The current arrangements in the European Union are “simply not acceptable”, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said as he confirmed he would vote to sever ties with Brussels unless there are significant reforms.
Mr Hammond said he expects the British people would vote to leave the EU in the referendum promised by the Tories for 2017 unless the other members agree to changes.
He said powers have to come back to nation states, with Brussels accepting that where possible decisions should be left to individual countries, and the status of the eurozone has to be resolved.
Mr Hammond’s appointment in the reshuffle, replacing William Hague, was seen as a boost to Tory Eurosceptics because of his stance on Brussels.
He confirmed yesterday his position has not changed even though he is now Foreign Secretary.
“I haven’t changed my mind. If there is no change at all in the way Europe is governed, no change in the balance of competences between the nation states and the European Union, no resolution of the challenge of how the eurozone can succeed and coexist with the non-eurozone – that is not a Europe that can work for Britain in the future.
“So there must be change, there must be renegotiation.”
He said “the status quo is simply not acceptable, the status quo is not in Britain’s interest”.
He added: “If we have a Conservative government after the next election, there will be a referendum in 2017.
“So the British people will decide. What I can tell and have told my European colleagues is that if the offer by our European partners is nothing, no change, no negotiation, I am pretty clear what the answer of the British people in that referendum is going to be.”
Setting out his demands for change, he said: “There has to be a repatriation of powers to the nation states, a recognition ... that what can be done at national level should be done at national level.
“Secondly, settling the relationship between the eurozone and the non-eurozone countries in a way that is fair to the non-eurozone and protects its interests.”
Mr Hammond also said there is a separate issue about the UK potentially withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights – which is not an EU institution.
He said: “That’s a separate agenda but also very important to the British people.”
He added that reports that he had asked Prime Minister David Cameron if he was keeping the seat warm were not true and a “complete fabrication”.