As published in The Express:
Exclusive: Cameron challenged by MP over European reforms
David Cameron must be willing to drag Britain through the European courts to show Brussels he is serious about reform, a senior Tory MP said last night.
David Davis challenged the Prime Minister to enter the “contact sport” of European negotiations by proving Britain was not afraid to fight its corner to regain control its borders.
And he urged Cameron to appoint a Cabinet-level Europe Minister as a sign that he is placing the issue at the heart of government policy.
Mr Davis, himself a former Europe Minister, made the claim just days after the PM made a play for Eurosceptic hearts during his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, by promising to put the free movement of EU citizens at the heart of his renegotiation strategy in Europe.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Davis said: “I am one for using the House of Commons to challenge these institutions.
“If itreally is a clear issue, like allowing murderers or very serious criminals to cross our border, we should go to the Germans and the others and say: listen, we have had enough of this – either Europe sorts this out, or we are going to start passing primary laws to enforce it ourselves.”
He added: “We would end up in the European court for a few years, but I don’t mind that. I don’t like breaking laws – even international laws – unless it is part of a strategy of us saying we want this changed.”
Mr Davis said it was important that Mr Cameron hit Brussels hard with his demands as part of the renegotiation or risk not being taken seriously.
“We have a reputation for being decent, fair, law abiding and all of that and we worry about that,” he said. “And we are right to be worried about it.
“But I remember sometimes, in the negotiations, when the Spaniards and the Italians would wait and say nothing for hours and hours and then, two minutes before the end of the negotiations they would say ‘now, what about out fishing rights and our olive oil production?’
“There is no question within the Union that the French and the other Mediterranean countries play really hard for their national interest, and we don’t appear to.
“We think we are members of the club and we have to do the decent thing, and I don’t agree.
“Sometimes if you don’t hit them hard, they won’t take it seriously. European negotiations are a contact sport – half way between chess and rugby league.”
He urged Mr Cameron appoint a Cabinet-level Europe Minister to show the rest of the EU he is taking the issue seriously.
“If I were him , after the election I would make the Europe Minister a Cabinet minister. My opposite numbers in all the other countries were always Cabinet ministers who had been in the Europe department for their entire lives.
“It would send a messages in all directions, to Ukip supporters as well as the Europeans.”
Mr Davis also claims that the Prime Minister should leave his European counterparts in no doubt Britain will leave the EU if he does not succeed in securing the right deal for the country.
“They really don’t want us to go,” he said. “When I was Europe Minister the Italians, Spanish and Danish ministers would come to see me separately about proposals and say ‘you must veto this’.
“Use your own veto, I’d say, and they would each reply ‘you don’t understand – you can stand up to the Franco-German axis but we can’t’. That hasn’t changed.
“So a lot of the smaller counties are actually very pleased that we are there.
“The Germans want us there because we believe in free markets as they do, and the French want us there because we help counter-balance the Germans, so each of them have their reason for wanting us to be there.
“But we have to make it plain to them that there is a significant risk that we will leave.”
He added: “If you want to get a good deal negotiated, just like when you want to buy a car, you make a firm price offer and you start to walk away – and it’s the same here.”