What Direction for EU Negotiations?
The Hon Bernard Jenkin MP
Friday 20 June 2015: As the EU Referendum Bill makes its way through the House of Commons and the prime minister continues to meet EU leaders ahead of the EU Council meeting on 25th and 26th June, The Rt Hon Bernard Jenkin MP reflects on the week’s events.
This week, Politeia hosted the launch in the House of Commons for the pamphlet authored by me, Sir William Cash MP, and Rt Hon John Redwood MP, entitled The UK and the EU: what must change? It was also endorsed by Steve Baker MP, the Chair of Conservatives for Britain. Judge for yourself what we have set out in our paper. You can also read my introductory remarks at the meeting here.
The origin of this pamphlet is a series of papers we prepared for discussions we had with the Conservative leadership and their advisers following the prime minister’s Bloomberg Speech of January 2013 up until the general election. They each set out the consequences for the UK of continuing to be subject to the present EU treaties, if there is no reform of the EU, or fundamental change in our terms of membership.
The Prime Minister’s told the House of Commons just before the election that he wants ‘to reform the EU and fundamentally change Britain’s relationship with it’. This means addressing the ‘exam question’: if you don’t want to be in the Euro, or political union, what relationship should you have with those member states who do?
That dilemma was no better expressed than by Chancellor George Osborne, when he told the Open Europe conference last year, ‘If we cannot protect the collective interests of non-Eurozone member states then they [meaning “we”] will have to choose between joining the euro, which the UK will not do, or leaving the EU.’
So we set out how the EU will continue to encroach on the UK’s autonomy in key policy areas, such as City and business regulation, tax, justice and home affairs, human rights and how qualified majority voting and the European Court of Justice will increasingly encroach on foreign, defence and security policy, unless there is fundamental change; and how without fundamental change, it would be better for the UK to leave the existing treaty structure.
Shortly after delivering this speech, a cross party group of MPs released a statement. We include Conservatives Steve Baker, Owen Paterson and myself; the UKIP MP Douglas Carswell; and Labour MPs Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, and Graham Stringer.
We point out that there is little if any indication that the government is even asking for significant reform or fundamental change in our relationship with the EU. In particular, there is no sign of any proposals either to end the supremacy of EU law over UK law on ever wider matters, or to resolve the question of what should be the relationship between the Eurozone and non-Eurozone states.
This EU supremacy arises from the 1972 European Communities Act, which incorporates all the EU treaties from Rome to Lisbon. In order to match the Bloomberg commitment, that ‘it is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU’, the UK’s national parliament must be able to decide such vital matters as the level of UK taxpayer contributions to the EU budget, what regulations should apply to UK business, how to control immigration from the EU, and the UK’s trade relations with non-EU countries.
Without this, we believe that the best interests of the UK, Europe, the wider world, and the cause of peaceful international cooperation, would be advanced by the UK leaving the EU and pursuing a different relationship with our EU partners. We still hope, and urge, the government will listen to, and understand, these concerns.
The referendum will be a historic turning point. Both sides will require the creation of substantial organisations to provide voters with a real choice. There are therefore many issues that need urgent attention, including –
- Legal issues arising from the Referendum Bill (eg. rules for ‘purdah’, the impartiality of EU and government institutions and broadcasters, funding limits, designation of IN and OUT campaigns, etc).
- How an OUT campaign might best be formed and run to inform the public about the issues.
We are therefore forming a cross-party group to consider these questions. This is not the ‘OUT’ campaign, but we are seeking urgently to provide resources for crucial thinking and to promote cooperation amongst those who might contribute to an OUT campaign.
* The Rt Hon Bernard Jenkin is the Member of Parliament for Harwich and North Essex. He is Chair-elect of the Public Administration Select Committee of the House of Commons and co-author of Politeia’s The UK and the EU: What must change?