Europe’s interest in this UK election is greater than usual. That is because of Conservative leader David Cameron’s pledge to put future proposals on ceding policy power to the EU arena to a national referendum if he became prime minister.
Yet Marco Incerti, with the Centre for European Policy Studies, said there is little cause for alarm: “The EU has evolved already in a direction which is more in line with the wishes of the UK and the UK electorate. At the moment there is not a big appetite for further developments, no stronger cooperation. Solidarity, as we have seen with the economic crisis is tested. So, I don’t think this will lead to many changes.”
The Conservatives had called for a Lisbon Treaty referendum, and when that did not happen Cameron promised he would renegotiate it. Close Conservative-watchers voice cautious opinions.
Charles Grant, with the Centre for European Reform, said: “He has said that he wants to build up credibility by showing that he’s a constructive European leader in the early stage of his premiership, if he indeed does become prime minister. That’s encouraging but still the worry remains that after a few years he implies that he will come back to this issue of trying to change the treaties and everybody in Europe has spent about 10 years negotiating the treaty change and they’re fed up with it.”
Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott said: “I’ve known the Tory party — in its higher circles for many years, and I know how Eurosceptic it is now. After the election, with the new intake, 40 percent of whom, on the conservative benches, want the UK out of Europe: that is the reality of Cameron in government.”
Speculation has also risen over what sort of working relationship there would be between a Conservative government and the EU’s high representative for foreign policy Catherine Ashton, of the Labour party, whose appointment with the approval of the 27 EU member states was backed by Gordon Brown.