Cablegate: Conservatives' Shadow Minister for Europe - "We Will Be Constructively Engaged

DE RUEHLO #2831/01 3501212
P 161212Z DEC 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002831


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2019



Classified By: Economic Minister Counselor Richard Albright for reasons 1.4 b and d.

1.(C/NF) Summary. The Conservative Party is not looking for a major confrontation with Brussels, and instead, will actively engage with the European Commission, Mark Francois, the Conservatives' Shadow Minister for Europe, told EMIN and ECOUN on December 9.The Conservatives accept that the Lisbon Treaty is in force, but party leaders believe strongly that they reserve the right to argue "robustly" for British national interests. The Conservatives, if they win the general election, would introduce a series of measures in Parliament that would provide a safeguard for the UK's national interest. While Shadow Chancellor Osborne has declared that a Tory minister will be permanently assigned to Brussels, Francois stated that this step was still under review; more likely Cabinet ministers would shuttle frequently back and forth. During the run-up to the selection of a EU president, the Tories made it clear to European capitals that Tony Blair was not an acceptable candidate. End Summary.

Sovereignty and Opt-Outs ------------------------

2.(C/NF) A Conservative government would not become isolated in Europe, nor would it be confrontational with Europe, stated Francois. However, the party would seek to pass a UK sovereignty bill, to make it absolutely "clear that that ultimate authority stays in the UK, in the British Parliament." (see reftel) The intent, said Francois, is not to knock down or disregard directives the party does not like, but to make it unequivocally clear that UK law is sovereign.

3.(C/NF) The Tories would fight to regain and redefine certain powers over the charter of fundamental rights (CFR). The party would seek a full opt-out of the CFR, since as it stands now, the CFR could interfere with social, employment and trade union legislation in the UK. (Note: the UK already has a written guarantee that the CFR cannot be used by the European Court to alter British labor law; but the Conservatives are concerned that this guarantee does not go far enough. End Note.) The flexibility of Britain's labor markets, which is a significant competitive advantage, could be undermined by the CFR, argued Francois. The Irish and the Czechs got full opt-out rights, which will be formalized following the adoption of the next European Union treaty, likely an accession treaty for Croatia. The UK seeks only the same.

4.(C/NF) The Tories would also seek to amend the 1972 European Communities Act to prohibit, by law, the transfer of power to the EU without a referendum, and that would cover not just any future treaties like Lisbon, but any future attempt to take the UK into the Euro, Francois stated. The party would also seek to regain rights over justice and home affairs issues; the Tories are particularly concerned about the judicial drift of the European Commission, and the European Court of Justice's ever-expanding reach. The Danes have opt-out rights; the UK seeks only the same, argued Francois.

Shuttle Diplomacy -----------------

5.(C/NF) While George Osborne has stated that he would base a Tory minister in Brussels, to ensure a more effective UK presence as EU legislation is drafted, there has been no decision to permanently assign a minister to Brussels, said Francois. Rather, he expected that Mark Hoban, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and he, would be shuttling back and forth, perhaps weekly. The key point is that UK officials get heard early on in the debate over proposed regulations, especially those that impact key UK interests, such as financial services, climate change and energy security.

The New EU Leaders ------------------

6.(C/NF) The Conservatives made it clear to European capitals that the party wanted a "chairman," not a "chief," as EU president and that the appointment of Tony Blair would have seriously damaged relations with the Tories, stated LONDON 00002831 002 OF 002 Francois. William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, met with EU Ambassadors at the Swedish Embassy in London in the week before the November 19 European Council meeting to underscore the Conservatives' opposition to Blair; the capitals heard this message, commented Francois.

7.(C/NF) The selection of Michel Barnier as internal-markets commissioner was troubling, said Francois. He will have a particular challenge in not only being seen as independent, but in truly acting independently of Paris. He said that the Brown Government had mis-stepped in not seeking to place a Briton in a major economic position. But "what's done is done." Barnier, Francois stated, was someone whom the Tories "will need to work with" and he will need to work with "us."

8.(C/NF) Comment: The Tories have a difficult line to tread; there remains a strong and vocal Euro-skeptic minority within the party and the leadership cannot be seen as dismissive of their concerns. But as Francois stated himself, leaders of the Conservative Party are using words like "realistic," "constructive," "pro-active" when speaking about Brussels. Keeping the party faithful satisfied, especially if they win by only a small majority, and actively engaging with Brussels will continue to challenge David Cameron's and George Osborne's political skills. End Comment. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX Susman

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