I’ve just read the Spectator magazine’s comment on David Cameron’s trip to Brussels on Thursday.
For obvious reasons, the article focuses up front on what eurosceptic right wingers in the UK might want the Prime Minister to do and say there. And rightly dismisses them.
Without a written constitution the UK seems to have less protection than, say, Germany on issues that affect us at a constitutional level.
But -as Foreign Secretary William Hague made clear in his party conference speech- actually we already have most of the protection we would want. The 1973 European Communities Act can always be repealed, most people would expect a referendum were there to be another treaty (I think this is A Bad Thing due to the complete lack of understanding about the EU in the UK, and probably the worst mistake of Blair’s premiership after Iraq but that pass has been sold now).
What we cannot have is a law that says that the UK parliament can introduce law that conflicts with EU law and expect it to stand – the point about a single market is that we agree to the same rules for a level playing field for business, consumers and workers.
That would be asking for the impossible.
But the European Commission and European Parliament are also asking for the impossible.
Asking for a 5.9% budget increase (plus extras if you are the EP) is simply not credible when everyone else is cutting back. And as for direct taxation, how much do the institutions want the public to hate the EU?
Seriously, I’m already hurting enough due to the austerity measures my own national government is introducing, and that’s including things like taking the cap off rail fare increases meaning my season ticket could cost £8000 a year by the end of this parliament (2015).
What on earth is the EU going to do with that sort of increase in funding that actually going to help me in my day to day life? And I say this as someone who starts from a EU-positive position!
Then there’s France.
As one website puts it “France on general strike while Britain watches the X Factor and Wayne Rooney”.
We’ve had our pension age put up to 66, they’re striking over an increase to 62. We’ve had our universal child benefit removed, public sector pension contributions increased plus a pay freeze (that’s something like a 12% pay cut in real terms), pension tax relief on private sector pensions capped etc.etc. They have a strike with a slogan “the right to benefits”.
I love France. I’ve mentioned before the dream of a little coastal B&B and a slower pace of life. Rioting is not civilised but you can’t help admire the determination to keep the way of life to which they have become accustomed. Are the Brits lazy, apathetic or just more pragmatic?
When Jose Manuel Barroso gave his state of the Union speech earlier this year, he said that we needed an “open debate without taboos“.
So far this seems to have been code for attacking the UK budget rebate. As I said previously the Budget Commissioner has already screwed any prospect of sensible debate on this issue in the UK press, as Sunday’s Sunday Express front page amply demonstrated (oh and this one earlier in the week).
I need to spend more time reading www.capreform.eu before I full understand the issues, but Sarkozy is quoted as saying “I say clearly, I would be ready to have a crisis in Europe before I accept the dismantling of the common agricultural policy. I will not let our agricultural sector die“.
This, surely is the chance then, for everyone else in the CAP reforming group to put Strasbourg on the table.
Ok, Sarkozy, we saw you’d rather have an EU crisis than dismantle CAP.
If we are to accept this archaic and expensive drain on our resources, you should accept that we will not tolerate the Strasbourg circus every month.
This would be a genuine issue of EU interest, and would be one of the most positive things that the EU could do for the public – ending something which is a visible waste of their money, showing that they care about what we are going through.
There will of course be a range of other vested interests that are likely to get in the way of this happening. There always are.
But surely this is a chance to push for one seat for the European Parliament (Brussels) – which is a coalition agreement commitment for the UK government.
Under any other circumstances going in with this would be asking the impossible…