As Mr Cameron prepares to sit down with 27 fellow Heads of State this evening to iron out the basis of a British in-out referendum, Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope said political alliances on the continent work in the Government’s favour, but says they will not need to be drawn on.
The Yorkshire and Humber MEP believes none of Mr Cameron’s demands on child benefit, competition or sovereignty are likely to warrant a full EU Parliament vote following a referendum result because they do not involve change to primary legislation, a Parliamentary Act, or demand a new treaty.
“What the Prime Minister is proposing is all secondary legislation. It’s a panic about nothing. I don’t really see much of a drama in this,” said Mr Kirkhope, who was elected to the EU Parliament in 1999.
Law changes would need to be voted on after the referendum result, and there has been speculation MEPs may not be counted on to rally around Britain.
“It is possible that the Prime Minister is only going to achieve what he’s asked for,” he said.
“It’s also quite possible that he might achieve more than what he’s asked for in terms of competition and regulation.
“If he goes too far with that, and (the EU Council) concedes more there comes a point where it becomes primary legislation. If that’s the case, I suppose it could cause a problem.
“But that’s only possible if, in fact, what is proposed goes further than secondary legislation.”
He said Mr Cameron and EU Council President Donald Tusk will have been advised to devise an EU referendum draft that would not ‘upset’ a deal because of legal hurdles and a Parliamentary vote.
Yet even if Britain’s proposals do need to go before MEPs, the largest political group European People’s Party (EPP) which has 216 members backs Mr Cameron’s wish to remain in a reformed EU, as do the second largest party, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
Further EU intricacies include Mr Cameron’s decision in 2005 to remove the British Conservatives from the EPP and instead create the European Conservatives and Reformists Group with the Law and Justice party (PiS) of Poland, which is also in control of the eastern state’s national government.
Mr Kirkhope, who set up the group in 2009, said ultimately Poland wants Britain to remain in the EU, despite recent reports alleging their strong resistance over Mr Cameron’s proposal to pay child benefit at local rates.
He said: “I would say on balance they would like us to remain in Europe.”
The final deal struck between Britain and the EU could take some time he added, as the language of a final document is crucial to get right.
However, if anything was to rumble over and require a full vote before Parliament, he is confident the votes “would stack up” in Mr Cameron’s favour.