Following today's European Council, David Cameron said he “does not accept” comments made by the Finnish Europe minister Alex Stubb yesterday (18 October) in which he said the UK is “voluntarily, by its own will, putting itself in the margins” of Europe.
Stubb told Reuters news agency yesterday, “"It's almost as if the boat is pulling away and one of our best friends is somehow saying 'bye bye' and there's not really that much we can do about it." He added that Britain's self-isolation was difficult to understand.
But Cameron rejected this characterisation. “I don't accept this idea that somehow Britain doesn't pull its weight in the EU,” he said. “We are actually a very important and influential player.”
“We're realists about the EU, we have a sort of realist gritty debate, that's what we're like as a people,” he added. “But when you ask yourself who actually is pulling the weight in Europe, getting things done...Britain is right there in the vanguard.”
As evidence, he pointed to the UK's role in insisting the EU place sanctions on Iran and put pressure on Syria. He added that the UK is “driving the agenda” for single market issues, asking for a date to be set for completing the energy market and the services market.
He also pointed to what he called an “Anglo-German proposal” in the council conclusions which welcomes the Commission's intention to withdraw some pending proposals. And he said he had been influential in getting language in the conclusions which guarantees the integrity of the EU single market.
“Am I happy with the status quo in Europe? No I'm not. I think as the eurozone develops and integrates, as is bound to happen, there are opportunities opening up for what I've said should be a new settlement between Britain and Europe.”
But he added, “Leaving the EU is not in our national interest because we are a trading nation.” He said the UK needs to be part of setting the rules for the trading bloc.
Cameron said that he fully supports the idea of banking union for the Eurozone. “A working eurozone needs a working banking union,” he said.
On continuing negotiations over the EU budget, Cameron said he would not accept an increased EU budget while he has been making painful cuts at home. On this issue he is at odds with the European Parliament. Cameron met with Parliament president Martin Schulz this morning.
“I underlined that the EU budget is an investment budget with 94% of the money being reinvested in the member states and that administrative costs are low compared to many national budgets,” Schulz said after the meeting.