Cameron ‘must apply to leave EU’

Published: Monday 24th November 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron will come under fresh pressure to toughen the Tory line on the European Union (EU) today, with a former cabinet minister insisting he should apply to leave the group immediately after the general election.

Owen Paterson will urge the Prime Minister to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty immediately if he remains in power next May – activating the two-year mechanism for departure.

The Times says the ex-environment secretary will use a speech to the Business for Britain group to warn “Brexit” supporters that voters could opt to maintain the status quo unless they are given a “clear vision of what life outside the EU would look like”.

Invoking article 50 would mean other nations were “legally bound” to enter meaningful negotiations, while the UK government would have a “very clear mandate”.

In 2017 the public would then be given a choice between staying in on the new terms, or leaving with only a trade agreement similar to Norway’s.

Setting out the process in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the general election would be “enormously attractive to uncommitted voters”, Mr Paterson will say.

“The eurozone has already embarked upon a path that we can never follow,” he will insist. “We are simply recognising that reality. We must either by fully committed to ‘Le Project’ or we must build an entirely new relationship.

“The British people must be allowed to make that decision. Article 50 is the only way of making that happen.”

Amid Tory divisions over how to respond to the growing poll threat from Ukip, Mr Cameron is said to be considering using a forthcoming keynote speech on immigration to pledge a ban on new EU arrivals claiming in-work benefits for two years.

About 250,000 are thought to receive tax credits and other top-ups, costing the Government around £1.6 billion a year.

But Mr Cameron’s position was not helped yesterday when Home Secretary Theresa May admitted the Government was “unlikely” to meet his commitment to cut net annual migration below 100,000, insisting fundamental changes to EU free movement rules were needed.

“It is, of course, unlikely that we are going to reach the tens of thousands by the end of the parliament,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “Why is that? It’s because we have seen increasing numbers of people coming from across Europe, partly because our economy is doing better than other economies in Europe.”

The Prime Minister was also rebuked by pro-Europeans, with “big beast” Ken Clarke dismissing benefit curbs for EU nationals as “totally discriminatory”.

He suggested Mr Cameron’s approach was to blame for the poll surge that saw Nigel Farage’s party win the Rochester and Strood by-election last week.

“I do think the tactics of the two major parties of government – the serious parties of government – of trying to imitate Ukip since then have actually made them more credible and has gifted them two by-elections,” Mr Clarke told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme. “Because we were campaigning in a way that was supporting their anti-European, anti-immigration front running things.

“We have probably provoked a whole fresh rash of demands from Eurosceptics in the media and in Parliament for yet more demands from Europe and leaving Europe, and all this sort of thing.”

Mr Clarke said talking about the economy was “a damn sight more sensible than ‘how can we be rude to Europeans to cheer up Ukip?'”

“What we mustn’t do is keep trailing all kinds of suggestions of things we can think of that might be nasty to Europeans on the benefit front,” he said. “You have an Englishman working alongside a Pole doing the same job, they both pay the same taxes – which amongst other things pay for tax credits – and the Englishman gets the tax credit and the Pole doesn’t.

“If I was a Polish politician I wouldn’t agree to that in a negotiation, nor do I think it is a particular problem, and I don’t think it would pacify the Ukip people and the extreme Eurosceptic people.”

Published: Monday 24th November 2014 by The News Editor

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