Van Rompuy Says U.K. Shielded From Euro Bloc Integration LogicIan Wishart
The U.K. doesn’t need to bind itself more tightly to the European Union, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said, underlining that euro countries can deepen ties while others have looser links within the 28-nation bloc.
An agreement by EU leaders at a summit last week that countries can integrate at different speeds or no further at all should “reassure those, particularly in the United Kingdom, who fear inexorable integration logic,” Van Rompuy said at a policy event in Brussels today.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, facing growing anti-European sentiment at home, has vowed to repatriate powers and hold an in-or-out referendum on British membership of the EU if he wins a national election next year. Up until now, “ever closer union” has been one of the EU’s central tenets even as the creation of a single currency used by 18 countries threatens to fuel divisions.
“The euro crisis has indeed brought to light that sharing a currency imposes a greater degree of interdependence,” Van Rompuy said. “I’m quite convinced that our institutions can be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of those countries that share the single currency and those that don’t and want a reformed European Union.”
A surge in support for the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party, which won in elections to the European Parliament in May, has added pressure to Cameron, who was outvoted 26-2 at the summit on the appointment of former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker -- seen in the U.K. as a hindrance to reform -- as European Commission president.
An opinion poll financed and published by Conservative upper-house lawmaker Michael Ashcroft showed yesterday that Cameron’s party had climbed five percentage points to 33 percent, giving them a two-point lead over the opposition Labour Party.
“The boost in the Tory share may well be largely thanks to Mr. Juncker,” Ashcroft said on his website.
At a separate policy event in Brussels late yesterday, Van Rompuy said it was wrong to draw “historical conclusions” from the U.K.’s defeat on Juncker’s appointment.
“If you’re almost alone, then you have to reflect about what you are doing,” he said. “The U.K. belongs to the European Union, but it is also up to the U.K. to make their choice.”