Bruges Group exclusive
The Convention and the EU’s future
RO The Labour Government have submitted proposals to the Convention on the Future of Europe. Where do you think the European Union is headed?
Europe is going in entirely the wrong direction and I think it is time for Britain to get off this train, which is hurtling into the buffers
AR Europe is going in entirely the wrong direction and I think it is time for Britain to get off this train, which is hurtling into the buffers. We want to have a sensible relationship with Europe that benefits us. We don’t want to withdraw from trade, of course not, that benefits us, we don’t want to withdraw from co-operating with neighbouring countries because that is sensible to do. But we do want to ensure that we control our own destiny and the European Union is removing, and ultimately will remove, the power of the British people to decide our own future. That’s why we simply have to draw a line and say no further and reverse so much of what’s happened.
I think that Europe is not being created for the benefit of it’s people, it is being created for a political elite who have this grand vision which is actually rather dangerous because it is stamping out individualism, stamping out nation-states, it’s stamping out things that are natural and replacing them with an artificially created political structure. This neither has the support of the people of Europe and neither can it be certain that this will actually ultimately lead to a better place, a better continent, for the people that live in it.
I think it will actually be the reverse of that, I think it will actually be worse for our people so we have to try to fight it, but unfortunately it is not going to be an easy task with the government we have in power.
Europe is not being created for the benefit of it’s people, it is being created for a political elite who have this grand vision which is actually rather dangerous because it is stamping out individualism
RO What about is they try and democratise the European Union? Valerie Giscard d’Estaing in his draft constitution for the EU, where he floated a number of ideas regarding naming it the United States of Europe but also the idea of an elected President or more power to the European Parliament, or both, would that work?
AR I don’t think that this is democratising Europe. This is giving Europe greater prestige and greater power. The European Union should never have been about this it should have been about co-operation between nations, trade between countries and working together for the benefit of all of us, but based upon co-operation not compulsion.
We don’t need a President of Europe, we don’t need a Government of Europe, we don’t need a European Parliament in my opinion
It has turned into a group which is centralised, controlled from Brussels, working in it’s own interests, creating it’s own power rather than looking at what is going to help the individual countries. So I don’t agree with what is being proposed at all.
We don’t need a President of Europe, we don’t need a Government of Europe, we don’t need a European Parliament in my opinion. We need strong nations co-operating with other strong nations – so that’s my idea of Europe. I think that Britain has simply got to, at some stage very soon, say “we are not tolerating this”. Because if we carry on down this route there isn’t going to be a Britain there will be a United Kingdom broken up into regions and we are basically going to be controlled by Brussels. That is not what I want to see for this country.
Beyond re-negotiation and withdrawal
RO How to we come to the situation where Britain can have happier relations with the European Union? Some people float the idea of withdrawing from the EU, other people advocate us re-negotiation our relationship, what do you say there are two options there?
AR Well I think that the language we use we have to be careful of. The word withdrawal can actually conjure up the sort of images that play right into the hands of the pro-Europeans. The word withdrawal can indicate in the eyes of some that we want to withdraw from trading with Europe or co-operating with Europe, well none of us want to do that.
Equally so if we are talking about re-negotiation. I find it unacceptable, it is a humiliation for our country that we have to negotiate, re-negotiate our freedom again because essentially our freedom has been removed by all the different treaties that have been signed by successive governments.
I find it unacceptable, it is a humiliation for our country that we have to negotiate, re-negotiate our freedom again… I don’t think that it is possible to re-negotiate, they will tie us up in knots and they will trip us up all the way
So I wouldn’t talk about withdrawal, I certainly wouldn’t talk about re-negotiation because I don’t think that it is possible to re-negotiate, they will tie us up in knots and they will trip us up all the way and before you know it there will be another general election and we would have failed to deal with it.
What we have to do as a future Conservative Government say to the European Union that we want to end the existing arrangements and replace them with a free-trade agreement and co-operation between Britain, the United Kingdom Government and Europe. I think that’s what we need – a totally new relationship. We end the existing arrangements.
I don’t think the current relationship we have with Europe suits us, I don’t think that its one the British people have ever asked for we have never had a referendum on this, the only time we have had a referendum is for a common market and we all know that it is rather more than a common market now. And I think that an incoming Conservative Government would be quite within it’s rights to say that we end the existing relationship and we say to the European Union let’s agree a new one and replace the existing one with one that we are comfortable with and that you can also feel able to support. That would be my solution.
RO So just tell them this is the way it is going to be from now on.
AR Absolutely, yeah, I am tired of this country being humiliated, I want this country to be strong.
RO Some people would argue that we would then be breaking European Union Law and our Courts at the moment are giving EU directives and regulations supremacy over our own Acts of Parliament. How would you overcome that?
AR We would have to have an immediate Act of Parliament to ensure that British law is supreme within the United Kingdom.
We would have to have an immediate Act of Parliament to ensure that British law is supreme within the United Kingdom…I am tired of this country being humiliated
I think that Malcolm [Lord] Pearson tried to do this a few years ago and that’s what we need to do. We need to ensure that the first thing we do is to ensure that British law is supreme within the UK. And if that means passing an immediate Act of Parliament then so be it. Then we say to the European Union, “we want to have a sensible relationship with you, we want to end the existing one because we are not happy with this, it does not suit the United Kingdom and let’s have a new one based on trade and co-operation.” Why is that so difficult?!
A new relationship
RO In what areas do you want to co-operate, of course there is free trade, but would we still have a budget where we pay into the EU coffers, would we still have the Common Agricultural Policy?
AR No, all of that has to go. I mean a new relationship where we will be out of the CAP, out of the CFP, out of the different things that we have got tangled up in over the last 20-30 years. Out of all that and simply a trading relationship where we can ensure the free flow of goods and services between the UK and the rest of Europe and an agreement with them where we are happy to co-operate where it is sensible to co-operate. For instance, there could be environmental things that certainly benefit us and we have the affirmation to abide with that but we decide it ourselves. We don’t want any other country or institution or authority deciding what goes on in our own country. Those days have to end.
RO So the bits we are happy with we could stick with like the areas you just mentioned, but it wouldn’t be as if the EU is telling us what to do, we would simply be applying similar standards where it was appropriate?
AR Precisely, yes, exactly. There are lots of things the European Union could do, or standards they are trying to bring in, which we would probably say that it is sensible and we do agree with that. But we would do that without necessarily tying our selves into a governmental and judicial structure that the European Union imposes. If something is sensible then we can choose ourselves to do that. Why is it so hard to do?! Why do we have to tie ourselves up with, in many cases, things that are really detrimental to Britain when a more flexible arrangement would suit us far better?!
Changing the face of Europe
RO What about Britain’s relationship with other European nations, such as eastern Europe, I know that you have got quite a focus on that, you were Chairman of both the International Young Democrats Union and the European Young Conservatives. You have good contacts across Europe, in the east in Portugal who like yourself want Europe of nation-states. You have experience of international co-operation, is there something that can be done on that front?
AR I think that essentially most countries in Europe are very weak. They are not nations that are willing to lead, we are, we are different, we are British and we are prepared to lead and that’s what we must do again. I think that if Britain had the courage to do what I am outlining I think other countries will say, “if they can do it why can’t we join up with Britain? Why can’t we have the kind of relationship that Britain has with the rest of Europe?”
it is not in their interests to tie themselves up in a new socialist bloc, which is what the EU is
I think there are many countries in Eastern Europe that are doing extremely well economically, Estonia is one of them, it is not in their interests to tie themselves up in a new socialist bloc, which is what the EU is. They want the security of being part of the West and essentially many of the Eastern European countries are only joining the EU because they see it is a way of anchoring themselves into the Western group of countries.
What they don’t need having broken away from one socialist bloc is to be tied into another one. I am not comparing the European Union to the Soviet Union but certainly there is some parallel in terms of the control freakery that exists within the European Union. I just think that it is better for those countries to have a more flexible arrangement. So if Britain did this why couldn’t; Denmark if they wanted to, and all the Scandinavian countries, why couldn’t Norway have that same sort of relationship, they are not in the EU, but I am sure the Norwegians would like the kind of relationship that I have outlined. And gradually I think that many countries would follow us and you may finish up with some countries that want to be part of a Franco-German bloc, maybe Austria would, maybe Belgium and Luxembourg would, but perhaps a lot of the others would prefer their freedom.
RO So Britain could change the face of Europe?
AR We could break the mould. And none of these things last forever, throughout history there have been groups of countries, empires and all kinds of things of that sort which didn’t last and this one won’t last either and I think that it could well be Britain that cracks it but we have got to have the courage ourselves to do this.
It is no good one government after another coming into power signing up to more treaties talking tough but actually being very weak in reality, that is what we have had under all governments. It’s a great shame that Margaret Thatcher wasn’t Prime Minister for a lot longer. She was one person that would see how badly wrong the European Union was going and just at the time when she was seeing this and was trying to do something about it of course she left office. Had she remained in power I am quite sure that we would be looking at a very different situation today. But regrettably that didn’t happen.
The Conservatives and Europe
RO Will a future Conservative Government approach the European Union as you have suggested?
AR I sincerely hope so, it all depends on when we next have a Conservative Government. I would hope that Iain Duncan Smith as somebody that got a fine record of standing up for Britain’s interests against the ambitions of the European Union as he displayed in 1993 when he opposed the Maastricht Treaty as he did. I have every confidence that he as a future Conservative Prime would stand by that, but it will take a lot of courage and it is no good going for half measures here. We must be swift, determined and effective in what we do. If we come into office and bide our time and try to come to some sort of compromise we will fail. But if we come in and do it very quickly and do it with a bit of guts and show Europe that we mean business and are not prepared to tolerate control from Brussels any longer they will respect that far more than if they think we are trying to weal and deal with them and get some sort of compromise half-hearted way out of this. I don’t think that is possible any more.
