Monday, 25 November 2013

Europe

Discussion about the EU is never far away in British politics, but over the past few weeks with the EU Referendum Bill currently being debated in Parliament it has found itself right in the political spotlight again. MPs will soon vote on whether we allow the public a say on our membership and it will be the first time the public are permitted a vote on the EU in almost forty years. It is actually a pretty historic moment and one which the Conservatives rightly deserve credit for.

I believe we need a fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU because in certain areas it has become far too powerful and we need to see those powers returned to us. That said, after these negotiations we can also remain an enthusiastic and committed member of the single market which is best outcome for our economy.

There are plenty of naysayers out there who don’t believe the EU can change, and that its tentacles will continue to spread unless we leave outright. I don’t think that is inevitable at all and it is clear that although others countries, such as Germany, want further political and fiscal union they accept that Britain is in a different position and they want to work with us because ultimately they still need our signature on new treaties. To get negotiations right we need to do the right research and William Hague’s competency review into how exactly the EU works and how its laws affect our everyday life in Britain will do just that. It is a huge project that won’t end until next year but it will offer so much useful information at the negotiating table that we must wait for it to be completed.

In the meantime there is also much that can be done now that keeps national powers. Under the Lisbon Treaty, we have a right to opt in or out of EU directives and recently the government decided to opt out of 130 EU directives that Gordon Brown signed up to relating to justice and home affairs and then opted back in to just 35 of them. We have picked and chosen the ones that enhance these areas but left behind needless bureaucracy in others.

My new role in DEFRA also meant I recently announced a vital consultation on how EU agricultural subsidies will be paid from next year onwards which seeks to cut down even further on the red tape from Brussels and which gives our farmers a say in how they work. It is also proof that negotiation works in the EU because the greater flexibility on how we distribute the funds was a key part of the British strategy and we won that right. I believe we should be optimistic when approaching the EU and this bill is a key part of that.

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.