Tory eurosceptic views crisis ‘opportunity’

By Alex Stevenson

Britain can use the ongoing eurozone crisis to win back powers from Brussels, a leading Tory rebel has told

Mark Reckless, a leading eurosceptic among the 81 Conservative backbenchers who defied David Cameron last month, said an EU referendum was a matter of "when" and not "if" after the Tory revolt.

The IMF is warning of a "lost decade", EU leaders are contemplating a two-tier eurozone and markets remain deeply concerned by Italy and Greece's ability to finance their debt.

Mr Reckless claimed the collapse of the euro could help advance the agenda of the Conservative party's eurosceptics.

"The euro has caused these problems. The sooner we have a return to national currencies the sooner we can see Europe back to growth," he said.

"I hope that's the decision that's made. But if instead the eurozone want more powers and treaty change to prop up the euro, in return for that we should insist on bringing back powers from this country so we can once again be an independent country trading with Europe but governing ourselves."

Mr Reckless said the "ball is in the government's court" after the October 24th vote.

Formal negotiations about a new 'fiscal union' treaty are expected to begin this December, but it remains far from clear when ministers will accept the need for substantial treaty change.

"How are they going to respond to this?" Mr Reckless added. "There's been an increase in rhetoric on European issues but I'd like to see what they're going to do to pull powers back from Europe."

Robin Walker, the Conservative MP for Worcester, said it was more important to talk about renegotiation of powers from Brussels than a push towards a referendum.

He said the eurozone crisis gave the Conservative party an "opportunity" to set out its position on Europe more clearly.

"It's right we should speak out and set out our view," he said. "We should be looking for that opportunity, when the time comes, to repatriate powers as we promised in our manifesto."

Mr Walker voted against the government in last month's rebellion because he backed one of the options in the proposed referendum, recommending the repatriation of powers.

"I got the overwhelming feedback both before and after that this was something people felt strongly on in my constituency and they wanted to have a say – and it would be right to represent that view," he added.

Mr Walker, the MP for Worcester, said calls for a referendum could not compromise the UK's efforts to support the eurozone.

"We have to pursue the UK national interest in everything that we're doing, which includes supporting stability and an economic recovery in Europe," he insisted.