Thursday, 5 July 2012

The EU...

This week David Cameron edged closer to renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU and putting the outcome to a referendum which is a positive step in the right direction. At times of crisis, the future belongs to those with both a plan and the political will to drive that plan through and the crisis in the eurozone means that the whole situation in Europe is changing and this is a time for British leadership.

If the eurozone countries do decide to integrate politically and fiscally in order to save the single currency then our membership of the EU will have to be renegotiated because some of the measures we are already signed up to will start to behave differently and against our national interest. Alternatively, if the euro collapses or a number of countries leave it, we will be in a totally different situation anyway. Either way, change is on the cards.

Some say that you can’t renegotiate our membership of the EU but no one has really tried yet. I don’t think we should be defeatist about this issue because where there is a will, there is a way. As the Prime Minister has said, the status quo in Europe is not acceptable. The EU has accumulated too much power and the more competences it takes on, the less competent it becomes. It is time to clip its wings and take powers away from Brussels.

There are already different tiers in the EU. There are currently 27 member states but only 17 of those are members of the euro. There are countries in the EU but not members of the Schengen agreement on border controls. There are some EU members who are neutral and have never worked with the EU on defence matters. The challenge now is to expand the “pick and mix” principle so that more policies in the EU become optional. We should aim to remain part of the single market which is what we signed up to in the first place but take powers back in many other areas.

Some say that now is not the time to talk about re-negotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU because the euro is so feeble and the countries that use it so pathetic, that they are not capable of withstanding democratic process or discussion about the euro’s future. I say that now is not the time to put our heads in the sand and ignore the failure of the euro. The people who want to sweep discussion about the future of the EU under the carpet now are the same sorts of people who told us a decade ago to close our eyes and blindly join the euro. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.