David Cameron has made a blatant pitch for a new British deal with Europe.
After another summit in Brussels – the seventh this year – he made clear he wanted favours in return for agreeing to sweeping new rules which the eurozone countries had been demanding.
“We did not stand in the way of the eurozone having a banking union... now there are opportunities for us to seek changes in our [EU] relationship, changes that the British people will be more comfortable with.
“[The eurozone countries] want to make changes, and we can ask for changes too”.
The Prime Minister began his campaign earlier this year, saying he would be demanding a “new settlement” with Brussels. When he arrived at the latest summit he signalled his focus was now on getting a “better deal” for Britain.
Yesterday afternoon he signed a summit deal for a timetable for tough new measures to shore up the ailing euro, from a central supervisor overseeing eurozone banks, to longer-term plans on bank “resolution” – how to wind up ailing banks – and how to set minimum standards for deposit guarantee schemes.
Completing the work will last into 2014, but Mr Cameron considered he had already played his part. None of the elements of a full “Banking Union” would directly affect the UK, he said, but any changes did ultimately affect the wider EU “of which we are an important part”.
Mr Cameron continued: “So there has to be flexibility. We did not stand in the way of the eurozone having a banking union. We said you can go ahead – but in return for that we need proper safeguards for those outside. We can get changes to help us safeguard the things that are important to us such as the single market.”
He added: “As this plays out, it does change the EU, and as the eurozone makes the changes it needs, so there are opportunities for others, including the UK, to make changes ourselves.”
French president Francois Hollande issued a warning to Mr Cameron at his own post-summit press conference, saying: “When a country makes a commitment, it’s for life. The treaties must be respected. One can’t take competences away from Europe.”
Mr Cameron also dismissed talk of creating a two-speed or two-tier EU with the UK in the slow lane as “cliched and outdated”, adding: “We already have a multi-faceted Europe and I think you will see a growth of this multi-faceted Europe.”