UK Conservatives balk at plans for eurozone parliament


British Conservative MEPs have cried foul over a proposal to create a permanent European Parliament sub-committee to deal with the single currency, saying it would have “major implications for the UK to regulate its financial services sector” and represented an attempt to “curtail” the influence of British MEPs.

Syed Kamall, the leading British Tory MEP in the European Parliament, said such a development would be “divisive and dangerous”.

"To create a separate committee that only euro-zone MEPs may belong to sets a dangerous precedent. It is a case of divide and rule,” he said.

His comments came in response to a letter sent by British Liberal MEP Sharon Bowles, the chairwoman of the Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee (ECON), who called for a special sub-group to convene on areas related to the euro single currency.

The Bowles plan is currently only a recommendation, but Kamall said he feared a new economic and monetary union subcommittee would be pushed forward in June when the Parliament's new committee structure would be developed after the EU elections.

British Conservative MEPs, who would be excluded from the sub-group, fear that important decisions could be taken behind their back.

“This would have major implications for the UK to regulate its financial services sector as it sees fit, given the big steps towards federalisation of bank supervision and regulation that have taken place in recent months,” the Conservatives said in a statement.

The idea of creating a eurozone Parliament is not new and was recently relaunched by Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who said countries using the euro should be able to cooperate more closely on matters relevant to the single currency.

Andrew Duff, a British Liberal MEP and president of the Union of European Federalists, backs the idea, saying the 18 countries sharing the euro currency will in future increasingly take decisions on matters such as taxation, from which Britain will want to opt out.

"It would be scandalous for a Brit MEP like me to vote taxes on people that I wasn't directly representing and who aren't able to overthrow me," Duff told EurActiv in a September 2012 interview.

But the idea of a eurozone Parliament is controversial, not only among British conservatives. Hannes Swoboda, chair of the Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group, dismissed the notion out of hand. "The idea of creating a eurozone parliament is absolute nonsense and would be counter-productive," Swoboda told EurActiv in September 2012, when the idea was first floated.

"The euro is our currency, there is no need for a parliament at currency level. We have the European Parliament and national parliaments to work on the issues at hand, which they are doing,” Swoboda added.

The Bowles letter, which EurActiv has seen, says the Parliamentary sub-group “could be entrusted with the scrutiny of the EMU”, including banking union matters and the oversight of the eurozone’s financial stability mechanisms.

The strictly legislative role, however, would be kept by the existing parliament committees, which would go some way in soothing British concerns.

For the UK Conservatives, this is no less than a ploy to side-line Britain: "If it is felt necessary to create a separate committee for euro-only MEPs, then why on earth are MEPs from landlocked Austria able to vote on European marine policy?,” Kamall said.

“This represents a major attempt to curtail the influence of UK MEPs."


Reacting to EurActiv's article, Sharon Bowles stressed that her letter was not her own initiative but was "a recommendation from the ECON committee coordinators representing all 7 political groups" represented in the European Parliament.

"Therefore this is not a 'Bowles Plan'," she stressed.

Bowles explained that the seven political group coordinators had identified two options which were designed to "manage the heavy workload of the ECON Committee":

  • The first is "to significantly increase the resources available under the current committee structure for scrutiny activities in the area of economic governance, the European semester, monetary policy, and supervisory activities."
  • The second is "to entrust the scrutiny of the EMU to a sub-committee of ECON", but maintain the legislative role with the existing ECON committee. "The EMU subcommittee would manage non-legislative scrutiny tasks related to the Eurozone, banking union and oversight of the fiscal compact."

Bowles insisted however that membership would remain open to all MEPs under that second option.

"No one is excluded from membership of this committee as this would be illegal under the Treaty and current rules and regulations governing the Parliament structures."

"Therefore no UK MEP would be prohibited from sitting on this committee," Bowles said.

