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Influential group of Conservative MPs propose new relationship with EU

16 Jan 2013

The Fresh Start group, which has the support of around 100 Conservative MPs, has this morning unveiled their proposals for Britain’s future relations with the EU. The Manifesto for Change, to which Foreign Secretary William Hague has written the foreword, warns that “The status quo in the European Union is no longer an option” and that “we must articulate and negotiate a new and different relationship for ourselves whilst remaining a full member of the EU.” On the BBC Today Programme, Fresh Start co-founder Andrea Leadsom MP said, “From my conversations with European politicians over the last few months, when we actually get down to the nitty gritty of what is it that Britain wants, they don't think it's all utterly impossible.”

The proposals include limiting the EU’s regional spending to only the poorest member states, which would put an end to the recycling of funds among richer member states and financially benefit 23 out of the 27 member states. Also, among the proposals are calls for five changes to EU treaties, including an ‘emergency brake’ over financial services regulation, an opt-out from EU crime and policing law, legal safeguards for the single market and returning power over social and employment law to the member states.

On his Telegraph blog, Benedict Brogan notes that the people involved in Business for Sterling, the campaign group set up by Open Europe Chairman Lord Leach and others in 1998 to campaign against adopting the euro, are reconvening to make the case for a new UK role in the EU. In a letter to the FT, referendum expert Nigel Smith argues that “If the EU and Britain decide on renegotiation then it must be substantive in nature and transparent in process… [so that] the referendum that follows will be honest and informed, and the consequences of a No vote clear.”

Writing in the Guardian, Simon Jenkins argues that “Cameron's task is to replace the absolutism of in-or-out with the relativism of the opt-out… Total breakdown is as unthinkable as total subservience to fiscal and monetary union.” Elsevier reports that Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said yesterday that “the Netherlands is not in favour of opt-outs, we have never been", but added “we will do everything to keep the British on board.” Elsevier's Political Editor Eric Vrijsen writes that “[Dutch PM Mark] Rutte should stand next to the eurocritic Cameron" in order to "put pressure on Brussels in the struggle to preserve national sovereignty.”
Telegraph
BBC Conservative Home City AM FT FT 2 WSJ WSJ 2 BBC Times Independent Sun Evening Standard Telegraph: Heath Telegraph: Brogan’s blog Guardian Guardian: Sheinwald Guardian 2 Express Mail Irish Times EurActiv Guardian: Jenkins Telegraph: Riddell Times: Miliband Independent: McRae FT: Davidson City AM: Heath FT Letters: Smith Elsevier Elsevier: Vrijsen

Greek Finance Minister: Greece would not “say no to” another debt restructuring
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has said that Greece would not “say no to” another restructuring of Greek debt, although he accepted one would only be possible once Greece returns to a primary budget surplus. Stournaras did suggest such a discussion may take place at the end of this year, according to Kathimerini. The paper also reports that some Greek banks have been able to return to normal ECB funding mechanisms, reducing their cost of borrowing. Separately, the Economic Freedom Index compiled by the Heritage Foundation has ranked Greece 117 out of 177 countries, with it’s score the same as in 2012.
Kathimerini
Kathimerini 2 Kathimerini 3 Kathimerini 4 Telegraph

New poll: Only 18% of Germans see France as “privileged” partner
Ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the Franco-German Elysée Treaty, Handelsblatt reports that, according to a new IFOP poll, only 18% of Germans see France as a “privileged” partner. Separately, the Europe Ministers of France and Germany – Bernard Cazeneuve and Michael Link – write in Le Figaro, “Today, the priority must be the full realisation of the economic and monetary union, through the establishment of the banking union and a better coordination of economic policies.”
Le Figaro: Cazeneuve & Link
EurActiv FT Handelsblatt IFOP poll

A new YouGov poll has found that 31% of people who voted Conservative in 2010 would vote for UKIP in the elections to the European Parliament in 2014.
YouGov EUobserver

According to a new IPSOS poll, 31% of Italians will vote for centre-left candidate Pier Luigi Bersani to become the next Italian Prime Minister – well ahead of Mario Monti, with only 17%. The same poll puts the centre-left coalition ahead on 39%, Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition second on 26.3%, and Monti’s centrist bloc third on 16%. Separately, Italy sold €6bn of 15-year bonds in an auction yesterday, with strong demand.
IPSOS poll
Il Sole 24 Ore Corriere della Sera Corriere della Sera 2 Repubblica Repubblica 2 FT

According to a new Stern-RTL poll, support for the German SPD has fallen to 23%, the lowest level for 18 months. Angela Merkel’s CDU leads on 43% with the Greens on 14%, Die Linke on 8%, the Pirate party on 4%, and the FDP on 3%. In head to head polling, Angela Merkel leads the SDP’s Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück by 59% to 18%.
Stern Welt Spiegel Süddeutsche

In an interview with the FT, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called on Germany and other creditor countries in the eurozone to implement “growth policies”. Rajoy added that he did not see accessing the ECB’s OMT bond-buying programme as “necessary” at this point in time, and stressed that the Spanish banking sector would not need additional capital on top of the funds provided by the eurozone bank bailout.
FT FT: Rajoy El País El Mundo Expansión FT FT interview: Rajoy

European Voice notes that many MEPs have called for tougher legislation on credit-rating agencies, complaining that the new EU rules expected to be approved today do not go far enough.
European Voice WSJ

The Portuguese Central Bank now expects the Portuguese economy to contract by 1.9% this year, compared to its previous estimate of 1.6%. It also revised export growth down from 5% to 2%. The Portuguese government still expects the economy to only contract by 1% this year.
WSJ

EUobserver reports that the German government would “welcome” a decision by Russia to provide further financial aid to Cyprus, according to an unnamed German official. Meanwhile, Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias has said that differences between the Cypriot government and the IMF over the capital needs of Cypriot banks have delayed the Cypriot bailout.
Kathimerini EUobserver Reuters.de

FAZ reports that German banks plan to repay some of the loans which they received under the ECB’s long term lending operations, the LTRO. Commerzbank has announced that it could repay €10bn up to March 2013.
FAZ

According to a report released by the European Court of Auditors yesterday, billions of euros spent by the EU via the European Development Fund (EDF) between 1995 and 2011 on building modern highways were a less successful investment than expected because governments in the beneficiary countries failed to maintain them properly or to enforce weight limits.
Euractiv
ECA Report Open Europe research: EU Aid

The Times notes that France has ordered an escalation in the number of troops sent to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants occupying swaths of the desert African nation of Mali. British C17 transport aircraft delivered armoured personnel carriers overnight.
Times
BBC

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