Britain asks Germany to help lead reform of EU

Fri May 31, 2013 10:57am EDT
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By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Britain and Germany to lead a campaign to reform the European Union on Friday as he explained how the bloc could be overhauled and derided planned EU financial services regulation as "folly".

In a speech in Germany aimed at persuading Europe's most powerful nation to back Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to try to reform the EU ahead of a possible British EU membership referendum, Hague set out some of the changes Cameron hopes to win.

"We want to get on with the business of delivering that reformed EU. And here, Britain and Germany must lead the way," Hague told a policy conference in a castle outside Berlin according to a transcript of a speech his office said was subject to minor changes.

"Finding the right balance between integration in Europe for those who need it, and flexibility where it is best for our economies and our democracies, is the great challenge of German and British diplomacy over the next few years."

Hague's intervention follows a promise Cameron gave in January to try to renegotiate Britain's membership of the EU and hold an in/out referendum if he wins the next national election in 2015, a pledge he said was designed to address deep public unease about the EU's far-reaching role in British life.

Hague said EU states should consider giving national parliaments the right to block EU-wide legislation they felt was over-reaching to clip the powers of the European Commission, the EU's executive body.

That builds on a British idea to give EU member states more power over how the EU executive formulates policies.

And he said he believed that EU states should push to deepen the 27-nation bloc's internal single market in digital, services, and energy, while attempting to conclude "all ongoing and potential free trade agreements" with other countries.   Continued...

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague arrives at an European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels May 27, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir