EADT ‘Letter from Brussels’ - The Real Deal
Geoffrey confronts the "State of the Union" address made this week in the European Parliament in this 'Letter from Brussels'; sending a clear message that the British Conservatives will not give up the fight on Europe.
Last Wednesday was the occasion for European Commission President Barroso to give his annual “State of the Union” address to the European Parliament – the usual pale imitation of that eponymous event in the United States. Last year, you will recall, he was full of hubris, calling for “a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, a political union, with a coherent foreign and defence policy […] a federation of nation states”. This year his tone was more subdued. But, I am not sure if he has got the message that there is no appetite for his grandiose project and the full-scale political integration that he had in mind.
His rhetoric was certainly more modest - except when he suddenly turned on the British Conservatives. He said he thought we wouldn't do well in the European elections and that people in Britain who were against Europe would "prefer the original to the copy". Leaving aside the fact that Barroso has probably single-handedly done more to alienate the British people than anyone since Jacques Delors - and ignoring the fact that he is an unelected bureaucrat hardly in a position to give advice on electoral preferences - what a pity he doesn't even understand the political realities. Margaret Thatcher, after all, was a Conservative. Our Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, is the only political leader committed to giving the British people a say - an in/out referendum - on our relationship with the EU. And Cameron has already cut the EU Budget, for the first time ever, vetoed an EU Treaty and supported legislation to enshrine a referendum on Europe in the British statute book.
These are issues where it is Conservatives that have led the way. A group of us were elected as MEPs in 1999 to fight for change in Europe, and stand up for British interests. That's what we have done - consistently. Our difference with UKIP is three-fold. Firstly, we do the work. Secondly, there may be merit in remaining at the EU decision-making table and retaining unfettered access to a real single market, provided there was significant change in our EU relationship. The difficult trick will be to deliver that change. That's our task over the next four years. Thirdly, only Conservatives have both the intent and the power to bring about the vital changes that the British people want - on the EU and on cutting immigration. No one else will be in a position to carry such changes through. I think the British people now understand this. It's a pity Mr Barroso doesn't.