Energy secretary Chris Huhne has warned that “if you are not at the table, you are not on the menu” as he hit out at Tory Eurosceptics.
The Liberal Democrat cabinet minister’s statement follows David Cameron’s recent veto on a new European treaty, which the prime minister said failed to protect the City of London’s interests. Huhne has claimed that a looser relationship with the European Union could leave Britain with “no direct influence” over European rules and how the single market is governed. His comments are further evidence of the ongoing political fallout in the coalition government as a result of the veto.
Speaking to the Independent, he said: “A lot of the Conservative right pine for some semi-detached status where we would be like Norway or Switzerland – enjoying the benefits of the single market without being members of the EU.”
He added: “It is not in the national interest to be in a purely passive relationship, where our interests are being determined by other people.”
However, a number of business leaders have come forward to support Cameron’s decision. They argue that the UK should avoid being “dragged deeper into a more centralised and over-regulated EU” and that Cameron should have the “full support of the business community”.
Think tank Open Europe collected 20 signatures for a letter to the Financial Times, which backed Cameron and dismissed fears of “isolation”. Among the high-profile names to sign the letter were: Next chief executive Lord Wolfson; JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford; Roger Bootle of Capital Economics; and JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin. They joined forces to congratulate the prime minister for ensuring an “an outward-looking and competitive Britain” by using the veto.
The letter said: “Those who would portray Mr Cameron’s use of the veto as bad for jobs and growth or as leaving the UK ‘isolated’ are mistaken.
“The real threat to employment is the euro crisis, which was unaffected by his veto and which the recent summit did little to address. Britain has great potential to compete across the globe, if freed from badly targeted and trade-hampering government intrusions, whether from London or Brussels.”