EADT ‘Letter from Brussels’ : A New Deal for the UK on Europe
The latest Letter from Brussels column deals with the much-anticipated Europe Speech to be given shortly by the Prime Minister in the Netherlands.
Next week, probably in the Netherlands, the Prime Minister will give his eagerly-awaited and politically-critical speech on Britain and Europe. Ironically - cleverly perhaps - it will be the 20th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty which sowed so many of the seeds of our discontent with the EU. That field now needs to be dug over.
David Cameron is a pragmatic eurosceptic. He knows he has to sketch out some radically different arrangements for Britain in the EU from those that were spawned by Maastricht - apart from the Euro opt-out, of course. He is also a realist. He knows that he cannot afford to give up our decisive weapon, our veto on EU treaty changes. He has already used it to block the Fiscal Treaty. We need to be at the table to stop the EU passing laws that damage our national economic interests. Our export industries, as well as foreign investors in the UK, need confidence that they would continue to have unfettered access to the continental market. And our closest ally, the United States, needs reassurance.
What price do you put on this? At the moment the price is far too high in terms of what we pay, the steady erosion of our national sovereignty, and the burden of unnecessary and intrusive regulation. I haven't met anyone (well, one LibDem MEP maybe) who believes in the concept of "European citizenship" that underpins the EU drive for "ever closer union" and a European Federation. Yet for the Eurocrats that write the scripts in the European institutions there is just one irreversible direction of travel - more integration.
The Prime Minister understands that the British people want more control over their own lives and over their own government, not more control from Brussels. They despair at what they see as a self-interested discussion in Brussels which does not really address the most urgent problems facing them - how to restore growth and competitiveness to our economies, create real jobs, reduce the burden of cost and regulation, and ensure a prosperous and secure future.
The Eurozone should be recast, and the EU reshaped to enable different circles of engagement, overlapping at the centre. I would like to see us free of EU employment and social legislation, of justice policy, of common immigration policy, of common fisheries policy, and of structural funding, and see the EU's common defence policy brought back under NATO auspices. The EU’s core costs and over inflated bureaucracy need to be slashed. We need a new Treaty. As David Cameron has said directly to me, ‘We want a fresh settlement for the United Kingdom with fresh consent, either in an election or in a referendum’. He will begin to set out the elements of that fresh settlement next week.
Geoffrey Van Orden is the Conservative MEP focusing on Essex and Suffolk. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.geoffreyvanorden.com