Cameron under new pressure to dilute EU ties

Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:22am EST
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By Andrew Osborn and Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron came under fresh pressure from his own party to loosen ties with the European Union on Wednesday, two days before a speech in which he will spell out plans to renegotiate Britain's membership of the bloc.

As different interests jockey to influence his speech, which some say could end up reshaping Britain's role in the world, a group representing about a third of lawmakers in the ruling Conservative party published a "Manifesto for Change" listing areas where they want decision-making brought back to London.

Cameron will deliver his speech - one of the most closely watched Europe addresses by a British leader since World War Two - in Amsterdam on Friday, a choice meant to underline the fact that some other EU member states such as the Netherlands are sympathetic to many of his policies towards the bloc.

He is expected to say he will offer a referendum on any new settlement he manages to hammer out to change Britain's four-decade-old links with the EU, probably in 2018. His prospects of success are uncertain, however, as there is unease in some EU member states, notably Germany and France, about Cameron's plans.

"The status quo in the European Union is no longer an option," the group's manifesto said. "The euro zone is facing up to the inevitable consequences of the financial crisis, and is moving towards fiscal and banking union. This is not a path that the British people will go down."

"We also want to protect British sovereignty, ensuring that the British Parliament can decide what is best for Britain. We do not share the vision of ‘ever closer union' as set out in the EU treaties."

Areas where the members of parliament (MPs), who call themselves the Fresh Start group, would like to see powers clawed back including large swathes of employment, social and criminal justice law. They are also pressing for an "emergency brake" on new laws that could affect Britain's powerhouse financial services industry and are demanding that the EU's agriculture and fisheries budget be overhauled.

The MPs are also asking Cameron to withdraw Britain from the EU's "regional policy", which distributes EU funds to poorer regions, and to press him to restrict the rights of future immigrants from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.   Continued...

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions at parliament in London January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris