LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is increasingly disillusioned with the European Union which it sees as a “machine that sucks up decision-making”, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Tuesday in prepared remarks.
“People feel that the EU is a one way process, a great machine that sucks up decision-making from national parliaments,” William Hague said in an advance text of a speech to be delivered later in Berlin.
“...That needs to change. If we cannot show that decision-making can flow back to national parliaments then the system will become democratically unsustainable,” Hague said.
The criticisms of Europe are some of the strongest to be voiced by a British government minister in recent months.
They are likely to strain already frayed ties between Britain and the EU’s power brokers, with Germany increasingly irritated by the isolationist instincts of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the bulk of his Conservative lawmakers.
“This coalition government is committed to Britain playing a leading role in the EU but I must also be frank: public disillusionment with the EU in Britain is the deepest it has ever been,” Hague said.
After a torrid time for Cameron last week, in which a senior minister resigned for ranting at the police and the introduction of a new energy policy was botched, the prime minister will be keen to be seen as reasserting his authority.
Cameron is under pressure to claw back powers from the EU, or even pull Britain out of the 27-member bloc altogether, as anti-Europe sentiment mounts among many legislators in his party.
He has said he plans to negotiate a “new settlement” with the EU as it seeks to further integrate in response to the euro zone’s debt crisis, but Cameron rejects opting out altogether given that Britain does almost half its trade with EU countries.
Another restraining influence on Cameron comes from the keenly pro-Europe Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in his coalition government.
The prime minister has promised a “tough” and “rigorous” approach to EU budget negotiations next month, and has pledged to block a proposed banking union in the euro zone if it does not contain safeguards for Britain’s own vast financial sector.
Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Michael Roddy