Britain could lose its prized EU veto on some subjects if it opts out from the commitment to “ever closer union” in the bloc’s treaties under David Cameron’s reform plans, a senior German MEP said.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right European People’s Party group, the largest in the European Parliament, said the loss of blocking powers would be “compensation” for concessions that Cameron has demanded.
Cameron met several European leaders including Weber last week, in order to push for reforms ahead of a national referendum on Britain’s EU membership, including an opt-out of the closer union clause, and lobby for stricter requirements for migrants in claiming welfare payments.
“If there is a request on the table to change this phrase or to make an opt-out for Britain… then the rest of the European Union can ask for a compensation on this,” Weber told reporters in Brussels.
“If Britain wants to have opt out on this question, then the rest of the European Union can also [say], “OK, that means for the future that you are losing your blocking situation, your veto system on this question,” Weber told reporters.
He added: “The logic behind (this is) if I insist on getting out of this ever-closer union approach, than I cannot have the right in the future to block others if they want an ever closer union.
“If Britain insists on this idea to have a protocol, then the rest of Europe should write in this agreement that they are not using their veto in the future — in any domain.”
Weber later said on Twitter that this would only apply to areas in which Britain already has an opt-out, such as the Schengen passport-free zone.
The EPP is the party of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who met Cameron in Britain last week to discuss the reform plans following the British premier’s re-election last month.
Weber added that during his meeting with Cameron, he urged him to bring “realistic” demands to a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on 25-26 June.
David Cameron's ruling Conservative party won an outright majority in the 7 May parliamentary election, winning 12 seats more than all the other parties combined, allowing them to govern alone.
Cameron has promised to renegotiate the country's relationship with the EU and then call a referendum by 2017 on whether to stay or leave, a decision with far-reaching implications for trade, investment and Britain's place in the world.
On 27 May Britain's Queen Elizabeth announced that the new Conservative government plans to pass a law in its first year that would allow the referendum to occur by the end of 2017.
Cameron wants a treaty change which would enable the UK to repatriate powers from the EU. Conversely, France and Germany have plans to strengthen cooperation among the 19 countries using the euro, without changing existing treaties.