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Indecision over EU is costing Tories dear

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UPDATED:

23:50 GMT, 9 December 2012


'Back to a common market': Liam Fox will call on the Prime Minister to do all he can to achieve a looser, trade-based relationship with the EU

'Back to a common market': Liam Fox will call on the Prime Minister to do all he can to achieve a looser, trade-based relationship with the EU

With the eurozone engulfed by rage and violent protest against crippling austerity and terrifying levels of unemployment, the sight of EU leaders mustering in Oslo yesterday to collect the Nobel Peace Prize was truly nauseating.

To indulge in such a public orgy of self-congratulation when so many ordinary Europeans are suffering unprecedented hardship shows how far removed these smug eurocrats are from the people they pretend to serve.

Indeed, the idea of awarding the prize – whose previous winners include such luminaries as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi – to the EU is so preposterous that it’s hard to avoid thinking it was a sick joke by the Norwegian judging committee.

After all, Norway is both the most prosperous country in Europe and one of the most vehemently Eurosceptic, voting overwhelmingly in two referendums to reject EU membership.

The Norwegians prove it’s perfectly possible to have friendly trading links with the EU without the financial and political burdens of full membership.

So why can’t we have the same in Britain

In a major speech today, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox will speak for an ever-growing majority of his party when he says the Conservatives should go into the next election behind the slogan: ‘Back to a common market’.

Hopeful: Mr Cameron is already committed to renegotiating terms but has yet to give an unequivocal promise on a referendum

Hopeful: Mr Cameron is already committed to renegotiating terms but has yet to give an unequivocal promise on a referendum

He calls on the Prime Minister to do all he can to achieve a looser, trade-based relationship by negotiation, then ask the British people in a referendum if they are satisfied with the revised arrangements or would rather simply quit the EU.

Mr Cameron is already committed to renegotiating terms but has yet to give an unequivocal promise on a referendum. London mayor Boris Johnson believes he is preparing to offer one, but when

As UKIP’s stunning performance in recent by-elections shows, the Prime Minister has little time to lose. The country is angry with Brussels and impatient for reform.

Unless he acts decisively – and quickly – his prospects of victory in the 2015 General Election may ebb away.

Wrong priority

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Europe is far from being the only urgent problem on the Government’s agenda. There’s a 27billion black hole in the Treasury’s finances and a surprise fall in manufacturing output has fuelled fears of a triple-dip recession.

Mortgages have virtually dried up, countless homeowners are stuck in negative equity, there is a profound crisis over elderly care, and the banks are still failing to give businesses the loans they need to create jobs.

If that weren’t enough, Syria may be preparing to use chemical weapons on its own people, Israel is itching to bomb nuclear sites in Iran and Egypt teeters on the brink of another revolution.

So why is the Government so obsessed with gay marriage In these dark and dangerous days, should this relatively minor issue really be distracting so much energy and attention from the things that really matter

A war Gove can’t lose

Full marks to Education Secretary Michael Gove for standing firm on teachers’ pay reforms in the face of a predictable onslaught from the unions.

Enthusiastically supported by Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Gove says he will ‘go to war’ to allow heads to set pay rates locally, rather than have national salary levels imposed on them.

It may be bloody, but if the Tories are serious in their bold and courageous plan to extend regional pay across the whole public sector, it’s a war they simply can’t afford to lose.