‘UK-EU relations to change anyway, regardless if Britain stays in or leaves’
RT:Angela Merkel began her address to the [UK] parliament by saying she will not pave the way for a fundamental reform of the EU to satisfy British wishes. So where does that leave David Cameron who is set on renegotiating relations with the EU?
David Campbell Bannerman: Well, I think the chancellor is known to be very cautious and you would expect that. But it’s a lot more positive spin in her speech if you actually analyze it. She mentioned the budget, the multiannual framework review, and the fact that’s for the first time the EU budget has been cut in 56 years and she was surprised that it’s actually happening. She mentioned that and she mentioned that actually her interpretation of welfare and freedom of movement was quite similar to Britain’s. This is a lot more room for maneuver that it might have been apparent.
RT:How much influence does Chancellor Merkel have over negotiations between the UK and Brussels?
DCB: Obviously Germany is a great paymaster of the EU as we know from the bailouts and supporting Greece and the eurozone, so I think it really underlies a lot of this. Germany is also the only economy in the EU that does reasonably well at the moment, even if it is quite stagnant. So Germany is a huge force and a big player politically.
RT:How far do you think Merkel would be willing to go to help the UK renegotiate its policies with the EU? The relation between Germany and the UK look pretty good at the moment but there are must be some underlying tensions surely.
DCB: You always get underlying tensions between nations. Believe me, I’m in the European parliament - that happens all the time. I think it’s a very strong relationship and there is a lot of potential to it. She was at pains today to talk about the German-British relationship and she wants change in Europe. I think, again, it’s another positive aspect of what she was saying. She is looking for more competitiveness, better economic growth from Europe, as well as Britain is. There is a lot of common ground.
RT:You are having the anti-EU sentiments in the UK. What is going to happen in the future? There is a referendum perhaps in 2017, but still a lot of cynicism there in the UK.
DCB: I would say we are not anti-Europe in the UK, it’s important to differentiate. We are critical of the EU, we want change in the EU, but we love Europe and we want to be part of Europe, and in that way change and renegotiate a new deal with the EU. I think the Conservative Party is in a strong position because we are the only party to offer referendum, a real public choice. Between the basic choice that you are staying in the EU with a renegotiated package or you leave and negotiate a deal, and I put forward the ‘EU light’ between Norway and Switzerland, that’s kind of deal, but outside the EU.
I, personally speaking, do believe in these kinds of arrangements and think it could be negotiated. Renegotiation from within EU and negation from without is the same sort of thing. It's basically trade at the heart of this. We are having a good working friendly relationship that's at the heart of it. There is a lot of ways of doing that. I mean the fact that you have eurozone getting more and more close now and the treaty being needed, that means our relationship in the UK will change with the EU whatever happens – whether we stay in or leave.
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