European Movement UK

Britain's future is with Europe! Join the debate and put your opinion forward!

by Lord Dykes

 

A few weeks after the PM sadly refused to attend the Nobel Peace Prizeaward to the European Union in Oslo, I had the chance to ask my noble friend Baroness Warsi, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, what further opt-outs we would now seek in Brussels. She very kindly stated that “the Government always seek outcomes that are in the national interest … our priorities include … the single market and … fair competition”.

I spend a lot of my time in France and have the opportunity to observe public life and politics there at close quarters. It is interesting that such a proud, indeed, sometimes overly patriotic country, sees absolutely no contradiction between its own direct interests and those of the European Union. It considers them intimately connected and pursues one as an expression of the other. As in Berlin and Madrid, and most other EU capitals, the EU flag flies proudly in Paris alongside the national tricolour. They do not feel the one cancels out the other. The UK is the only major member state where government buildings never, ever fly the European flag. Why are we so nervous about the EU? Why are we so immature?

It is very self-defeating if leading Conservative Ministers and politicians refer to the over-repeated phrase “the British national interest” as if that were wholly different from our membership of the European Union and in opposition to that of all the other member states.

The explanation for the use of such language is simple; an unusually large number of old-fashioned nationalist Conservative MPs, like the UKIP folk, have a notion of national sovereignty which is, literally, at least 100 years out of date.

The fundamental premise upon which the European project is based is one which argues that pooling sovereignty by way of signing EU treaties, achieved by unanimity, is not a loss of real sovereignty, it is a means to protect it and enhance it. We have done so through other international treaties and membership of international organisations like the UN, WTO, NATO, even FIFA, all over the world, to no ill effect.

It is quite extraordinary that the blind commitment in our so-called “special relationship”, which has led us to go into rather questionable military adventures in the not so distant past (which we usually later regret), is rarely questioned, while we suffer hot flushes when confronted with a perfectly sensible measure of consensus-based EU co-operation.

Mr Cameron is now launching a risky plan which is designed to appease these wilder anti-EU MP colleagues, and which could quickly get out of control.

His wish to renegotiate our terms of membership, in effect to get Britain out of its Treaty commitments, which have been voluntarily agreed and dully ratified by our own Parliament, can only cause resentment across the EU and raise questions among our international partners about how committed we are to our membership of the biggest economy in the world.

It comes after Mr Cameron made himself unpopular through a series of tactical mistakes.

The bitterness felt by the European Popular Party, the biggest, and incidentally, right-wing political family in the EU, about the Conservatives deciding to set up their own group in the European Parliament still lingers.

Vetoing the Fiscal Compact and complicating efforts to address the sovereign debt crisis in certain parts of the Eurozone has not been forgotten either.

As Peter Ludlow said recently “The argument that the rest of Europe will simply acquiesce in whatever kind or arrangement (we) opt for, because … our partners need us … more than the UK needs them, is a total illusion”.

What is needed is a vision for the EU, one that is not based on the narrow national interest, but one that caters for the wider and common interests of the European Union and all its members. One that seeks to build on the successes of EU co-operation, but does not try to reduce it, discount it or compromise it. The best way to achieve that is through partnership andconsensus, rather than ultimatums that risk a potential exit of the EU.

 

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  1. Perhaps Lord Dykes should take a closer look around the EU when accusing the UK of immaturity in our concern for national self interest. It seems to me every country in the EU is fighting for its self-interest.

    He comments on France, well I would suggest that France is not known for its willingness to consider reform of the hideously expensive CAP or allow new accession states to have the same terms. It has insisted despite the protestations of the European Parliament itself, that 180m euros a year continue to be spent shuttling the Parliament to Strasbourg. Is this not in the cause of national self-interest?

    Germany, the strongest economy in the EU is the third biggest recipient of structural funds (behind Spain and Italy), why are the rules formulated in such a way to allow such strange results? Questions could also surround the current German resistance to Eurobonds or transfer of funds to the southern countries. Surely none of this could be classified as national self-interest ?

    Examples of such self-interest can easily be found for each country and to pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous or naïve.

    The problem Lord Dykes (and David Cameron) faces is that no party in the UK has ever had a mandate for membership of the EU. The dislike of the EU amongst voters crosses all political divides and to pretend it is a purely Tory issue is simply not the case. Indeed the suggestion that the UK is somehow different in this outlook ignores such inconvenient facts as the foundation of Alternative für Deutschland, failure in several EU states to win referendums on EU issues, and the results of Eurobarometer polls, the most recent of which shows that 30% of the people across the EU have a positive impression of the EU while 29% have a negative view.

    There is no EU demos, however much Lord Dykes might wish it otherwise. I suggest he looks at UK vehicle number plates next time he is in the country. He will see a considerable number where the EU symbol has been covered over by the vehicle owners with a Union Flag or other national symbol, let aside those vehicles who’s owners refuse to show the EU symbol at all. Perhaps he should worry less about the bitterness of the EPP, rather than the anger of the people who have been given no chance to have their views considered.

    As to what terms the EU might offer the UK during negotiations, well that will form the core of the discussions and for the UK population (as distinct to the remote political elite) to make the final decision, discomforting no doubt to any politician.