I can not see how re-negotiation will result in the kind of relationship that we really want. We would always have to compromise and I am tired of governments that compromise Britain’s future and Britain’s freedom. We need a government that is going to say this is the end of that period of our history, we are ending the existing relationship with the European Union and we want a new one that suits our country and that’s what we are going to do.
RO Some argue that the last general election didn’t go well for the Conservative Party because of Europe, what is your take on that?
AR I disagree I think that the last general election would have been a lot worse for us had we not fought the campaign on Europe that we did. I accept, however, that the Conservative Party needs to have a more balanced agenda at general elections. It is no good simply talking about keeping the Pound, you must talk about other things as well. So to that extent there wasn’t a balanced agenda, people only heard what we were saying on one or two issues so a more balanced program of policies is required.
To suggest that the one issue which shows we are in tune with the British people actually was damaging – I find that a bizarre interpretation of what happened.
I find that the vast majority of people are sick and tired of being bossed about by Brussels, they don’t want to join the euro, they want a government that is going to put Britain first and stand up for our interests instead of kowtowing to these people that do not have British interests at heart. And I think that a Conservative Party that does that is going to win a lot of votes. I think it is a big vote winner.
The mistake at the last general election was to make out that it was the last chance to save the Pound because clearly that wasn’t true – there would have to be a referendum. But the campaign to put Britain first, the campaign to stand-up for our interests against those of Brussels was absolutely right. And if we don’t fight on that at the next election there is a lot of people tat will be very disillusioned and I am afraid to say that we could loose a lot of votes to minority Eurosceptic patries.
Iain Duncan Smith and the EPP
RO It has been said in The Daily Telegraph that Iain Duncan Smith should stop trading on his reputation from the ‘90s and show his Euroscepticism now , especially in relation to Conservative MEPs being allied to the federalist European People’s Party [EPP] in the European Parliament. Do you think we need to hear more from IDS on this?
AR I would like Iain Duncan Smith to be the Iain Duncan Smith we all knew him to be prior to him becoming leader. I understand that when someone becomes leader of a party such as the Conservative Party immediately you have responsibilities, you are under huge pressure, there are things that you can’t just do willy-nilly. You have to be responsible in the way you lead the Party and if you make changes you have to do it in such a way that isn’t going to rip the Party in two you have to lead, but you must take people with you, that is what Iain must do. I understand that but there is no point in any of us being in politics unless once elected to position that we do the right thing and do what we believe in.
Iain Duncan Smith has a great opportunity to give the entire Party a boost and to restore the confidence that many people are doubting at the moment by clamping down very firmly on this relationship we have with the EPP and getting the Conservative MEPs out of that arrangement
I think that people are generally fed-up with politics because politicians are doing things that they do not actually believe in and they break their promises and that’s what disillusions people about politicians. I think Iain Duncan Smith has a great opportunity to give the entire Party a boost and to restore the confidence that many people are doubting at the moment by clamping down very firmly on this relationship we have with the EPP and getting the Conservative MEPs out of that arrangement. Forming a new arrangement with other parties that actually agree with our point of view. It seems to me to be quite ridiculous that we are sitting with a group of MEPs that have a Federalist agenda which is utterly opposed to everything that we as Conservatives stand for. I think the quicker we get out of the EPP the better and I urge Iain Duncan Smith to make that decision very quickly.
I think the quicker we get out of the EPP the better and I urge Iain Duncan Smith to make that decision very quickly
Gibraltar and the EU
RO On one issue where Britain’s interests are not being protected by our own Government is Gibraltar. You are very much involved with the campaign to keep Gibraltar British, Is there a European angle here?
AR I think there is, I think its all about Europe. Once again we are letting our own people down, in other words British Gibraltarians, for the sake of trying to appease the European Union. Tony Blair knows that if he gives Spain Gibraltar then he will earn himself brownie points with the Madrid Government, he knows that.
Once again we are letting our own people down, in other words British Gibraltarians, for the sake of trying to appease the European Union
Gibraltar is part of the European Union, believe it or not, they joined at the same time as the UK. They are part of the same accession treaty as us and yet you wouldn’t think so. The EU does absolutely nothing for Gibraltar, they haven’t even allowed Gibraltarians to vote in European elections. They are the one group of citizens in the EU who are denied a vote at European elections. So they have been treated shamefully by the EU, by our own Labour Government and Tony Blair really doesn’t care about Gibraltar.
What he wants to do is get himself in the good books of the Spanish Government and of Brussels. He is using Gibraltar as a bargaining chip and I am afraid that he is going to come unstuck big time because no one in Gibraltar is going to tolerate that sort of betrayal and I can tell you now that no one in Britain, except his cronies in the Labour Government, are going to tolerate it either.
Andrew Rosindell thank you very much