This week, the Prime Minister announced his long-anticipated negotiating stance with the European Union, in a letter to the President of the European Council, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
The government’s stated “objectives” amount to far less than previously indicated. He set out only four proposals: to improve Europe’s business environment (which every PM since Mrs T has been trying to achieve but without success); to limit welfare payments to new migrants in jobs (which is currently illegal under the present treaties); to make a new arrangement to allow a group of national parliaments to block new EU laws (which means the UK can still always be outvoted) ; and to give the UK an opt out from the words “ever closer union” in the pre-amble of the EU treaties (which has never affected a single law or European Court judgement). For their part, some EU leaders are saying even these limited demands are controversial, but in reality, the Mr Cameron has only asked for what he can get. So the stage is set for a great EU drama, to try to convince voters before the forthcoming EU referendum that the UK has won a great victory, when actually, the entire structure of the EU will carry on grabbing more and more power and money.
Over the years, the PM seemed to promise so much more. In 2005, he said, “our aim should be to take back control of social and employment legislation”. In 2009, Mr Cameron promised “to limit … the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over criminal justice to its pre-Lisbon [treaty] level.” In 2014, the PM said “We want EU jobseekers to have a job offer before they come here.” Just before the 2014 European Parliament elections, the Prime minister in January was talking about “full-on Treaty change…. that I will be putting in place before the referendum”. All this, and more, has been dropped.
There were times when the Prime Minister seemed to understand the great principles at stake in this debate. In his 2013 Bloomberg speech, he said, ““It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.” Before the Euro-elections in May 2014, he told the BBC, “We want to be in Europe for trade and cooperation ….between nation states, not the building of a superstate.” Just before the general election this year, he told parliament, “we have the opportunity to reform the EU and fundamentally change Britain’s relationship with it.” All this turns out to be just words.
The British Establishment says we must be content for the UK to be a second tier member of an EU, increasingly dominated by the Eurozone in general, and by Germany in particular. But staying in is not the safe option, because nobody knows what the EU will be like in another five or ten years’ time. The only safe option is to take back our veto so we can take back control; over things like our borders, our trading relations with countries outside the EU, what we pay into the EU, and our own laws and courts.
The UK is a significant world power, and a global trading nation with the sixth largest economy in the world. Many of those in the British Establishment said we would have to join the Euro, or lose all our inward investment, but they were wrong then and they are wrong now. Outside the Euro, the UK is growing. A modern UK should be looking globally and digitally, to the Americas, China, India and SE Asia for our future growth. The UK should not be shackled to an outdated idea of a unified EU, which is failing socially, economically and politically.
By leaving the EU, we can be a positive catalyst for change in the EU, instead of just being swallowed up in a failing EU. We can have trade and cooperation with our European partners, like other countries. If South Korea or Iceland can have a free trade agreement with the EU, then so can we. It is in everyone’s interests. If we leave the EU, we can be more than £10 billion better off at a stroke – money we could spend on better hospitals, investment in science and technology for our future industry, and on research for new medicines, even after protecting what the EU spends on regional support, universities and farming. Now that it is clear: there is no plan to reform the EU, or to fundamentally change our relationship with it, unless we vote to leave. So I am formally supporting Vote Leave, which will be the official campaign to take back control from the EU.