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30/09/2016

Osborne calls for legal safeguards for ‘euro-outs’

UK & Europe

Osborne calls for legal safeguards for ‘euro-outs’

Mateusz Szczurek, George Osborne, and Lord Hill. [EU Council]

Britain cannot give up any more sovereignty to the European Union and must have legal safeguards to make sure members of the euro zone monetary bloc do not damage British interests, Chancellor of the Excheque George Osborne will say during a visit to Germany today (3 November).

In some of his strongest language yet to defend the UK’s push to change the terms of its relationship with the EU, Osborne will also tell German businessmen in Berlin “the British people do not want to be part of an ever closer union”.

He will tell government and corporate leaders at an event sponsored by the Federation of German Industry (BDI) on Tuesday that fair treatment of countries outside the euro zone should be enforceable by law.

“The (EU) principles must ensure that as the eurozone chooses to integrate it does so in a way that does not damage the interests of non-euro members,” he will say, according to excerpts from an advance copy of his speech.

Osborne, seen as the frontrunner to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron, is leading a new round of talks in European capitals, keen to sell Britain’s proposals for reform while keeping vocal eurosceptics in his own party at bay before a referendum on membership of the bloc by the end of 2017.

“It needs to be a Europe where we are not part of that ever closer union you are more comfortable with … Ever closer union is not right for us any longer,” he will say.

Osborne, who was due to meet Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schaüble late on Monday (2 November), will explain fears that closer integration of the eurozone could leave London sidelined in financial policymaking, affecting its banking sector.

He has made protection for states in the EU but outside the 19-member single currency area a priority for the renegotiation to defend Britain’s financial services which account for about 8 percent of its economy.

He will also say that any participation in policies such as the European banking union must be voluntary and that taxpayers in countries outside the euro zone must not have to support those inside it — a clear reference to the Greek bailout.

With opinion polls showing a narrowing of support for staying in the EU, Cameron’s government is under increasing pressure to take on eurosceptics in both his ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour camp directly.

The prime minister launched his most open defence to date of Britain staying in the EU last week by telling eurosceptics that the country should not try to emulate outsider Norway which pays the same amount to the bloc but has no seat at the table.

>>Read: Cameron admits Norway no model for Britain in Europe

Background

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union. The renegotiation will be followed by a referendum by the end of 2017, to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the EU.

If he achieves the reforms, Cameron will campaign to stay in. Otherwise, the Conservatives might campaign to leave the EU. This decision could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.

Some European countries are ready to listen to Cameron's concerns on issues such as immigration, and may be prepared to make limited concessions to keep Britain in the bloc.

But EU leaders also have their red lines, and have ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.

>>Read our LinksDossier: The UK's EU referendum: On the path to Brexit?