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Hague stays vague on EU renegotiation details

6 February 2013

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.’

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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.

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Show comments
  • Boudicca_Icenii

    The Establishment and their mouthpieces in LibLabCON will NEVER give the British people the opportunity to vote to leave the EU in a free and fair Referendum.
    What’s the point of the FCO planning to leave when it won’t be permitted? All The Establishment wants is a mandate to keep us in. Because the only honest statement in Cameron’s speech on the EU was the part where he said “the democratic mandate for the UK to be in the EU is wafer thin.”
    Actually – there is NO mandate and there never has been. Heath took us in by deliberately lying and deceiving the British people. The IN Campaign in 1975 continues with the lies and deceipt and successive Government’s have carried out the original policy which was to disguise the huge transfers of power to Brussels and deny any future Referenda.
    If you want OUT – as I do – there is no alternative to voting UKIP.

  • Radford_NG

    In sum,Hague’s policy is still what he previously said it was:”In Europe,but not ruled by Europe”.Which is the same as saying:”In Rampton,but not ruled by Rampton”…….Contrast this with SNP policy of:”Independence in Europe”.Which is the same as saying:”Independence in Carstairs,but not ruled by Carstairs”.

  • Russell

    “Hague told him in the committee that he doubted there would be
    sufficient support from the other parties in the Commons for this to

    That is exactly what Cameron and the Conservative party should dream of.
    Imagine Labour and LibDems voting down a Bill which would guarantee an in/out EU referendum for the British people, many of those MP’s voting against would lose their seats as it is not only the anti EU people who want a referendum, millions of pro EU people also want a referendum..

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, but who cares what those plebs want?

  • Tom Tom

    Hague The Vague is his name and well-deserved

    • telemachus

      We know what you drink

  • James Strong

    The reason he is vague is that the government wants to say that ANYTHING that comes out of the renegotiation is a success. And to be able to make that claim they cannot say in advance what will represent success, or what will constitute failure.
    They will NEVER recommend withdrawal.

    • telemachus

      He is learning from Ed Balls who is keeping quiet while all know he is safe on the EU
      Sadly Cameron and friends have spooked the markets and international business
      Fortunately they know they will be dealing with the Eds and their reasonable pragmatic view in 2015

  • the viceroy’s gin

    It does all come clear today though.

    The EU seemed ready to jam gay marriage through on everybody, and force nation states to honor it.

    But if the EU was seen as forcing gay marriage onto the UK, that might very well have been the last straw, and the Brussels crowd might have seen their dreams dashed.

    So LibLabCon took one for the EU team, and got out in front of the issue, and ensured that gay marriage would be instituted preemptively, so as not to allow the issue to upset the glide path to EUSSR-hood.

    You have to give these politicos credit. They know what they want, and how to get it, and how to dodge any landmines in their path.

    • telemachus

      Gin Man
      You know your post is garbage
      I’m just back from Russia where only 14% want gay marriage
      And EU Poland next door is not much better at 27%

  • David Lindsay

    The simplest of legislation would restore the supremacy of British law and use that restoration to take back our historic fishing limits in accordance with international law: 200 miles, or to the median line.

    Withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy, which cannot in fact be done without restoring the supremacy of our Parliament, is at least implicit Labour policy already. But you are not allowed to know that. It was also David Davis’s position when he stood for Leader of the Conservative Party. But you were not allowed that, either.

    David Cameron is no liar. He stood for Leader and then for Prime Minister as a socially ultraliberal slave of the EU. He serves both as Leader and as Prime Minister as a socially ultraliberal slave of the EU. Everyone who voted for him, he is giving you exactly what you voted for.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …which is the same thing as your Millipedal buddies.

      • David Lindsay

        If you could read, then you’d know that it wasn’t.

        Honestly, why don’t you just mind your own business, at least until you have found out the first thing about Britain?

        You are a kind of mirror of the non-Tory non-Conservative Party, which contrary to the whole of its history, until it was briefly taken over by a ridiculous caricature of a rich man’s wife, now thinks that America is some kind of Big Britain, but without even what used to be the Left even of its own party.

        Likewise, you really do imagine that Britain is some kind of Little America, though still afflicted with what was the Republican mainstream when that party used to win elections.

        The non-Tory non-Conservatives are wrong and, as Peter Hitchens might put it, were for all practical purposes born yesterday. The same goes for you.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …far too long again, lad.

          Little chance for reward reading all that filler from you. I won’t risk it.

          • David Lindsay

            The sooner Obama gases your kind, the better.

            America might then have an intellectual and cultural life again. Like Reagan never happened.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Yes, you fascist types always seem to wind up at genocide, don’t you?

              • David Lindsay

                I need no lectures from an American white supremacist, doubtless the beneficiary, as they always are, of any number of gigantic federal subsidies that they pretend do not exist.

                And if you can’t stand the heat, bitch. Stay out of the gas chamber, in fact.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …is that what the voices are telling you now?

                • starfish

                  I do not always agree with you but I enjoy reading your thoughts
                  Don’t get tetchy – he is winding you up

    • MichtyMe

      Today, the European Parliament approved major reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and this has been supported in Scotland as the reform delivers decentralised management on a regional basis, excluding London control.

      • Tom Tom

        So Spanish Fishermen pick up British licences and Westminster looks after them ! Super

    • fubarroso

      The simplest of legislation would restore the supremacy of British law

      Not so! Any such legislation would put us in breach of the Vienna Convention on Treaties and effectively turn us into a pariah state. Even if it were true that supremacy could be restored easily the idea that Europhile Labour would enact any such legislation is farcical.

      What’s all this nonsense about “implicit” Labour policy? It is perfectly obvious that Labour have no substantive policies. They have less clue than Cameron how to get us into the awful economic mess that they got us into through Brown and Balls incompetent management.

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