A REMARKABLE event took place last Monday. More than 110 Tory MPs crowded into the “Thatcher Room” in Parliament to talk about the UK’s relationship with Europe and, when we finished, there was no need for the cleaners to spend hours removing blood from the carpet.
The MPs did not all share the same view on matters European. The fact that just about every part of the spectrum of opinion was represented made this meeting different and coming together to talk about a new relationship with Europe in sensible and positive terms made it newsworthy.
Since the 2010 election it has become obvious that the Conservative Parliamentary Party is, in the main, comprised of MPs who have a pragmatic and sceptical view of the European Union and its institutions; but for all of us, the top priority is sorting out the economic mess left by Labour. We know we’d be in a Eurozone-style crisis now had we done nothing about it. That said, we know the Eurozone debt crisis has a direct effect on our own economic prospects.
Currently the Eurozone leaders are dithering, knowing that whatever direction they take will have ramifi cations for years to come. In reality their choices are limited and stark. They either allow certain countries to leave the euro and default on their debt: allowing a so-called “sovereign default”, the fear of which has depressed the world’s stock markets. Or they move toward full political and fi scal integration. Whichever route they take will require radical changes to the EU treaties and lead to a multispeed Europe.
It is with this backdrop that our network of MPs will take a fresh, thorough look at the UK-EU relationship. We intend to research and present new ideas to the British people and Government. The aim: to achieve a new relationship with the EU that represents a far better deal for the UK.
How to get the European economy growing is key. Just as our Government is taking tough action to tackle the UK’s deficit, Europe needs to take quick and drastic action to solve its debt crisis. To do this we know it is essential that Government spends less so it can pay down debt and borrow less and, at the same time, take measures to kick-start growth. In the past, Eurocrats have been good when talking about growth but not so hot on the delivery.
Their Lisbon Strategy was meant to deliver “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion” by 2010. Make your own call on how well they did.
To see how you can stimulate growth you need to understand what gets in its way. It’s impossible to overlook the way EU regulation is holding back British and European enterprise and job creation.
Last year the British Chambers of Commerce estimated that EUdriven regulation introduced between 1998-2009 had cost British business £60billion. The Government scrapped more than £3billion of regulation in the fi rst half of this year and has imposed a moratorium on new rules for small businesses. Not a bad start but the real battle is with Europe, the origin of so much pointless red tape.
We need to get them to realise that if they carry on regulating, they will price the continent out of the global economy. The most costly regulations are those in the area of social and employment legislation which will cost the UK economy a fortune in the coming years.
PERHAPS it is time to ask whether, now all countries in Europe have a solid raft of social and employment legislation, there is a need for the EU to keep control of this policy area? If we’re going to have a multispeed gearbox for Europe, it should have a reverse.
Last Monday’s meeting lasted just over 60 minutes and 34 MPs spoke. A single message came out: we need a new relationship with the EU. I’d like to think it was heard in Downing Street.