Tory backbenchers demand EU reforms

David Cameron is due to meet Conservative Cabinet members to brief them on the details of his long-awaited speech on Europe

David Cameron is due to meet Conservative Cabinet members to brief them on the details of his long-awaited speech on Europe

First published in National News © by

Conservative backbenchers are to tell David Cameron he must claw back full British control over social and employment law from Brussels and warn the "status quo is no longer an option".

The Fresh Start group, which is said to have wide support among the party, has called for the complete repatriation of the powers to be a priority and told the Government it "should not settle for anything less".

Foreign Secretary William Hague has called its report a "well-researched and well-considered document" and suggested some of its contents could become party policy.

Mr Cameron is due to meet Conservative Cabinet members to brief them on the details of his long-awaited speech on Europe and is almost certain to face questions about its keenly-anticipated contents at Prime Minister's Questions.

Fresh Start, founded by George Eustice, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Heaton-Harris, will use the intense focus on Europe as an opportunity to launch its "manifesto for change" of Britain's relationship with the EU.

The document will demand the repatriation of key powers that the MPs believe are vital if the UK is to retain "national democratic accountability". It calls for "significant revisions" to EU treaties, including the repatriation of all social and employment law, such as the Working Time Directive, according to the Daily Telegraph. The UK should have an opt-out from all existing policing and criminal justice measures and an "emergency brake" on any new legislation that affects financial services, it adds.

According to the newspaper, MPs also want an end to the European Parliament's venue switching between Brussels and Strasbourg as well as non-treaty change moves that could save billions annually, including reforming the EU budget for agricultural and fishing policy and repatriating regional policy.

Mr Hague, who is carrying out an audit across Whitehall of all EU powers, wrote in the foreword to the report: "It is a well-researched and well-considered document full of powerful ideas for Britain's future in Europe and, indeed, for Europe's future. Many of the proposals are already Government policy, some could well become future Government or Conservative Party policy and some may require further thought."

Mr Eustice, a former press secretary to Mr Cameron, said: "Although it would be a mistake for the Prime Minister to set out a detailed shopping list this far in advance of any negotiations, these proposals are intended to stimulate debate, to highlight those areas where change is required and also to help inform the Government's ongoing balance of competences review."

Mr Cameron is expected to announce plans for a referendum on a new settlement with Brussels after the 2015 general election when he makes his Europe speech in the Netherlands on Friday. He has rejected calls for an immediate in/out referendum on British membership, which he said would present voters with a "false choice". But he said it would be right to seek the "fresh consent" of the British people after negotiating a new settlement for the UK.


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