conservatives will stand up for britain if the eu lets us down
By Steve Baker MP
Conservatives for Britain has been formed among Tory parliamentarians to discuss the criteria by which to judge the Government’s EU renegotiation. We are willing to consider how to prepare for an “out” campaign if, lamentably, the European Union establishment will not allow the UK a new relationship of trade and co-operation.
David Cameron has been spectacularly successful in Europe. No other Prime Minister has secured a cut in the European Union budget.
David Cameron kept us out of a centralising EU fiscal treaty and took our country out of the Eurozone bailouts, arguably the first ever return of powers from Brussels.
Conservatives have confidence in the Government¹s capacity to renegotiate our membership of the European Union before the British people take the decision to remain or leave.
As Mr Cameron said in his Bloomberg speech, “We have the character of an Island nation – independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty.”
That is the fundamental issue. We are an outward-looking, free trading nation which feels acutely the lack of democratic consent for European supranational government.
Since we are not, thank goodness, a Eurozone country, we need not participate in measures to make the currency function. Neither should we hold back Eurozone governments from meeting the public interest in their countries.
Our duty to the citizens of Europe is to ensure prosperity and continued peace. We must remain free to trade with Europe. Few think otherwise and there is no need to scaremonger about market access. Britain does not want closer political union with Europe and we should not allow ourselves to think the two are connected.
Free trade requires an absence of government restraint, not unified government. As the Prime Minister illustrated, the European Union is diverse: we should embrace that diversity with a flexible relationship.
We believe free nation states should pursue together the ideal of international co-operation. It is time for powers to return to states. It is time for national parliaments to assert their democratic legitimacy and accountability.
We want a common market with the world, not a common European government without the consent of the people within its jurisdiction.
Yet anyone who has read the consolidated treaties of the European Union after the Lisbon Treaty can see the direction of travel. That is why the present settlement is untenable.
No doubt Europe will be for generations a crucial market for the United Kingdom but let’s not miss out on the growth of Asia and South America and the overdue emergence of Africa. Who doubts that much of our material success is dependent on trade with the great manufacturers of China?
Why should British firms and families accept European barriers to global trade?
At least two generations of British and European people are today accustomed to finding the rest of the world a few hours’ flight or a few mouse clicks and milliseconds away. We are ever more accustomed to a globe without borders and boundaries: the post-War paradigm of state rules and controls is not merely less relevant but positively alien to a dynamic spontaneous order enabled by technology, liberty and the urge to co-operate with whomsoever may have common interests.
The spirit of human ingenuity has never been so vibrantly alive. It is not likely the pace of change will ever be so slow again. The slothful legislative machinery of supranational government cannot keep pace and it should not try. Only experimentation and innovation will deliver both progress and the constraints necessary to protect the vulnerable from harm. In the world as it is becoming, bigger government must mean bigger problems.
We should be more positive about the forces of social co-operation among free people. The Prime Minister is absolutely right to demand a more flexible and open Europe.
He has indicated about ten areas for reform. As a recent Business for Britain report set out, they are: an end to “ever closer union”, reduced regulation for small businesses and start-ups, domestic control over social and employment law, protection for the City, exemption from Eurozone intervention, fast-track trade deals, a reduced EU budget, greater transparency, migration controls for member states and the right for Britain to veto EU laws.
Conservatives for Britain will be exploring the extent to which those goals have been met in the renegotiation package and whether they are sufficient to recommend EU membership to the British people.
And we are a large and growing group from all generations of the parliamentary Conservative Party. At our meetings in recent weeks, I have been struck by the dozens of Tory MPs who would vote to quit the EU now and who will not settle for anything less than fundamental change.
Steve Baker is the Member of Parliament for Wycombe and Co-Chairman of Conservatives for Britain.