Britain's Cameron urged to seek 'red card' to scrap EU laws

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 28, 2013 11:24 AM
Britain's Cameron urged to seek 'red card' to scrap EU laws

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron should push for new powers for European Union member states to repeal existing laws across the bloc as part of his EU reform drive, an influential group of lawmakers in his Conservative Party said on Thursday.

Fresh Start, which is backed by more than 100 Conservative members of parliament and has close links to senior ministers, said the EU must return some powers to national governments as part of wider changes or risk "terminal decline".

Seeking to influence the debate about Britain's future in Europe, the group published a study setting out the areas where it hopes Cameron will win reforms, from agriculture and energy to immigration and regulation.

But their ideas are likely to face resistance from the European Commission and from some other member states, including France and Germany which have warned an increasingly eurosceptic Cameron government against "cherry-picking" from the EU agenda.

Cameron, whose party faces a growing electoral challenge from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which wants to quit the 28-nation bloc, has promised to renegotiate Britain's troubled ties with the EU before holding an in/out referendum by 2017.

Fresh Start said Cameron should lead efforts to give EU nations a "red card" allowing them to work together to block proposed new EU laws and even to scrap existing legislation.

"This is about helping Europe to swim not sink," said Andrea Leadsom, one of the group's co-founders. "Europe is in an absolutely terminal decline unless it changes."

While the group does not speak for Cameron and the party as a whole, it wields influence. Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote the foreword to its last big report, calling it "essential reading" for those writing his party's 2015 election manifesto.

MIGRANTS

The new report called for Europe's single market to be extended to trade in services and said member states should regain control over social and employment law.

It also urged the EU to abandon the principle of forging an "ever closer union" and said countries should be allowed to decide whether migrants receive welfare payments.

Cameron unveiled plans on Wednesday to limit EU migrants' access to welfare in Britain, drawing a rebuke from the European Commission, the EU's executive.

Fresh Start said their report was an attempt to help the whole EU to recover from the euro zone's debt crisis, rather than just "little England getting a better deal".

While Cameron wants to stay in a reformed EU, he is under pressure from some Conservatives to take a harder line before European Parliament elections next year, when UKIP - buoyed by a widespread perception in Britain that the EU is too powerful, costly and interfering - hopes to win many more seats.

UKIP now has nine of Britain's 73 seats in the European Parliament. It has no members in the British parliament.

Cameron's spokesman had no immediate comment on the new report. The Foreign Office said it would examine its proposals.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)