Election 2015

Election 2015: Hammond predicts EU treaty change

Foreign affairs debate

EU treaty changes "will have to happen" to meet "German requirements", Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

He said eurozone reforms would allow the UK to negotiate changes to its relationship with Brussels.

Mr Hammond said the Conservatives would hold an in/out referendum by 2017 even without treaty change.

Labour's Douglas Alexander criticised the "arbitrary" timetable while Lib Dem Tim Farron said the Conservatives' strategy was "cretinous".

They were speaking during a BBC Daily Politics debate of foreign affairs spokesmen, which also featured UKIP's William Dartmouth and Patrick Harvie of the Green Party.

Mr Hammond rejected Mr Dartmouth's claim that the eventual referendum would involve a "phoney" negotiation and a "loaded" question on the ballot paper.

"There will be a referendum when we have completed the process," he said.

"Whether we are highly successful or less successful, there will be a referendum."

Prime Minister David Cameron has called for far-reaching changes to EU migrants' welfare entitlement, after which he would campaign for Britain to remain in the EU.

Mr Hammond repeated the PM's line that he would "rule nothing out" if his demands were rejected.

Asked about German opposition to treaty change, he said: "It depends which Germans you talk to.

"There are other Germans like the finance minister who say that treaty change will be essential to secure Germany's objectives around the governance of the eurozone.

"We believe that treaty change will have to happen not just because of Britain's demands but because of German requirements. That gives us our opportunity."

Mr Alexander said a referendum should only happen at the time of a "significant transfer of power" from the UK to Brussels.

He cited last year's referendum which he said had "not exactly settled" the issue of Scottish independence.

Mr Farron compared the Conservatives' tactics with a poker player showing their hand to their opponent.

"It's cretinous as a negotiating position," he added.

The Green Party favours a referendum and supports the UK's membership of the EU. Mr Harvey criticised the planned EU-US trade deal, saying it would make Europe "even less democratic".

Mr Dartmouth said there would be no talk of a referendum had it not been for pressure from UKIP.

* Subscribe to the BBC Election 2015 newsletter to get a round-up of the day's campaign news sent to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

Related Topics

More on this story