Eight Cabinet ministers want Britain to threaten to quit the European Union, as the Government today begins the process of reclaiming powers from Brussels.
Home Secretary Theresa May will announce the UK intends to opt out of more than 100 justice and home affairs measures run by the EU.The move puts the Tories on a collision course with the Lib Dems, who are refusing to sign off the plans.But in a significant hardening of Tory attitudes to Brussels, Education Secretary Michael Gove let it be known that he thinks the UK should be prepared to leave the EU altogether unless Britain is allowed to renegotiate its relationship.He swiftly won support from Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who said ‘many’ ministers agree.
And the Mail understands six more ministers privately back Mr Gove’s views.Mrs May will today tell MPs she is ‘minded’ to opt out of 140 measures governing crime and justice, including the controversial European Arrest Warrant.We would then opt back in to certain directives that help boost crime fighting. The details of which policies the UK will re-adopt are still being thrashed out between Lib Dem Danny Alexander and David Cameron’s policy chief, Oliver Letwin.
The move is a bid to carve out what David Cameron has called a new compact with Brussels, which will see further demands in exchange for Britain not standing in the way of political and economic integration in the eurozone.Mr Gove told friends that when the negotiations begin in earnest he wants the Government to deliver an ultimatum: ‘Give us back our sovereignty or we will walk out.
‘We have to tell them if they don’t return some of the important powers they have snaffled from us, we will leave. We have nothing to be scared of.’Mr Hammond said: ‘The point Michael is reflecting and many of us feel is that we are not satisfied with the current relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom. Those of us who are uncomfortable with the way that relationship has developed, see an opportunity to renegotiate it.’
Tory sources told the Mail that Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, Chris Grayling, Theresa Villiers and Justine Greening are understood to support Mr Gove’s position.Mr Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has privately made clear he thinks the UK should seek an arms-length trading relationship with the EU, like Norway or Switzerland.‘On Europe the public is now where we are,’ he told friends recently. ‘The countries in the eurozone want to redefine what “in” means.
‘We need to redefine what “out” looks like. That is the direction we are inevitably heading.’But the tough Tory approach will cause friction with the Lib Dems, who want Britain to re-adopt the European Arrest Warrant and maintain cross-border crime measures that have helped combat paedophile rings.A source close to Nick Clegg said: ‘We’re not going to let a Eurosceptic obsession put the British public in danger. It would jeopardise public safety to opt out of all these things.’
Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott said the Government’s plan to opt out of a number of European powers was a ‘very short-sighted and stupid’ thing to do.‘What is the point of opting out of vast numbers of powers, and then start opting back in again?’ he said. ‘That’s throwing the toys out of the pram and then putting them back in one by one.‘At times like this, with enormous economic pressure and tension, we should all be working closely together, not waving two fingers. It’s very, very dangerous for Government ministers to be playing these games.’ – Dailymail