Eurosceptic Tories raise stakes with EU veto demand

By politics.co.uk staff

Over 100 Conservative MPs have called on David Cameron to effectively declare war on EU diplomats – by backing a new law which would give Britain a veto over all new EU legislation.

A letter signed by 95 Tory backbenchers, and supported by at least six more, has called on the prime minister to "enable parliament to disapply EU legislation".

Its proposal is unlikely to be supported by Cameron, who hopes a less confrontational approach to Brussels will secure concessions before the promised in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

It praises Cameron for having stood up to the EU before but voices doubts the prime minister's current approach in securing a transfer of powers back to Britain. It warns: "Clarity about how we will achieve these objectives is vital for our credibility."

The letter argues national parliaments should be sovereign because an existing EU treaty states the EU "shall respect the essential state functions" of member states – including, MPs argue, their national parliaments.

"This proposal would enable the government, for example, to recover control over our borders, to lift EU burdens on business, to regain control over energy policy and to disapply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (which is set impose enormous costs on British business and taxpayers) in popular and sensible ways," the letter added.

It comes as Iain Duncan Smith revealed he was seeking the support of other European countries keen for a clampdown on 'benefits tourism' by restricting welfare payouts to new immigrants for up to two years.

Such moves are already being viewed with dismay in many European capitals – but today's letter from Tory backbenchers reveals they may not be enough for Cameron to placate his party's hardline eurosceptics.

Shadow Cabinet gets physical over Europe?

Meanwhile reports have emerged of a fight between shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander last October over the party's approach to the European question.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Balls' bid to back Tory rebels in calling for a cut to the EU budget had angered Alexander, who was in New York at the time.

On returning to parliament the shadow foreign secretary and Balls had to be "dragged apart", a Labour insider said.

"She said it nearly ended in fisticuffs," a source said of Tessa Jowell, the Labour veteran who had previously been obliged to keep Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from clashing.