EADT ‘Letter from Brussels’ : An EU Referendum in Sight
With a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU a real possibility, Geoffrey explains that it is now the content and timing of this which are key.
The Euro crisis continues to threaten our economic recovery - in Britain as much as in the Eurozone itself. If there is any positive side to it, it is the opportunity it presents for Britain to redefine our relationship with the EU.
Firm proposals for a politically integrated Eurozone will be put on the table by the European Commission in December. To my mind, this will require a new EU Treaty. This is when the government should insist on a wider renegotiation - with the results put to the British people by referendum.
For nearly a year now, it has been clear that the Euro will not survive in its present form. It was a political project from the start. Resolution of the crisis demands political rather than purely economic decisions. That's the difficulty.
The Eurozone in particular, and the wider EU, will have to be reshaped. If the Eurocrisis is not to drag on, there are two real options. Either Greece and the other 'olive' economies split from the sound economies of the northern Eurozone and be freed to set their own exchange and interest rates. Or they must submit to full integration into a federal state called Europe, where the direction and control of their economies is decided by others. Either way, it is important that decisions are taken at the EU level and that Britain remains among the decision makers.
What outcome do we want? Some say, we talk about bringing powers back from Europe - but which powers do we mean exactly, and how will we do it? Conservatives are clear about this. I contributed the defence chapter to the 'Fresh Start Group's' Green Paper, launched in the House of Commons on 10 July, which considers exactly which powers should come back to Westminster. This issue is also at the heart of the "Review of EU Competences", announced in the House on the same day by William Hague. On 30 June, in an article in the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron set the tone: "It is vital for our country that we get our relationship with Europe right ... we need to be absolutely clear about what we want ... far from there being too little Europe, there is too much of it ... As I have said, for me the two words “Europe” and “referendum” can go together, particularly if we really are proposing a change in how our country is governed, but let us get the people a real choice first."
For years I have fought hard for a referendum on our relationship with the EU. Now it is in sight. The key issues are timing and content.
Geoffrey Van Orden is the Conservative MEP focusing on Essex and Suffolk. He can be contacted at email@example.com and at www.geoffreyvanorden.com