David Cameron is heading for a confrontation with Europe after some of Britain's closest EU allies yesterday rejected out of hand key demands outlined by the Conservative leader this week.
Four more countries yesterday dismissed the Tories' new approach, in a direct rebuff to William Hague, who insisted that the party was not isolated after France's Europe minister accused the Conservatives of "castrating" Britain's position in the EU.
Europe ministers from Poland, the Netherlands and the Irish Republic – historically among the friendliest to Britain in the EU – as well as Spain, said Cameron would not achieve his demand to repatriate social and employment laws to Britain. His plans would need the agreement of all 27 leaders of the EU because they would involve rewriting the union's treaties.
Frans Timmermans, the Dutch centre- left Europe minister, told the Guardian the Tory plans would have a "paralysing effect on Europe … There is more chance of a snowball surviving hell than the EU restarting debates on treaty change."
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, will also reject Cameron's demands because she is "fed up" with negotiating European treaties, one of her key allies said. Elmar Brok, one of the most senior members of the European parliament from Merkel's CDU party, said: "She is fed up of constitutional debates which we have had for 10 years. We need to discuss the competitiveness of the EU and employment."