Mandelson: ‘UK fading into European background’

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The UK government is trapped between eurosceptics and anti-Europeans and is in danger of being ignored, dismissed and then forgotten by other member states, former Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has told EurActiv.cz in an exclusive interview.

“The government in the UK is doing two things. It is operating in the short-term, not the long-term interest; and secondly, it is responding to political pressures within the Conservative party not the national interest,” Mandelson told EurActiv.cz.

The former trade commissioner, who returned to the British House of Lords in 2008 to serve in the remainder of Gordon Brown’s Labour government, said that “many others in Britain, including in the financial sector, the banks and the City of London, would take a different longer-term view of Britain’s interests.”

Cameron trapped between sceptics and ‘antis’

Mandelson said that British Prime Minister David Cameron “would prefer not to be trapped in this debate between the eurosceptics and the anti-Europeanists”, preferring the UK “to take a pragmatic approach and to see Britain play a full and effective part in the affairs of the European Union.”

But he said Cameron was being impeded by in-fighting within his Conservative party and that “if Britain continues to follow this ambivalent route, then we are going to find partners in Europe first ignoring us, then dismissing us and then forgetting about us altogether.”

He said Britain was “cutting off its nose to spite its face”, and added that its alliance with the eurosceptic Czech Republic was “a relationship which is going nowhere”, and “is no more beneficial for Czech interests as it is for Britain’s.”

European Central Bank – a model executive for Europe

Mandelson defended his recent backing for a referendum in the UK saying that, unlike eurosceptics, he did not want an immediate referendum. “I want to take advantage of the remaking of the eurozone so that Britain can consider whether will become a part of it, not to leave the European Union all together,” he said.

Addressing remarks that he made in a speech in May, calling for radical reform of the EU’s institutions, Mandelson said that such reform was necessary to address a problem of political legitimacy in Europe.

“I think European Commission meeting every week with 27 people is unviable, impractical. So I would like to see a smaller executive meeting, Mandelson explained.

He went on: “So if we can find a preferable model, that is what I would like to examine, and the model of the European Central Bank – where you have executive council and a supervisory board of all 17 member states – is, I think, an interesting model.”

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