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Open Europe has today published its ‘Blueprint for EU reform’, calling on David Cameron to use the forthcoming EU summit on 25-26th June to launch negotiations on a new settlement that leads to a genuine change of direction to Britain’s relationship with the EU.
Open Europe argues that if the Prime Minister’s negotiations are to be judged a success the forthcoming In/Out referendum should not simply be a vote to approve or reject a list of concessions to the UK but rather a mandate for a path to rolling reform.
Following its EU Reform Index, Open Europe’s blueprint for reform identifies a series of 11 reforms under three headings – Flexibility and the rights of non-Eurozone states; Competitiveness; and Democratic accountability – which would contribute to the overarching objective of setting a new direction for the EU. It is unlikely that every object can be achieved before the referendum but, in order to avoid a close result that would estrange half the British electorate, fundamental reform will be needed, establishing a path to a multi-form EU.
To read Open Europe’s full Blueprint for EU reform and renegotiation, click here.
Open Europe’s Chairman Lord (Rodney) Leach said:
“David Cameron has a unique opportunity to set the EU and Britain’s relationship with it on a different course. The UK needs to set out an alternative vision to ‘ever closer union’ and establish the Single Market as the foundation of the EU.”
“Reform should not be a one off event before the referendum but an on-going process. Cameron may not achieve everything before 2017 but he needs to secure a decisive shift to a new structure for the EU which halts the UK being unwillingly dragged into any further integration.”
Open Europe’s vision for a new EU is built around a number of key points:
a) Flexibility and the rights of non-euro states – the Single Market rather than ‘ever closer union’ should be the foundation of the EU. Treaties and institutions should reflect the multi-form reality of the EU (different destinations at different speeds). Countries should be free to integrate further if they wish, but it should not impact those that do not join.
b) A more competitive Europe – boosting trade should be a primary aim of the EU (both internally and externally). A true single market in areas such as services, capital, digital and energy to achieve the original vision of the four freedoms. Not one-size-fits-all that smothers national differences but greater competition that rewards best practice.
c) Democratic accountability – National democracies and national parliaments remain the root of democracy across the EU and a key part of the answer to the ‘democratic deficit’. Much of the mission creep and focus on unnecessary issues has been driven by EU institutions – giving national parliaments a check will help to prevent this in future.
What needs to change for this to become reality?
1. Qualify ‘ever closer union’ – The June 2014 Council conclusions established that not all EU states are heading to same destination at same speed. This should be reflected in the EU treaties. Closer political and economic union should be a choice within the Eurozone, but not an implied obligation for other member states.
2. Commit to a ‘multi-currency union’ – Affirming the EU as a multi-currency union would establish that the Eurozone is not the vanguard of the EU but a voluntary constellation within the Single Market.
3. Safeguards for non-Eurozone member states – To further entrench the multi-currency nature of the EU and its focus on the Single Market, non-Eurozone states should have a mechanism to ensure they are not negatively impacted by Eurozone integration/decisions.
4. Single market is the basis of the EU – Integration outside the Single Market, which should be tightly defined as the four freedoms (goods, services, capital and people) plus common rules on competition policy and state aid, should be voluntary.
5. Liberalisation of EU services, energy and digital markets – Launch a renewed push to liberalise the EU’s services sector. Ensure strict implementation of the Services Directive. Push ahead with breaking down barriers in energy and digital markets.
6. Ambitious timetable for free trade agreements (FTAs) – particularly with large Emerging Market economies and the US. If a comprehensive deal cannot be done, partial or sector focused FTAs should be considered. ‘Living’ FTAs which can be expanded over time should also be considered.
7. Less and better regulation – open a process to review old regulations, create a new independent process for impact assessment, include clauses to limit legislation which hangs around.
8. EU budget reform – The EU budget is not fit for purpose. Regional subsidies should only go to those states that really need it, while money should be shifted away from agriculture towards research and innovation. The mid-term budget review in 2016 should not be wasted.
9. Red card for national parliaments – national parliaments or a group of them should have the ability to block unwanted EU legislation.
10. Respect national choices on welfare systems – Restricting access to national welfare systems to those who have been lawfully resident for a period of some years establishes the principle that individuals’ rights to welfare are dependent on a contribution to their host country.
11. Return control of justice and home affairs to members – The option should be open for countries to return to intergovernmental cooperation in areas such as justice and home affairs, outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Open Europe’s Reform Index: Evaluating 30 potential proposals for EU renegotiation
What if…? The consequences, challenges and opportunities facing Britain outside the EU
Save EU free movement: Make it fair to keep it free
Lots of the 19 comments have disappeared!
"Qualify ‘ever closer union’" It is not enough to
qualify it, or even to just remove it from the treaties, it needs to be
explicitly rejected and the EU institutions must be required to take note of
"Red card for national parliaments – national
parliaments or a group of them should have the ability to block unwanted EU
legislation". So which is it? It is that each of the national parliaments acting
alone would have the unilateral right to block unwanted EU legislation, or is it
that a sufficient group of national parliaments would have to come together to
do that. Because the latter is just another form of transnational voting and it
is simply not good enough. Once again I point out that in 1975 we were promised
that our Parliament would always be able to veto any proposal, and nothing less
than that will do. Hammond says that this would be the end of the EU, in which
case perhaps he could explain why we were promised it in the first place?
It is not true to say that in 1975 we were promised that our
parliament would always be able to veto any proposal. What the 1971 White Paper
said is “where Member States’ vital interests are at stake, it is Community
practice to proceed only by unanimity”. The White Paper went on to say that “in
those cases where qualified majority with weighting of votes is provided for in
the Treaty, the votes of the members of the Council would have the following
weighting…” [with the UK
having 10 out of 61 votes]. Another inaccurate account of our joining of the
common market was that “only trade” was contemplated. The 1971 White Paper said
“At present the Communities’ institutions are purely economic. But of the
development of European policies in non-economic fields calls for new
institutions, then as a Member Britain will play a full and equal part in
devising whatever additions to the institutional framework are required.” That
is what happened and the UK
has indeed played a full part. None of the above was qualified in the 1975
White Paper which followed the Wilson
renegotiation. On the contrary, that White Paper referred in conclusion to the
Common Market being a Community, rather than “Europe
des Patries”. Let us address the future on its merits, without invoking an
air-brushed version of the past.
What I said was that it is not true to say that we were
promised that the UK
parliament would be always able to veto any proposal. It WAS true at the time
(1975) that the practice in the Council was a practice of unanimity in
lawmaking, and it was and IS the case that adopting taxes at European level
requires unanimity. The extracts you quote from the government’s statement were
correct. The general practice of unanimity in lawmaking lasted more or less
intact until the adoption of the Single European Act [which was a Treaty] (1986/7),
which was strongly supported by the Thatcher government, which was re-elected
after that Act came into force. Parliament endorsed the Single European Act. That
Act [Treaty] required unanimity. So unanimity and parliamentary consent was
needed to bring to an end the practice of unanimity on lawmaking in the
Council. It cannot be right to say that an accurate statement of the position
in 1975 by a Labour Government could amount to a promise which would in some
way be expected to apply in perpetuity and over-ride decisions made years later
by a Conservative Government, which was promptly re-elected having done what it
did. It has suited some sections of the press and some quarters of our
political establishment to develop a narrative that the UK was coaxed into Europe
on false pretences and that that provides a good ground for getting out of it. That
narrative does not hold water. But it is still OK to want to leave the EU. Just
as it is OK to think that the David Cameron exercise is an exercise worth
undertaking and that it might be in the UK’s interest to stay in a reformed
"The rights of non-euro states". Most importantly,
these should include the right to never join the euro, by a treaty change
repealing the present treaty obligation to do so which applies to all but the UK
and Denmark, in effect giving them all the same kind of "opt-out" as the UK and
Denmark. However you also need to give the present euro states the right to
leave the euro, if necessary with assistance from the other EU member states -
and not just the eurozone states for that, mind, but all EU member states.
Otherwise you are abandoning countries to a eurozone federation even if they do
not really wish to be part of it, and would not have wanted to join the euro in
the first place if they had realised that would be where it ended up. It may be
that none of the present eurozone countries will ever want to make use of that
right, but they should all have it.
Most likely the only way forward. It is a referendum no vote in parliament. The electorate has to see that something has been changed and that it is not some windowdessing exercise.
After the results are known Cabinet members should be given a free hand, but before that it seems logical that the cabinet as a whole will go for a reneg results that makes it worthwhile to stay in the EU. So no we want to get out whatever happens. On the other hand make it clear to the Continent that if no proper result would be booked government support for an Remain will be far from certain.
Cameron has to play this very carefully. His credibility on this has just got a big boost, but is still pretty breakable. A lot of people will use the smalles indication that something dodgy is going on as a sign they are being fooled. Communication at the essential moments could be essential.
@RikH Cameron's credibility on this is crumbling very quickly. However that only sway a small proportion of the electorate.
The 'charge' is that Cameron will go to his friends in Europe ant there will be much 'argument' threats and perhaps some recriminations. This process will drag out for some time until 'breakthrough'. After a long last evening session there will be a precisely choreographed 'dance' with Cameron emerging from the negotiations for his 'Munich' moment, where he will say ....long negotiations.......hard bargaining ........difficult talks.......but I got what I wanted for Britain......
He will of course throw the all the people and money from MiniTruth to convince us, the Plebs to vote 'yes' in his sham referendum and we will of course, do just that.
My question to Open Europe is "what is your part in this narrative" and what do you think will be the public reaction when it finds that it's been 'conned' and the whole process has been a put-up-job from the start?
@sylvesterthecat Just curious, Sylvester. When you say we, the plebs, will vote "yes", does that include you? It sounds as if it does. In which case, what is it that persuades you to stay in, after all?
@sylvesterthecat Not quite right, he will say I have not got everything I wanted but I still got very big improvements.
@Troclus @sylvesterthecat My dear Troclus, perhaps I shouldn't have used 'plebs' but it was used in the Roman sense as 'ordinary', 'non elite' 'nobody special' and yes, I do count myself among them. Neither was the word meant as a disparaging collective for those who would vote 'in' at the referendum.
Personally, I would rather poke my eyes out with a sharp stick than vote to support EU membership
Perhaps you have seen the latest opinion poll in the DT yesterday showing the 'ins' ten points ahead of the 'outs' but the commentators seemed to think that the 'out' vote would be more likely to turn out than the 'not bothered' section of the 'in' vote.
It's early days yet but interesting times ahead, I think.
@Denis_Cooper @sylvesterthecat Denis, I really don't believe it matters which words Cameron uses. It's just that he will say anything to convince us to vote 'in' whether the words be true or false. (frankly I doubt he knows the difference)
And again the economic benefits of the EU Single Market have been greatly exaggerated, being no more than a very small mess of pottage for which our politicians have been willing to sell our birthright, so I do not want us to continue to be a member.
Furthermore the Single Market has been used as a vehicle to impose laws which actually have nothing to do with trade, except by the wildest stretches of the imagination, and so I do not accept continuing membership of the Single Market as the foundation of a new relationship.
Moreover the Single Market requires that laws are imposed on the UK through transnational voting, without the UK Parliament being able to express its enduring sovereignty through the unilateral exercise of a veto power, so once again I do not accept that continuing membership of the Single Market could be an acceptable foundation for a new relationship.
The Single Market requires that the UK Parliament relinquishes control over immigration policy with respect to citizens of other EU and EEA member states, so I do not accept that this could be the foundation of a new relationship with the EU.