UK minister to launch ultimatum: Reform or we'll leave the EU

  

British Finance Minister George Osborne will warn the European Union today it must reform if it wants Britain to remain a member, and say it faces decline if it resists change, said an official familiar with the contents of his speech.

Addressing a conference on reform of the 28-nation bloc, Osborne, a close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, will say his ruling Conservative party is determined, if re-elected in 2015, to keep its promise to renegotiate Britain's EU ties before offering Britons an in/out membership referendum.

"Our determination is clear: to deliver the reform and then let the people decide," Osborne will say, according to advance extracts of the speech released by his office.

"It is the status quo which condemns the people of Europe to an ongoing economic crisis and continuing decline. And so there is a simple choice for Europe: reform or decline."

According to the official, Osborne will make it clear he wants Britain to stay in the EU, but say meaningful reform is vital for it to remain a member of a club it joined in 1973.

"The Chancellor will warn that the European Union reform and renegotiation is necessary both for Britain's continuing membership and to avoid ongoing economic crisis and decline," the official said.

Osborne's rare foray into Britain's emotive Europe debate is likely to irk EU officials and some European politicians who will resent his gloomy assessment of the bloc's economy and some of the blunt language he will deploy to make his case.

It is also likely to be seen as an attempt to shore up his party's fragile position ahead of European Parliament elections in May, where it faces a threat from the anti-EU UK Independence Party, and to calm a fractious anti-EU element in Osborne's own party before a national election in 2015.

History of divisions

Divisions over Europe have torn the Conservative party apart in the past and undid the last two Conservative prime ministers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

Cameron thought his promise last year of a renegotiation and of a referendum had united the party, but eurosceptic lawmakers have shown signs of becoming restless over the issue again.

Almost 100 of Cameron's 303 Conservative lawmakers in the lower house of the British parliament wrote to him at the weekend saying they wanted the chamber to have the ability to block new EU legislation and to repeal existing measures which threatened "national interests".

Government ministers said the request was "unrealistic".

Many polls have shown a slim majority of Britons - disenchanted with the EU's red tape and what they view as its overbearing intervention in their everyday lives - would vote to leave the EU if given the chance.

Other polls have been less equivocal. But both pro and anti-EU groups agree any referendum would be close.

The Conservatives have not yet disclosed all the areas they want to reform, but the general thrust of their demand is that they want Britain and other member states to repatriate powers in policy areas such as immigration and social security.

Osborne, who is presiding over a strong economic recovery in Britain, will say the European economy has stalled and is being shown up by economies like China and India.

"We knew there was a competitiveness problem in Europe before the crisis," he will say.

"But the crisis has dramatically accelerated the shifts in the tectonic economic plates that see power moving eastwards and southwards on our planet."

He will single out Europe's decreasing share of world patent applications, its high unemployment rates, and its welfare spending as areas that reflect its decline.

"As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over seven percent of the world's population, 25 percent of its economy, and 50 percent of global social welfare spending. We can't go on like this."

Positions: 

Katja Hall, chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)  reacted by saying:

“The benefits to the UK of the EU single market far outweigh the costs and it remains fundamental to future growth and jobs.

“The Chancellor sets out a compelling case for reform to ensure Europe stays competitive.  We need an EU that is more open and outward looking and must protect UK influence as the Eurozone integrates.

“A growing EU is in the UK’s national interest so we must build alliances with other member states to get the reforms we need.”

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Comments

Ken Mckean's picture

Who is this pratt Gidiot ? or for that matter Mike Parry ?

uk-skeptic's picture

What about reforming but still have Britain leaving?

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

He is right it must be made strong reform in british education programme because majority of British Universities have an old and un updated education programme Because of this when students finish their studies they nobody give them a job

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

i CAN GIVE YOU HUNDRED EXAMPLS WHY MANORITY OF UR UNIVERSITIES HAVE AN OLD AND UN UPDATED EDUCATION PROGRAMME
in 2008 when the crisis had hited USA those Universities supposed to make researches about that situation By this ocasion in order to prevent such bad situation in EU they supposed to make reaseaches in order to help EU companies to increase sales and in the same time present them a list of business opportunities which could bring high profit in short time
After this as world wild investors ,governments ,companies were worried about negative consequences which the crisis were bringing those UK Universities shoul had organized conferences about
""How cris can affect world wild companies and make dozens millions of people to lose their jobs""
As that from 2008 until today hundred of millions of people shoud had downloaded ebooks ,tools apps with 30-50 euro ,about those things amd hundred thousands people shoul had assited those conferences and paied more than 700 euro for the conference fee and touristic service ,we have here a demonstraction that because those UK Universities did not do what supposed to be done UK had lost trillions of EURO up to know

