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What has the European Union done for me?

July 26, 2012

My encounter with Nigel Farrage on Radio 4 earlier this week made me think pro Europeans should speak up more often, rather than leave the stage to the sceptics and phobes.  I actually quite like Farrage – at least he says what he means and means what he says, in quite an engaging way.  But the message that he peddles, supported by a worryingly large number of my Tory coalition colleagues, is against the interests of Britain.  To positively revel in the difficulties of the Euro and willing Greece to exit and for the currency to collapse, is reckless.  Yesterday’s disappointing UK GDP figures would look rosy if the Euro collapsed and our major trading partners were plunged into monetary chaos.

At least most of what passes for debate about Europe is currently focussed on economics, rather than politics.  But those who want Britain to loosen its ties with our fellow Europeans, or cast away the ropes altogether, always complain that Britain was misled into joining a political project, rather than a trading group.  The same people complain about “laws from Brussels” that by pass Westminster.   They are wrong on both counts.

The European Union has always been a political project.  Its founder members in 1957 saw that pooling their sovereignty would preserve peace in Western Europe.  Free trade – the unfettered movement of goods, services and people within the Union was the principal means of achieving that political objective.  The EU was never just a trade association.

But trade associations and single markets need common rules.  And rules in an association of nation states mean laws, even if they originate in Brussels.

There is no doubt in my mind that the European Union is the most successful voluntary multilateral organisation in human history.  The primary objective has been achieved.  Western Europe has enjoyed 67 years of peace.  This is the longest period of peace since the 43 years between the Franco Prussian war in 1871 and the German invasion of Belgium, in the first month of the First World War.  Not just my generation but my parents’ generation are the first in modern European history not to have to contemplate conscription into a national army.

Peace has enabled free trade to bring a huge increase in living standards.  Western Europe is the most prosperous place on the planet.  There’s never been a better time to be a citizen of Bristol, Bordeaux, Hanover or Milan.  Over the last 30 years I have witnessed that peace and prosperity being rolled out over most of the rest of the continent.  Greece, Spain and Portugal joined once they were free of fascist dictatorships.  The fall of the Berlin Wall and the communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe has enabled the European family to come together in a union that no empire or military campaign achieved in the previous three thousand years.  The Union now has 27 members, with more wanting to join. I don’t understand why anyone in Britain would want to leave a club that is still admitting new members who are clamouring to join.

Next year Croatia will become the 28th member state of the EU.  I will be voting on the treaty of accession later this year.  I hope that before the end of this decade the remaining ex Yugoslav states and Turkey will also be admitted to membership.  A couple of weeks ago I made a contribution to that process by serving on a delegation to Macedonia, the next state most likely to be admitted.

The visit was organised by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.  The WFD was founded twenty years ago to help develop political structures and civic society in the former communist states in East Europe.  British politicians and civil servants train their equivalents in their home countries and also host training sessions in Britain.  My first experience of them was in 1993 when I was elected to Avon County Council.  The general secretary of the new Hungarian party Fidesz stayed in my flat during the election, learning the arts of canvassing, leaflet design and getting out the vote on polling day.  Fidesz was a member of Liberal International but by the late 1990s had moved far to the right of centre in Hungarian politics.

In the intervening 19 years I’ve not helped much with WFD programmes so when asked to go to Macedonia I was keen to participate.  Along with Labour MP John Mann, my mission was to lead sessions on financial policy scrutiny at a conference of Macedonian MPs.   We held bi-lateral discussions with the main party leaders in the capital Skopje and then met them altogether in the UNESCO listed world heritage town of Ohrid, near the Albanian border.

As well as the political mix, there was also the ethnic dimension.  Like much of the Balkans, Macedonia has a mix of ethnicities once ruled together under the Ottoman Empire.  It escaped the terrible wars that engulfed Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo.  But securing minority rights is one of the key criteria for EU admission, so the Albanians who make up a quarter of Macedonia’s population are also keen on membership.  But the Macedonian Parliament will need to improve its ability to audit and question government expenditure before it can join.  I hope John and I helped them on the way to becoming the 29th member of the EU.

So the answer to the question “what has the European Union done for me?” is quite a simple one.  Peace and prosperity.  That success is still spreading to all corners of Europe.  Britain should be celebrating a triumph of international relations.    Breaking away from our fellow Europeans, returning to the not very “splendid” isolation of 15o years ago, would be an act  of madness.


57 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2012 7:56 pm

    “The European Union has always been a political project.”

    When the UK joined the EU 1 January 1973, it was on the basis of economic union, not political union. If the referendum had included the political it would have never been passed.

    As a Tory, Ted Heath to me is a lying traitor. Frankly Stephen you just join a long line of disingenuous politicians trying to rewrite history.

    • July 26, 2012 10:01 pm

      Dave – that’s totally ignoring the history of WHY the EU was founded by Monnet, Schuman, Adenauer and others. It was a political project from day one. That’s why many British politicians who had been through WW2, across the political divide, were in favour of British participation. I’m overtly saying (as I always have) that the EU is a political project, with economics as its glue.

      • July 28, 2012 10:27 am

        Sorry to post this twice but I think it is important. In 1971 The Foreign and Commonwealth Office were commissioned to report on what the long term implications of membership were. The document is numbered FCO 30/1048. .The basis of the text was “The report was quite clear, they dismissed sovereignty as a concept with no real meaning, and postulated the theory that if we joined EEC we would lose Constitution and sovereignty. It predicted that eventually (by the end of the 20th century), the United Kingdom would cease to exist as a sovereign state..”

        Heath was a lying traitor as I said. He knew full well that it was not a ‘Common Market’ but a European superstate.

