a case for an in-or-out referendum. My guess is the sceptics would be sorely disappointed by the outcome.”
The FT reports that Tony Tyler, the Director-General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has said that the EU should drop its plans to include airlines in its Emissions Trading Scheme, warning of the risk of retaliatory measures being taken against European airlines.
The Premier League have lost their case in the European Court of Justice against a pub landlady who used a foreign decoder to show live matches, the Times reports. Writing in the paper, Stephen Garrett, Chairman of Kudos Film and TV, argues that the ruling “could have a devastating effect on films and TV.”
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This post originally appeared on Open Europe.