X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Coffee House

Hague stays vague on EU renegotiation details

6 February 2013

5:20 PM

6 February 2013

5:20 PM

William Hague stayed remarkably jovial throughout his two-hour appearance before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee today, chuckling happily away even when he was asked to imagine what he’d do if the European Union had never existed.

But the Foreign Secretary was considerably less revelatory than he was cheery, offering no new details at all on his party’s position on renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU or on a subsequent referendum. He told a slightly disappointed-looking John Baron that ‘it’s too early to speak of red lines [for a negotiation]… we don’t publish our red lines: that doesn’t necessarily help bring about a successful negotiation.’ He did tell Rory Stewart that when assessing whether the renegotiated relationship would win support from the British public in the referendum when it did come, the government would ‘be able to say that the European Union in future will be more democratically accountable, that power will be able to flow to nation states… that it is being operated fairly to all concerned, including those outside certain structures such as the eurozone’ and that the negotiation has ‘done what we need to do to allow us to compete’.

What if the British people don’t like the new settlement, though? MPs on the committee were anxious to discover whether the Foreign Office had started any work on the consequences of an ‘Out’ vote in the referendum when it does come. Hague said there wasn’t any such work:

‘The job of the Foreign Office is to work on those priorities I was talking about earlier, the agreed programme of the Coalition government: it has a full programme of work on Europe as my colleagues and officials will attest… that is their job, the judgement about the consequences of leaving, is for political debate in the future at the time of a referendum.’

[Alt-Text]


When pressed on this by Ming Campbell, Hague said:

‘We are not doing a preparatory exercise at the moment.’

You can listen to the exchange here:

Incidentally, Hague would create an EU if one didn’t exist, just not one that looked like the current set up:

‘I wouldn’t create it exactly as it is today because I would want it to look more like the answer I just gave… but I wouldn’t be opposed to the creation of something that allowed European countries to work together.’

John Baron was busy this afternoon: as well as grilling Hague in the committee, he also introduced a ten-minute rule bill which calls for legislation in this parliament for a referendum in the next. Hague told him in the committee that he doubted there would be sufficient support from the other parties in the Commons for this to work, but Baron is worried that voters just won’t believe the pledge from the PM for a vote in the next parliament.

Baron might be upset, but his worries won’t create a gaping split in the Tory party, partly because MPs seem to have forgotten about Europe entirely and are busy getting upset about other issues. And it is in Hague’s interests to remain as vague as possible for as long as he can on the renegotiation details, not just for the reasons he referred to in his evidence, but because once the Tory leadership start sketching out their own specific plans, they’ll find their MPs as keen to talk and argue about Europe as they were before the Big Speech.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close