David Cameron has promised to speed up his renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the European Union as a new report backs a central plank of ‘out’ campaign.
The Prime Minister announced he will put his detailed demands for reforms on the table within weeks after his latest discussions with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels yesterday.
He said: “I’m confident we can get a good deal for Britain, we can fix those things that need to be fixed and I’m confident this process is well under way and making good progress.”
But a new report from the Civitas thinktank adds weight to the claim made by campaigners calling for a ‘no’ vote in the forthcoming reference that Britain could thrive as a trading nation outside the EU.
The study examined Switzerland’s ability to secure international agreements without being a member of the EU and suggests that the UK could strike “serious deals” with greater ease if it severed ties with Brussels.
The report claims the size of the EU meant deals were harder to strike, because countries were worried about the impact on their own industries of a trade agreement with the 28-member bloc.
The report adds: “By representing itself rather than being one of 28 jostling partners, Britain could focus on winning tariff concessions for its own goods and granting them where the government considers appropriate.
“Independent control of trade policy would also give Britain more options to use trade as a diplomatic tool.”
Trade is likely to be one of the central themes of the referendum campaigner with those calling for Britain to remain in the EU arguing it gives UK firms access to the European single market while working with 27 other nations gives it a stronger voice on global trade.
But supporters of a British exit from the EU have insisted the country could strike more beneficial trade deals on its own.
Mr Cameron was in Brussels for a European Council summit where Britain’s renegotiation featured only briefly.
The Prime Minister set out his plan to write a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk early in November detailing the UK’s demands. None of the other 27 leaders spoke in response.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was up to the UK to “clarify the substance of what it is envisaging” in the coming weeks.
She said Germany would work constructively with the British Government, but added: “It also goes without saying that there are things that are non-negotiable.
“That there are achievements of European integration that cannot be haggled over, for example the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination.”
Labour MP and Vote Leave campaign supporter Kelvin Hopkins said: “David Cameron promised us a major renegotiation with the EU, but his demands are not even being discussed at this summit.
“He is the invisible man.”