EADT ‘Letter from Brussels’ : Leadership in Reshaping Europe
In this edition of 'Letter from Brussels', Geoffrey tackles in the issue of which powers should be repatriated from Brussels.
The process of European integration has gone too far and should be reversed. That's my view and the view, I think, of most people. Now we have seen two major policy developments in the past five weeks signifying a step change in Britain’s relationship with the EU - precisely what many of us have worked for over this past decade.
On 23 January, The Prime Minister set out a radical new vision for Britain and Europe. He described the crisis that now faces the EU and its lack of support among our citizens. His conclusion? - we need fundamental, far-reaching change - and the consent of the people.
We will therefore negotiate a fresh relationship - one that allows those that want to integrate more closely to do so, but which prevents them taking bad decisions about us. Ideally then, we need to remain among the top decision-makers and ensure full access to the EU market – but reduce Brussels' interference. We don’t want to be dissolved into a state called Europe!
So what powers should be brought back? Here is my wish list - for starters:
- Delete the idea of "ever closer union"
- Redefine 'Free Movement'
- Cut the EU's bureaucracy - in the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council
- Cut the EU budget (done!), and our budget contributions
- Introduce a legal safeguard for the single market to prevent discrimination
- Bring Employment, Social, and Health and Safety legislation back under
- Opt-out of unhelpful justice and home affairs legislation
- Reassert full control of our own borders and immigration policy
- No meddling by the EU in military matters
- Bring Fisheries Policy back under national control
- Sort out the EU's accounts
Once renegotiation has taken place, consent will be obtained by a popular vote. The view is that it is wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right. The Conservative pledge is: "when we have negotiated a new settlement, we will put it to the British people in a referendum with a very simple in or out choice."
And to add further spice to the mixture, on 8 February, the Prime Minister achieved a major cut in the EU budget - the first time this has happened in 56 years! Far from being isolated, we found strong allies in our demand for cuts in EU expenditure. €80 billion will be slashed from the budget proposed by the European Commission for the next seven year period. This is just a beginning. There is so much more still to be done to get things right.
Geoffrey Van Orden is Conservative MEP for the East of England focusing on Essex and Suffolk. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org