Hague seeks to reassure European leaders that UK 'will engage with EU' - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Hague seeks to reassure European leaders that UK 'will engage with EU'

Tuesday, 18 May 2010
The United Kingdom’s new Conservative Foreign Secretary, William Hague has this week attempted to reassure European leaders that the incoming government will engage fully with the EU and play a leading role in talks on a common foreign policy, in an article appearing in a Brussels-based political journal.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague MP (Photo: BBC)In the article pre-published yesterday by Europe's World, Mr Hague continues the recent Conservative strategy of employing vast amounts of unusually positive language about the EU, even describing it as "an institution of enormous importance to the United Kingdom and to British foreign policy".

While placing particular emphasis on noting that the Conservative Party has taken "a particular view" on the utility and purpose of EU institutions, Mr Hague writes that "we have always argued that it is in the common interests of the nations of Europe that we should use our collective weight in the world to mutual advantage and to promote our shared values".

He then proceeds to outline the government's backing for efficiency measures to improve competitiveness across Europe, but adds: "just as the Conservative-led government in the UK will be active in all these areas of internal EU policy, so will we be energetically involved from the outset in the EU's external policy challenges."

The new Foreign Secretary, known for this anti-EU views, argues the EU has not shown enough determination and consistency in foreign policy and should be "more muscular and demanding" in Bosnia, pushing for a stronger central government, as a demonstration to the world "of the EU's seriousness as a regional actor".

Interestingly enough, Mr Hague also writes that the new government will work closely with the Labour-appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who already heavily criticised could have fallen victim to inter-party political tactics.

It is however evident that the Conservatives have watered down the Euroscepticism embedded in every page of its manifesto like a watermark, in light of their coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats. A UK sovereignty bill, which could be used to overturn European laws, is now seen as unlikely under a coalition government.

However since assuming office the new Prime Minister David Cameron has repeated his intention to try to repatriate some powers previously transferred to Brussels through a new bill in the upcoming Queen’s Speech in which any new transfer of power to the EU will be subject to a referendum. Mr Hague sought to defend these plans in the article saying they are "to reassure people that the European Union can be responsive to people's concerns".

That said, the overall tone of his article was somewhat conciliatory, and makes nice reading for Europhiles and no doubt other European political leaders worried that the UK will withdraw from its role in Europe.

After all, Mr Hague wrote that the new government's policies were intended "not to frustrate or sabotage the operation of the European Union but to put Britain's role in the EU on a more positive footing". Only time will tell if this is indeed the case…

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