Leaked Tory-EU letter widens gap with the Lib Dems

By Ian Dunt

A secret letter outlining Tory plans towards the EU has complicated efforts to secure a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

The document, obtained by the Observer, was written by civil servants last week on the assumption of an outright Tory victory at the general election.

It adopts a firm approach to the EU, and stresses that shadow foreign secretary William Hague would have adopted a tough approach to repatriation of powers in a meeting of EU foreign minister to be held tomorrow.

It would have set EU leaders on a crash course with the new Conservative government, with demands for the return of powers over criminal justice, and social and employment policy during the first term of a Conservative government.

The staunchly eurosceptic stance will prove a major sticking point in David Cameron’s talks with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg today, as the two men desperately try to put together a viable coalition government.

The pro-EU Lib Dems are likely to be unnerved by the letter, especially given explicit statements from Mr Cameron assuring voters that EU policy would constitute a Tory red line in negotiations.

The letter, which would have been written from the foreign secretary to the prime minister, stresses that “the British relationship with the EU has changed with our election”.

Mr Hague planned to tell his EU counterparts: “Rest assured that we seek engagement, not confrontation. But our aim is to achieve these commitments during this parliament.

“You will find us firm but fair, playing a leading role, fighting our corner, practical and straight-talking.”

Tory sources told the Observer newspaper they had no knowledge of the letter last night.