  • 3 Feb. 2014: Next meeting of ECON committee in Strasbourg
  • 22-25 May 2014: Elections for European Parliament
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evad666's picture

Democracy is a threat to peace in Europe says German Minister.
As Corporal Jones would say Democracy the Marxist blighters do not like it up em.

Rex Harri's picture

This article presents a confused and inaccurate picture. The subject is not a eurozone Parliament but a committee suggested by Bowles. The Conservatives are therefore not 'balk-ing' at the idea of a eurozone parliament but the a committee. There was no suggestion of a parliament by Bowles.

The idea of a eurozone parliament was floated in the past and mentioned recently by Schäuble but, and this should be stressed, that is not what is being proposed by Bowles and is not what the Conservative Party MEPs have been reacting to.

an european's picture

In no way It's dangerous !!

That's a realistic and string idea that way the Eurozone should be able to cooperate more closely on matters relevant to the single currency as even for the economy as a whole!

I think the UK should adopt the European Dollar with a London Bridge stamped on it ! That would be nicer!

But as 50/50% of UK wants a referendum to way out Europe i think is it really disputable for Cameron's decision in that case.

Remain at least founding fathers United & strong !
Well done Mr Schäuble !

Fritz's picture

@ Rex Harri:

Thanks for clarification!

an european's picture

In other words an second permanently European Parliament Committee for the Eurozone ?

Emanuele's picture

"This represents a major attempt to curtail the influence of UK MEPs"

Yes, it is. And it is a good move against the no-men.

Mike Parr's picture

"For the UK Conservatives, this is no less than a ploy to side-line Britain"

I thought the Tory-vermin wanted to the UK to be side lined - first the do, then they don't - come on make yer minds up.

Richard's picture

Forimg a Parliament within a Parliament would be dangerously divisive. Moreover, there is a strong risk of the eurozone utilising it's inbuilt overall EU majority to form a permanent caucus, where the eurozone votes as a single block all the time within the greater EU. That would be highly prejudicial to those countries who either do not wish to, or more importantly, cannot yet join the eurozone. It would, for example, result in all new EU members instantly being relegated to "second class membership" upon joining. At the moment there are ten EU members who are not in the euro. A caucus would be prejudicial against ALL of them (including countries such as Poland, not known for the euro-sceptcism)- not just UK Conservatives.

There is also the risk of France and Germany being even more dominant with a eurozone body than they are in the EU as a whole. Essentially, the eurozone would become a proxy for a German/French duopoly, and from there becoming an EU duopoly by exercising the eurozone caucus. It does little for the EU as a whole to remake "Merkozy" where two leaders meet before hand, arrive at an agreement that suits them which is then imposed on everyone else.

THis risk is evident to all, which is why it is resisted - even within the eurozone itself it is not seen as a good thing.

Marx Blander's picture

British Tories speaking out against some proposal on the ground it might split the EU. Very funny. Is this a variety of the famous British humour?

an european's picture

I think it's already splitted and morover the Euro-zone has to prevent an economy drop down first to maintain the non-euzones stable behind ! The eu-zones doesn't still full-fill a strong EMU to prevent an similar disaster as it was in 2008/2009 Lehman/US bubble ! I don't think it's not alone done with the federal Supervising of the ECB ! Some financial policies should be as well shared to be redempt the eu-zone in case of (low-confed)!


"becoming an EU duopoly by exercising the eurozone caucus. It does little for the EU "

In fact the duopoly is the strongest economy as an example to follow but will managed multipoly since the eu-zone has has 18 member-states (Netherland, Spain (despite it's problems) which together performs an powerful economical Unit!

However with the UK in the E.U-zone would be economicaly a very wishfull strong tripoli but actually and unfortunately seems not to be the case for that Unit relations in all and thus the E.U.-zone shouldn't break the way down for the capabilities of a stronger financial system!

Otherwise we must tell the U.S. to join the E.U. that the europeans don't lose the english ..

El Pluribus Unum