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

I i CAN GIVE YOU HUNDRED EXAMPLS WHY MAJORITY OF UK UNIVERSITIES HAVE AN OLD AND UN UPDATED EDUCATION PROGRAMME
in the previous comment i had give you an example why majority of UK Universities have an old un updated education programme and how this have beeen affecting millions of students and compromising their carrer In some other post we wil continue giving you more an more examples until UK people will wake up and see why UK economy are losing billions of pounds and millios of UK citizens have no jobs or salaries they receive do not help them to cover their needs Why we will present those realities ?

UK IN ORDER TO GET VOTE THEY ARE MAKING PROPAGANDA USING UNEMPLOYMENT ,IN ASSOCIATIONS WITH MIGRATION ISSUE ETC In order to descouraje UK parties to use those issues in their political propaganda we will present their electors the truth about many things UK politicians are hidden them

evad666's picture

The comments against reform of the EU (which is not Europe) highlight the fact the EU is essentially an undemocratic construct uncaring of the impact of its actions on its citizens and their families.
We know certain areas benefit from payments by multinational corporations while the rest of the continent forgoes the tax income.

Joe's picture

That is scary - 50% of the worlds welfare spending. With the European population getting older, the percentage will just continue growing. If nothing is done soon Europe will fall into dissarray.

Mike Parr's picture

In response to "evad666" - the problem is that dolts like Gidiot talk about "reform" without specifying - reform of what - exactly?

In response to Joe - welfare - or health spending - there is a difference - health spending is likely to go up as a population ages - hence the importance of a younger influx - oh hang on - we are talking about "immigrants" again (= bad according to the Daily Hate and similar Nazi rags.)

I support the EU's picture

Yes, let the UK leave from the EU and start with reforms without the UK!

To bring the never ending Story of British Ultimatums Discounts and NOs to an end. So that we and they can proceed with the important things.

So Long UK ;-)

Mike Parr's picture

I'd also add this - from another part of the Euractiv web site (see below). Gidiot & the other morons that "let's pretend we are government ministers" should focus on the half a million UK citizens going to food banks - that is a national disgrace - Gidiots reaction - he whines on about the EU and reform!!! what a truly pathetic creature!!!! he is.

Despite a good score on malnutrition, undernourishment and access to safe water, the UK is at the bottom of the European “top table”, ranking 13th overall because of high food costs that have left Britons “finding it harder to eat well,” the report says. 500,000 Britons are relying on food banks, a cause for concern at Oxfam. the group cite one real life example of a single working mother who “despite receiving tax credits to top up her salary, finds it increasingly difficult to feed herself and her son.”

“I might go almost all day without something to eat," she tells them. "Over the last three years specifically, I’ve noticed that my income hasn’t changed but my expenses have soared, so I’ve found myself going deeper and deeper into the red every month."

Wilmot Avery-Wilkinson's picture

Hallelujah - the exit door beckons.
Mike Parr should be more concerned that the father of the son is not providing support, rather than the taxpayer not providing enough.
In respect of food costs, be reminded that the CAP costs each UK household 1,200 quid a year, with the bulk of it going to subsidizing inefficient French and German farmers.
As for malnutrition and undernourishment, I am unable to square that with the obesity crisis in the UK.

Charles_M's picture

Parr - "health spending is likely to go up as a population ages - hence the importance of a younger influx" aka Ponzi scheme. Do they stay young, healthy and tax paying for ever?

Richard's picture

In response to "support the EU": contrary to myth, all EU countries (not just the UK) pursue their own interests. France recently threatened to wreck the entire EU-USA trade agreement unless special protections were given to "European" (in other words, French) films and TV productions. They also vetoed UK membership of then EEC - twice. Germany seeks special conditions to protect it's car manufacturers. Ireland has voted against several Treaties (but of course, was required to vote again until it produced the "correct answer"); France voted against the Constitution. Lots of countries - not just the UK - get rebates. And unlike the UK, most of them have not been permanent net contributors to the EU budget. The rebate exists because the ridiculously wasteful Common Agricultural Policy was designed to subsiside French farmers (is there any sensible reason why over 40% of the EU budget subsisides agriculture, which is 2% of the Eu economy?) - Britain ended up paying huge sums of money in and getting almost nothing back in the form of the CAP (which at that time was 80% of the Eu budget); the rebate addressed that and was recently cut.

