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U.K.’s Hague Says Parliaments Should Have EU Veto Power

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks at a news conference in London on April 11, 2013. Photographer: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images
U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks at a news conference in London on April 11, 2013. Photographer: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

May 31 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague called for national parliaments to be given the power to veto some European Union legislation to improve the democratic accountability of the bloc.

Parliaments already have the power to show a “yellow card” and ask the European Commission to rethink legislation where action should be taken at a national rather than European level and that should be extended to allow it to be stopped, Hague said in a speech today in Neuhardenberg, Germany.

“We should explore whether the yellow-card provision could be strengthened or extended to give our parliaments the right to ask the Commission to start again where legislation is too intrusive and fails the proportionality test,” Hague said, according to a copy of the speech e-mailed by his office. “We should think about going further still and consider a red card to give national parliaments the right to block legislation that need not be agreed at the European level.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the European Union and put the resulting remodeling of the relationship to a referendum on pulling out of the bloc in 2017. As part of preparations for the renegotiation, Hague is running a review of how competencies should be divided between the EU in Brussels and members states.

Hague also used the speech to reiterate U.K. opposition to the proposed European financial-transaction tax, saying it would damage all industries and not just penalize financial-services companies.

‘Excessive Requirements’

“If we impose excessive requirements on financial institutions, we throttle businesses’ access to lending,” Hague said. “If we tax transactions, we make it more expensive for firms to hedge against risks, as great companies like Bayer and Siemens need to do every day. We end up holding back enterprise in general: not just banking but everything that we make, build or sell.”

Hague’s comments come after former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson said the transaction tax will damage London, even though the U.K. isn’t participating. Eleven EU members have signed up to the plan.

“Designed both to punish the bankers and to raise money for the EU budget, its principal effect will be to drive financial business away from the EU (including the UK) to more hospitable jurisdictions elsewhere,” Lawson wrote in the introduction to a pamphlet attacking the tax from the Centre for Policy Studies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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