Page last updated at 08:13 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tory EU stance will 'castrate' UK

Pierre Lellouche, David Cameron
Pierre Lellouche [left] said EU leaders would not help the Tories

The Conservatives' stance on the EU has been attacked as "pathetic" by a French government minister who says it will "castrate" UK influence in Europe.

France's minister for Europe, Pierre Lellouche, said EU leaders would not help the Tories re-negotiate treaties.

He was responding in the Guardian to David Cameron's vow that "never again" would powers be transferred from the UK to Brussels without a referendum.

He was outlining his new policy after ruling out a Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Mr Cameron said all future treaties would be put to a public vote.

He also promised a sovereignty bill if the Tories win the next election to "lock in" the supremacy of UK laws.

And the Tory leader vowed to repatriate powers on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, employment and criminal law - which would need the agreement of all 27 EU nations.

I don't think you will find [Mr Lellouche's comments are] representative of the reaction in Paris or other European capitals
William Hague, shadow foreign secretary

Following the announcement, Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan said he had quit his post as Conservative legal affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, to concentrate on campaigning for a referendum on Europe.

He wrote in his Daily Telegraph blog that he had returned to the backbenches to build a movement that would "push for referendums, citizens' initiatives and the rest of the paraphernalia of direct democracy".

And shortly afterwards the independent Tory website ConservativeHome reported that Conservative MEP Roger Helmer had also resigned.

The website said Mr Helmer had stepped down from the frontbench in the European Parliament in opposition to Mr Cameron's new European policy.

The site reported Mr Helmer as saying: "What we have is an essentially cosmetic policy. We are installing a largely ineffective burglar alarm when the family silver has already been stolen. I can neither justify nor support our new EU policy."

Mr Lellouche told the Guardian the Conservatives' new plan was "pathetic".

"It's just very sad to see Britain, so important in Europe, just cutting itself out from the rest and disappearing from the radar map."

"They have essentially castrated your UK influence in the European parliament," he added.

Another empty statement from David Cameron. He makes the promise for a referendum knowing full well there will never be another treaty.
Nigel, Newport

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague insisted Mr Lellouche's comments did not represent the true reaction to the party's plans in Europe.

"I don't think you will find that's representative of the reaction in Paris or other European capitals," he said.

Fully ratified

He told the BBC's Newsnight programme that his party had established good relations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy's party.

He said they expected some countries to say that what they had proposed could never be negotiated, but that the Tories would use "patience and persistence" to push for what they wanted over the lifetime of the next parliament.

When asked about the party's abandonment of its original pledge to hold a referendum in the Lisbon Treaty, he said: "We have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it to be."

The idea that... everybody has the right to change everything, has nothing to do with the legal tradition of the European Union
Sylvie Goulard, French MEP / president of the French European Movement

Sylvie Goulard, a French MEP and president of the French European Movement, agreed with Mr Lellouche by saying she did not think the other member states would go along with the Tory plan.

"The idea that everyone comes in when there is a change in government in one of the member states, everybody has the right to change everything, has nothing to do with the legal tradition of the European Union.

"So we should refuse simply to do it."

Mr Cameron unveiled the new set of policies on Wednesday after conceding a referendum on the treaty was not possible.

The Lisbon Treaty has now been fully ratified by all 27 member states and will come into force on 1 December.

'Doable and deliverable'

Accused of backtracking on a "cast iron" pledge to hold a referendum if he became prime minister, Mr Cameron said he had not promised a vote "come what may".

He said: "I recognise there are some who, now that we cannot have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, want a referendum on something else... anything else.

"But I just don't think it's right to concoct some new pretext for a referendum simply to have one for the sake of it."

But a Conservative government would amend the European Communities Act 1972 to prohibit the transfer of power to the EU without a referendum.

That would cover any future attempt to take Britain into the European single currency, said Mr Cameron.

Such a move, together with the repatriation of some powers, was "credible, doable and deliverable" and would prevent the "drift" towards a federal Europe, he argued.

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