Now, you might welcome the EU suddenly contracting by 15% with the enormous repercussions to it's standing in the world, and it's economy, not to mention the loss of one of two meaningful EU military powers and a holder of a Security Seat Council (leaving you all more or less totally dependent on France) but I doubt that most sensible people would.

Britain needs the EU - but you need us too. The loss of the world's fifth largest economy (and what is projected to be the largest EU economy and leading economic power by 2030) would be a massive blow. The EU would lose credibility, the loss of market confidence in it would be extremely damaging and probably wreck the fragile recovery taking place.

As to welfare: it is hardly suprising. India and China together have more than a third of world population and have hardly any welfare spending. It is not that Europe spends so much, but that most of the world spends so little!

Concerning food banks: Der Spiegel recently ran an article documenting the dramatic rise in food banks in Germany. This is not unique to Britain.

Lastly, to Mike Parr: yes, we all get it, you hate the Tories. You may have serious arguments to make, and people might actually listen to what you have to say...if only your posts were not filled with silly name-calling.

Mike Parr's picture

Mr Richard, good post - you are wrong - I don't "hate" the Tory-Vermin (as I have often noted - Bevan rated them lower than vermin so looking at them as vermin is something of an improvement - no?). No my attitude towards the likes of cam-moron-con and Gidiot is best summarised by Exeter in Henry V:

EXETER Scorn and defiance; slight regard, contempt,
And any thing that may not misbecome
the mighty sender, doth he prize you at.

The "you" in this case being Tory-Vermin in general and Moron-Con and Gidiot in particular (plus of course their bag carriers such as the present head of UKREP). Name calling? merely an attempt to define more clearly what they are, Cameron an ex-PR puff ball, Osborne a former Debenhams towel folder born to rule? certainly unfit to govern a village fete.

Charles_M's picture

Sounds like pseuds corner here

evad666's picture

Mike Parr,
Some minor points need correction.
The first man made reactor was actually constructed on a Squash Court at the University of Chicago.
As to the unspecified reforms of the cartel political construction which is the EU.
Since its inception as the European Coal and Steel Community which was designed to obstruct the destructive enmity of France and Germany which had wreaked havoc on the continent three times at 1870 1914 and 1939. The EU has grown beyond its remit and now through its courts aspires with its proposed inclusion of Turkey to become a Eurasian entity, which I would suggest would be better ruled from Moscow.
Currently however the EU ignores in its haste for expansion of territory and control of "competencies" the fact its Commission and Courts sanction uncontrolled immigration from outside its area disenfranchising many of its native citizens denying them jobs and even training for jobs to meet racial requirements.
These same institutions effectively simultaneously provide state sanction of Child Prostitution, Criminality, Terrorism and Female gendercide and mandate through the provision of benefits to the groups which succor such behaviors and threaten the EU component states very security.
Perhaps thein lies the problem until Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Brussels with their Cafes are subject to terrorist atrocities the Commission and its Courts will not act. But of course the terrorists and the communities which contain them will not act against the organizations currently dispensing such largesse.

Emanuele's picture

Is it supposed to be a threat or a promise?

Wilmot's picture

Emanuele:A threat by the Minister but a promise by the British people.
It will happen at some stage, as Democracy will eventually prevail.

an european's picture

"It is the status quo which condemns the people of "Europe to an ongoing economic crisis and continuing decline."

Which reforms for Mr Osborne !!??

The "economic" crisis only affects directly the Eurozone only but since England doesn't make part of it ,then should his logic not to be questionable?

In fact The Eurozone is reforming on it's banking-union to federalise the supervision of struggled banks and if needed to inject some liquidity but this at the first instance.

But what want George really ? A full Federation immediately for the Eurozone?!
IF we would Jump out of the crisis in avery fast track to an Transferunion then maybe!

England really doesn't interest's to be part of a light federal european ECB even if economy is risin' and jobless dropping!

But I agree Mr.Osborne that the E.U. has to switch to a faster output to an U.S.A. Alexander Hamilton plan .

El Pluribus Unum