The ‘Out’ and ‘In’ Campaign have launched; so does the renegotiation matter? The ‘Outers’ are already disparaging it, claiming it will make no difference and constructing ‘transitional demands’ which cannot be met, to hasten the day of revolution. The ‘In’ campaign, whose launch I attended last week, took it for granted, as “we’re all in favour of reform”, but their arguments didn’t depend on the substance of the negotiation at all.
However, I think the negotiation matters a great deal.
In 1991, I managed the Conservatives’ European Parliament election campaign. We won it well, with William Hague’s slogan ‘In Europe, not run by Europe’. Then, and since, I think this has captured a prevailing sentiment of the British about Europe: we want the benefits, but we want to keep our sovereignty. A single market, yes, but not a United States of Europe.
It is ironic that, just as we are on the brink of achieving this, many Conservatives want to leave. They should look again at where we are and where we could be. We are already out of the Euro, for good; out of Schengen; out of most of Justice and Home Affairs (unless it benefits us, like the European Arrest Warrant); out of the banking bail-outs; protected our rebate, cut the EU budget.
The renegotiation offers the chance to complete the construction of European architecture which entrenches two distinct forms of EU membership; inside the Euro, where the necessities of currency union lead inexorably to fiscal union and then quasi-political union; and outside the Euro, where member-states engage in the Single Market, trade, environmental and political cooperation, whilst limiting the scope of EU competences and permanently being outside political union. Not a “two-speed” Europe, but a Europe with two distinct destinations.
To achieve this, the negotiation must take the UK out of ‘ever closer union’. It must prohibit the Euro member states collectively discriminating against non-Euro members in relation to the Single market and financial services (which is why recognition of currencies other than the Euro matters).
Nonetheless, I regard the benefits of membership of the Single Market as a compelling reason to be in, not out.
As a former Health Secretary, whose Norwegian counterpart had to call me to ask if I would push their interests on product labelling, I can see that we can’t afford to be outside the rule-making; if we aren’t there, the balance shifts towards protectionism and against liberalisation, when there is still far to go in completing the single market, especially in shaping the rules for the digital single market.
For the City of London, especially, the risks are great. Not immediately, since London is the dominant financial centre in Europe. But don’t underestimate the desire of Eurozone states to change that. It was the European Court of Justice earlier this year which blocked the ECB attempts to require Euro-related clearing houses to be located within the Eurozone. The ECJ judgement stopped this, but also showed that if the ECB statutes were changed, they could return to this proposal, and potentially others similarly damaging.
If we get the protections we need; even more, if we secure reforms of value to all member states, for example in giving national Parliaments greater power to block European Commission initiatives which are disproportionate or breach subsidiarity; and if we ensure that free movement (which in the free movement of labour is integral to a Single Market) is not a right to access benefits in other countries until one has made sufficient contributions, then the reforms can be good for Britain and good for Europe.
There are many who want to stay in or leave Europe as a matter of principle. As someone who sees our future in giving our children opportunities to live and work across Europe, I have a principled commitment to our European future. But I can see, as someone who was against Euro membership and political union, that if we now achieve ‘In Europe, not run by Europe’ we can carry the many undecided with us, and carry the referendum in consequence.