POLITICS

William Hague Demands Right To Show 'Red Card' To European Union

31/05/2013 08:34 BST | Updated 30/07/2013 10:12 BST
AP

William Hague will today demand that individual nation states be given powers to block unwelcome laws from Brussels.

The Foreign Secretary will outline plans for a new 'red card' system for national parliaments that would result in greater democratic accountability from the European Commission.

It is the first explicit request of Europe from the Tory-led UK Government since it announced plans to hold an in-out referendum in 2017.

In a speech to a foreign policy think tank in Germany, Mr Hague will argue that national parliaments should be able to overrule unwanted legislation coming from the European Union.

He will say that only by devolving powers to national MPs, rather than MEPs, will Europe be able to restore the democratic deficit.

The proposed 'red card', would be an extension of the little-known 'yellow card' system already in place.

At present, parliaments in member states can issue a 'yellow card' to the European Commission, forcing it to reconsider a law. The introduction of the 'red card' would altogether thwart any EU legislation deemed inappropriate.

Mr Hague believes that only by reshaping the way the decisions are made in Brussels will Britons be able to see themselves tied into a long-lasting relationship with the EU.

A senior source told the Daily Mail: "He is going to make the case that the European Parliament is not the answer to the democratic deficit in the EU.

"In every treaty over the last 30 years the European Parliament has been given more powers and in every European election turnout has dropped.

"The answer lies in national governments and national parliaments. We need to give them more powers to do things better.

"The yellow card system allows parliaments to protest if they think a proposal by the Commission is something that should be dealt with by national governments instead. But the system doesn't work well and we could do much more.

"We need a better mechanism to get national parliaments working together. The EU system at the moment is great at centralising power and hopeless at decentralising. The Commission is great at sucking up powers and hopeless at giving them back.

"Unless we get reforms like this we can't have an EU that is acceptable to the British people. If you have a system you don't like it tends to produce outcomes that you will dislike. We need to change the system."

Mr Hague is confident of securing backing for his proposals from other Northern European countries, including Germany.

Mats Persson of the Open Europe think tank welcomed the move. However he warned that the British public would only back the idea if the Government demonstrated it was actively pushing for change now rather than later.

Mr Persson said: "Allowing national parliaments to block unwanted EU laws would go a long way to bring back democratic accountability over EU decisions.

"However, whilst it's encouraging that the UK government is looking at this, it must press ahead with this reform now to avoid the impression that it has no immediate strategy in Europe - a charge that's becoming more frequent. There's support for this reform in other parts of the EU."

Mr Hague was critical of the then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000 for surrendering many of Britain's vetoes by signing up to the Nice Treaty.

Speaking as Conservative Party leader, Mr Hague argued at the time that Mr Blair had "signed away" Britain's veto in 23 areas, giving European institutions an opportunity to impose further integration against Britain's will.

The Nice Treaty paved the way for qualified majority voting, meaning that in the absence of a unanimous agreement the European Council could accept a system of weighted votes instead.