PM ‘damaged UK status in Europe’


Published: Tuesday 20th January 2015 by The News Editor

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During his time in Downing Street, David Cameron has presided over “the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation”, Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has claimed.

On a visit to Paris for talks with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Mr Alexander was due to warn that the re-election of Mr Cameron as Prime Minister in May could mark “a point of no return for Britain’s relations with the EU”.

The shadow foreign secretary will set out a Labour pledge to “review, repair and reset” the UK’s relations with Europe if it wins power at the general election. While Mr Cameron has promised that Tories would renegotiate the UK’s EU membership before staging an in/out referendum by 2017, Labour has said it would hold a public vote only if a new treaty transferred power to Brussels during the next Parliament, which it does not expect to happen.

Mr Alexander said Labour’s policy would involve a series of bilateral summits in London with EU nations to discuss the reform of Europe, a review of Britain’s representation in Brussels, a meeting of all UK ambassadors to EU countries to look at opportunities to repair relations with continental partners and the provision of parliamentary time to allow debate of upcoming European Council summits. A Labour government would also consult on whether to establish a dedicated European Union Affairs Select Committee to scrutinise EU issues at Westminster.

Speaking at the headquarters of the French Socialist Party in Paris, Mr Alexander is expected to say: ” Britain is a big beast in the European jungle. It makes up almost a sixth of the EU’s population and economy, and around a fifth of its exports.

“Before David Cameron became Prime Minister, Britain was at the heart of EU decision-making. Yet when he leaves Downing Street in May, he will have presided over the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation.

“There is a consensus among EU member states around the need for reform of the EU, but instead of seizing opportunities, David Cameron has squandered them. Instead of building bridges, he burnt them.”

Mr Alexander will add: “David Cameron’s approach to Europe is going against the grain of history. No country that seeks to play a leading a part in the modern world could contemplate walking away from the world’s largest single market, or to cut itself off from some of its closest allies.

“During his time in Downing Street David Cameron has done serious damage to Britain’s status in Europe and in turn has diminished our standing in the world. The re-election of David Cameron could mark a point of no return for Britain’s relations with the EU.”

Setting out Labour’s position on Europe, the shadow foreign secretary will add: “A key foreign policy priority for an incoming Labour government will be to review, repair and reset relations with Europe upon entering office.

“This isn’t just about a sense of European solidarity, it’s also about Britain’s national interest. Our place at Europe’s top table has made the UK stronger, more secure, and more prosperous.

“Unlike David Cameron, Labour believes that the UK will stand taller in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Delhi – when we stand firmly at the heart of the EU. The idea that our influence in world capitals would grow as our influence in Europe diminished is not just a Eurosceptic fantasy, but a post-Imperial delusion.

“Under David Cameron, Europe risks becoming seen as a dirty word in Whitehall. That has to change, and so Labour will review how … the UK is represented in Brussels.”

And Mr Alexander will warn: “This general election will be decisive for Britain’s place and standing in Europe. The prospect of a second-term Conservative government could see Britain stumble out of Europe altogether. That risk is real, but so too is Labour’s determination to make the case that the right road for Britain is reform in Europe, not exit from Europe.”

Mr Alexander’s visit to Paris is part of a concerted effort by Labour to seek to build bridges with European partners, which has seen leader Ed Miliband hold talks with the German Chancellor and prime ministers of France, Italy, Denmark and Sweden over the past year. Mr Alexander will also hold talks this week with new vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders.

A Conservative spokesman said: ” The Conservatives have a clear plan to renegotiate our relationship with Europe to boost our economy, crack down on migrants claiming benefits and give the British people the final say over our EU membership in an in/out referendum.

“Labour have no plan, no credibility and they’ve ruled out a referendum. In government, Labour failed to stand up for Britain in Europe, giving up £7 billion of British rebate for nothing in return. And after five years in Opposition, their one policy idea is to hold some meetings in London.

“Conservatives are driving the reform debate in Europe and only David Cameron has a credible plan to deliver real change.”

Published: Tuesday 20th January 2015 by The News Editor

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