Dr Lee Rotherham
Two years ago the Bruges Group predicted the path of the EU treaty and warned of the consequences of railroading integration on Britain. Now the Bruges Group looks at what will happen next. And how Britain can finally resolve the EU question and become a good neighbour to the continent, rather than being an overcharged lodger.
We predicted in early 2005 that the EU Constitution would;
fail somewhere in a referendum
(France and the Netherlands voted No. Britain would have certainly done the same)
the rejection of the Constitution would provoke a panic in Brussels
(EU leaders did not know what to do next, EU Commission Vice-President, Margot Wallström, even moved onto Plan D)
this panic would create the opportunity for Britain to rethink our terms of EU membership
(This however was missed and the EU stumbled on)
a failure to change our membership would mean the original plan would go back onto the table, and the breakup of the EU would become inevitable
(The federalists only idea was to re-submit the same old tired Constitution, just under a new name)
What happens next and why a vote is inevitable
Brown under pressure
The Prime Minister has found himself stuck in the middle between the masses of people demanding a referendum on the Treaty and the Europhiles that are floating the idea of holding a vote on our very membership of the EU.
The inevitability of a referendum
A referendum, sooner or later, is inevitable and long overdue. The British public will not sit idly by as they see a referendum on the revived and renamed EU Constitution taking place in Ireland. They will not forgive the Labour Party for breaking its 2005 election manifesto.
After the fiasco of the election that never was, Brown cannot afford to duck the will of the British people yet again.
It is just a matter of what the final question will be.
More wasting of taxpayers money
We can expect the Government will restart is costly, yet futile, roadshow to convince us of the ‘benefits’ of EU membership without actually naming any.
The European Commission will also spend more of our money on propaganda in a vain attempt to make us support the Reform Treaty. We can be sure that some of this propaganda money will come from the European People’s Party which the Conservatives in the European Parliament are members of.
The opportunity of the revived EU Constitution
A vote rejecting EU integration in the UK will open up the prospect of new opportunities for Britain including a new arrangement of free trade and friendship, replacing burdensome regulation and the constant antagonism caused by Britain’s reluctance to submit itself fully to the federalist project.
These opportunities were acknowledged by the very drafters of the EU Constitution itself. Article 7a, the Good Neighbour clause, of the draft Reform Treaty would allow Britain, if it were to leave the EU's political control, to enjoy a special relationship with the EU, where the UK can remain outside of the political structures, but still enjoy good working relations. This will give Britain free trade with the European Union. There is no reason why we cannot aim for such a relationship once the Treaty is rejected.
This ‘good neighbour’ arrangement is clearly therefore an achievable objective, replacing our existing terms of membership.
EU expert Dr Lee Rotherham says,
“You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to predict a stormy 6 months for Gordon Brown. The question really is whether the Captain will follow his policy to the bottom of Davy Jones’ Locker, and whether David Cameron seizes the opportunity to steer a bold new course in Britain’s dealings with Europe.”
Robert Oulds, Director of the Bruges Group, says,
“Blair will be remembered as the man that failed to make the British public love the EU as he did and, above all, he ran from the challenge of the Eurosceptics and failed to even hold a referendum on the euro.
“Unless Brown holds a referendum his legacy will also be one of cowardice, not courage, on the question of Europe.
“If Brown fails to let the British public have their say he will also go down as the man that sunk Britain’s membership by pushing the people too far without their consent.”
Powers that Britain must reclaim
Once there has been reform at home by affirming the Primacy of Parliament over EU law, striking out the parts of the acquis communautaire that do not suit Britain. And after an official inquiry into the costs of EU membership has reported on the price we are paying; Britain can replace our current membership with the ‘good neighbour’ status.
Below is a list of minimum demands that would be needed to make the 'good neighbour’ relationship work.
Repatriate CAP to national control. Reforms to be undertaken at national level
Repatriate CFP. Local community management
Restore Social Chapter opt-out
Remove Employment and Social Affairs from the arrangement
Repatriate all of International Development, and link with good governance
Remove Defence and intergovernmental affairs from the agreement; cut Commission representation; cut UK funding for Galileo; remove WEU from any EU agreement
End regional aid: budget saved to be restored to exchequers
Cut R&D funding or withdraw from UK participation and funding
UK to represent itself internationally unless we request otherwise. Option to join NAFTA subject only to anti-dumping talks with EU
Tax harmonisation to end. Britain allowed to set own tax rates, including ending VAT
Education and Culture to go to Council of Europe (a non-EU institution) with budget line
Health and Consumer Protection to be scaled back vastly
Stop the ability of the ECJ and the Commission to govern Britain
Justice and Home Affairs to be taken away from the EU and discussed at a broader level of intergovernmentalism
All remaining competences to see the restoration of the veto