  2. Lord Dykes runs together two quite different concepts. There is the signing of international treaties and the establishment of international bodies such as the UN, NATO and the WTO. But they represent the cooperation of nation states. The EU is quite different and a unique attempt to establish, however gradually, a new democratic political entity..

    Continental euro-enthusiasts have no difficulty in being honest about the direction of travel. However, British euro enthusiasts seem to find such honesty impossible.

  3. A refreshing attitude from England, not hiding under the umbrella of national egoism disguised under a mantle of ” we waqnt wghat we want for everyone” which is disingenuous.
    At last, at least, someone in the UK other Europeans can talk to.
    Alas, al;as, a small minority.
    But welcome

  4. I am sure that the results from the UK parliamentary by election and the council elections will not be lost on Lord Dykes. I wonder if the brutality of the situation for UK citizens in Cyprus will have bothered him at all when he has his daily croissant.

    Does he have any concern for the laws that have been passed in Spain forcing residents to declare everything held outside the country over 50,000 Euros. Any inaccuracies will be subject to a 10,000 Euro fine for each offence. Would the good Lord like to hazard a guess to the likely reasons for this. Could it be in place at the behest of our German friends in case Cyprus needs to be repeated.

    I would totally endorse the comments of Iwantout and Martin Buckley and admit to being slightly amused at the throwing in of FIFA to the international list of organisations. As a Liberal Democrat and the recipient of the German Order of Merit, Medaille pour L’Europe from Luxembourg, French Legion d’Honneur I had hoped you would recognise like the EU, FIFA is probably up there in the list of most corrupt and undemocratic organisations. It was noticeable that at no time did you mention that Mr Cameron might just wish to inject some democracy into the EU, if the Lisbon Treaty will allow such frivolity.

  5. It is a pity, a great pity, that Britain that used to consider itself a centre, even a sort of spokesman for democracy, has failed to insist on elementary measures of democracy that have been in the treaties for fifty and in some cases sixty years. These include (1) that there should be a single statute for European elections instead of the present system where each government ‘fixes’ the rules to ensure small parties do not get elected. Today some voters get the equivalent of ten votes, others get none. Some vote at 16 others at 18 etc. It is even worse when it comes to the restrictions about who can stand for office as MEP. (2) the Economic and Social Committee should be independent and be elected at European level as a body of professionals from enterprise, workers and consumers, to guide and control economic and monetary policy rather than the being selected by politicians in the Council of Ministers. (3) The Commission should not be a dumping ground for politicians. The treaties say that ALL citizens have the right to be considered for office as long as they are independent of governments and other bodies. That restriction would exclude politicians who are tied to political bodies and are by definition NOT independent.
    However it is convenient and corrupt for government ministers to chose THEIR cronies for these offices and this is why the euro was badly constructed and unsupervised. Public trust is rock bottom.
    Come on Britain you can do better!

  6. Time for National Government here in the UK to make their minds up. We are watching while our government reduce our Forces, Our Police, and now our Fire Stations and Services, as for our NAVY and ships-the shame of having to SHARE an Aircraft Carrier!!!!, etc LEAVING our Country and the people in it vulnerable.

    Our Government is taking money off the sick, the elderly and more if they could, yet at the same time THEY are expecting us to continue contributing to two full Houses in our Parliament THAT CAN ONLY OBEY EU ORDERS LIKE THE REST OF US ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. Well THEY must choose one or the other, either we pay them to Govern this Country according to its long standing Common law Constitution or continue to let the EU Govern us-it should however be noted that the people’s Common law Constitution FORBIDS ANY OF THEM from contributing or encouraging foreigners to govern this our own Country.

  7. I see our sick, the elderly, those that cannot get a job having financial cuts made. I see our Forces being cut, the deep shame of an Island Nation having the deep shame of having to SHARE an Aircraft Carrier-with or without ‘planes, and all to give money to foreigners to make the laws that even our own elected Government has to obey.

    Well enough is enough and as it is proposed that the EU turns itself into “A Federation of Nation States” it is time for us to leave. We cannot afford in ANY WAY to remain in the European Union. We pay our own Government-two full to the brim Houses of those that are meant to Govern this Country according to its very long Standing Common law Constitution. It is about time they all did exactly that.

    Our Constitution forbids any of us to allow foreigners to Govern us, never mind PAY them so to do.

  8. Interesting comments from Anne.
    Unfortunate that the United kingdom has no written constitution and as for foreigners ruling is well a good many of our cabinet ministers past and present were of “foreign” European descent – indeed our monarchs too.
    As for our leaving. We have received advice from the United States, from old allies like Poland, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Italy not to do so.but obviously some people feel we know everything better and that we can survive in splendid isolation on, er, Chinese and Arab investment and on capital from overseas buying up the City of London and indeed running in for the benefit of the sick, elderly ,poor, deracinated, unemployed of course…..
    As for the law- common law- for anyone involved in it it is clear that our law is highly inaccessible and very expensive and as such is barely”common” in the sense of equally shared and equally available..
    The cost of that illusion will do us no good and might even break up the Union.
    And what then?

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