Queen’s speech: Is Cameron’s EU reform already scuppered?

David Cameron
David Cameron
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Downing Street has played down suggestions that David Cameron’s EU renegotiation has already suffered a setback, ahead of a Queen’s Speech that will pave the way for an in-out referendum.

According to reports, France and Germany have struck a deal to integrate the core eurozone group more closely without the need for fundamental treaty change.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed that Mr Cameron still believes treaty alterations will be needed to secure welfare and other reforms he has demanded.

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But he insisted revisions to eurozone rules were not inextricably linked to the changes Britain wants.

The spokesman said: “I think there are a distinct set of issues that deal with the changes that are required in the eurozone ... and a wider set of issues which are the issues which the Prime Minister has referred to.”

Mr Cameron is due to embark on a whistle-stop tour of European capitals as he “gets down to business” with the renegotiation - visting Denmark, the Netherlands and France on Thursday, and Poland and Germany on Friday.

In talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday, he warned the EU “needs to change” to meet UK voters’ concerns. Mr Juncker repeated his desire to find a “fair deal” for Britain.

Downing Street said the Government’s programme, being unveiled tomorrow, will show it is “getting on with” the work of delivering on the Tory election manifesto.

The package - the first from a Conservative-only administration for nearly two decades - is set to include a flagship Bill for a vote on EU membership, as well as implementing key pledges such as extending the Right to Buy scheme to 1.3 million housing association tenants.

There are also expected to be controversial proposals for replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights, reforming strike laws, curbing benefits, and giving English MPs more say over measures that only affect England.

Other legislation will guarantee no rises in income tax, VAT or National Insurance before 2020, and promise that no one working 30 hours on the minimum wage will pay income tax.

With a narrow majority, the Prime Minister faces a challenging task to keep his 330 MPs together and avoid revolts on issues such as the timing and ground rules for the referendum and human rights rules.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has briefed Cabinet colleagues on EU referendum plans, while the secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland provided updates on devolution.

The PM’s spokesman said Mr Cameron campaigned hard on the Tory manifesto during the election and his commitment to keeping those promises would be clear.

“In terms of the Queen’s Speech, you will see that being very directly put into legislative practice and a Government that is determined to get on with implementing the mandate the British people have given it,” the spokesman said.