Dave, Angela and the UK's relationship with the EU
David Cameron's plans for repatriating powers from Brussels still look too much like waffle, and too little like something meaningful and concrete
Recently, there have been two top-level contributions to the debate on the future of the EU; the first a speech from Angela Merkel, the first time that German had been heard in the British Parliament, despite many previous attempts.
It has now been largely forgotten. The second was from David Cameron, largely under-reported.
The German Chancellor was on the side of both reform and gradualism. She accepted that the status quo was not an option. A regime must be created in which all EU policies are directed at increasing the economic strength of the whole Union.
She supported a bonfire of unnecessary regulations and a war on red tape that stifles enterprise.
Although defending the freedom of goods, services and labour, she supported restrictions on access to benefits by immigrants. She called on the EU to be more internationalist, in particular by swiftly approving the Free Trade Area deal with the US.
She said little about the democratic deficit, which seems to be of greater concern in the UK.
The overall significance of her speech is that change is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’, and she needs Britain, the second largest economy in the EU, to support her.
The second was an op-ed piece in the Daily Telegraph, in which Dave has sought to forward the debate by setting out seven key areas for reform. They are:
New controls to stop “vast migrations” across the continent when new countries join the EU;
Tighter rules to ensure that migrants come to Britain to work, not as tourists planning to cash in on “free benefits”;
A new power for groups of national parliaments to work together to block unwanted European legislation;
Businesses to be freed from red tape and “excessive interference” from Brussels, and given access to new markets through “turbo charging” free trade deals with America and Asia;
British police and courts liberated from “unnecessary interference” from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR);
More power “flowing away” from Brussels to Britain and other member states, rather than increasingly centralising laws in the EU;
Abolishing the principle of “ever closer union” among EU member states, which he says is “not right for Britain”.
Not much to argue with there, but somebody should tell him that the ECHR has nothing to do with the EU. It is the child of 47 members of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Perhaps he was thinking of the European Court of Justice, which has little to do with the administration of justice by the UK courts.
But it’s still waffle. He will need to put a lot more flesh on these meager bones before 2015. What does he mean by ‘excessive’ interference from Brussels?
Who determines what is excessive? ‘Interference’ unqualified will suit us quite nicely, Dave. Which powers should flow away from Brussels?
How are you going to limit immigration without ditching Schengen? How is it proposed that national governments would work together to block unwanted legislation? And so on…
And not a word about the ‘democratic deficit’. This is a key issue; the British hate laws which have been passed by the unelected. It would be nice to get rid of that too.
Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world
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