        Here is the link to the National Archives.

      • August 2, 2012 9:42 pm

        Stephen you said, “I’m overtly saying (as I always have) that the EU is a political project, with economics as its glue.”

        Isn’t the EUs economics tending to pull it apart rather than keep it together? A single currency and interest rate in many economies across a swathe of a continent, as different in nature and scale as Greece and Germany, Italy and Ireland….was always a very bad idea. As for EU politics – democracy has all too often been abandoned for technocracy. The eurozone needs a controlled scaling down – or even a controlled dismantling – dont you think?

  2. July 26, 2012 9:04 pm

    Q1…Why are we wasting £35-50m per day on a financial Titanic
    Q2…If the EU is SOOOO good for us why do we have a majority that want out?
    Q3…Why is Cameron so afraid to give us a referendum
    Q4…If it is so beneficial to us, why are all the immigrants coming here?
    Q5…When we come out, why should our foreign trade lessen?

    In other words Stephen, there must be a benefit in it somewhere for you but very few of us!

    • July 26, 2012 10:08 pm

      1 Don’t recognise yr figures – and depends on what you define as waste; 2 and 3 – no evidence for this assertion. You can’t keep fighting the 1975 referendum; 4 – makes no sense what so ever. If UK is at such a disadvantage then surely people would not want to come here?; 5 – the trade in goods would be harder unless we kept all the same rules (like Switzerland but with no say in how they develop) and movement of people would certainly be harder.

  3. Philip Morris permalink
    July 26, 2012 9:44 pm

    What has the European Union done for me?
    A very good question; one that you fail to answer Stephen. It has become a resting place for failed M.Ps their spouses and hangers on.

    Any E.U. passport holder has the unfettered right to enter the U.K and claim all the benefits a Citizen of the U.K. has. BUT if a U.K. citizen works within another E.U. Country for more than 5 years and then comes home they are entitled to nothing. All of the Somali’s in this Country are Citizens of the E.U. As they have all come from War Torn Germany, France, and Norway ETC…Well they have spent at least 2 years in an E.U. country then they come to the U.K.
    Could the reason for them coming here the fact that FREE Education, FREE Health, FREE Housing, FREE Schooling have something to do with it?
    What will Monrovia, Turkey or Croatia contribute to the EEC (Olives) as Greece has? Thatcher did everything she could to finally kill the Engineering workforce of this Country, as did most Governments before her since the closure of apprentices by Wilson.
    I know you do not like critics nor do you answer questions – as a Liberal supporter for many years, Barbra Janke will vouch for me as will the photocopies I have of my postal votes

    I shall NOT vote for you in the next election, UKIP will get my vote, with only the local Lib/debs getting my support
    Philip Morris
    87 Corbett House, Barton Hill BS5 9QU
    Yes I am not ashamed of giving my name and address

    • July 26, 2012 10:13 pm

      You are ignoring the fact that British citizens have the right to travel freely throughout the EU and to work anywhere in the EU.

      • Paul Wilcox permalink
        October 11, 2012 8:53 pm

        but not to seek free health (without a reciprocal payment card) care, pensions, benefits and housing et al. always economical with the truth, never honest with the public

      • Samuel McLaughlin permalink
        May 27, 2013 9:37 am

        Stephen is correct. It is important that we point out the truth so that Paul Wilcox can’t claim some sort of victory here.

        When I lived in France, for example, I was charged 550€ in rent for my studio apartment in Paris (quite reasonable actually!). In common with all French and EU citizens, I was entitled to the ‘CAF’, a benefit like houseing benefit which came to about 120€ a month. This was backdated to Day 1 of my arrival in France.

        Things took a turn for the worse and I fell ill. I was taken to Hôpital Lariboisère and given a private room. Now, the fee for French hospitals is usually quite high for foreigners. Luckily, EU citizens like myself don’t count as foreign. I stayed there for one week, and saw no bills and was asked for no ‘reciprocal payment card’ (whatever that is).

        And of course, I lived in Paris without ever having to apply for a VISA, pay entry fees, or justify my prescence in France whatsoever. I applied for library cards, registered to vote, all those standard daily interactions with the state with no more than my ID card.

        So, that’s what the EU does for me.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 2, 2012 4:16 pm

      Another reason Somalis like the UK is that it allows them (unofficially) to mutilate their girls, which other EU nations do not. No wonder so many of them look down in the dumps. It isn’t just their suffocatingly oppressive dress. Stephen, as one of the MPs for the city with the biggest Somali population outside Somalia, you should be doing somthing about this – if equality and emancipation mean anything to you other than fine words.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 2, 2012 4:55 pm

        PS this is just the sort of matter where being dependent on votes hampers your freedom of speech. You are not alone.

      • August 4, 2012 8:24 pm

        I agree with you that FGM is a vile practice. It should not be taking place in Britain.

  4. July 27, 2012 6:43 am

    It was a pity that the “World Tonight” slot gave so little time for you and Farage to develop your arguments and counter-arguments. I would have picked him up on his assertion that kicking Greece out of the eurozone would have restored democracy to the nation. On the contrary, it would have created the conditions for a return of “the colonels”.

    • July 27, 2012 10:38 am

      We were on World at One for about 5 mins, a long time in radio. I think the World Tonight may have carried an edited version!

  5. July 27, 2012 12:30 pm

    The old European fear of ghosts of WW2 just to keep the eurozone together just will not wash with most Europeans today. The euro and the eurozone is a train wreak and quickly running out of track. the Commission, EP and MEPs are obsessed with a kind of social European utopia. Most normal people outside the Brussels bubble just want jobs and economic growth, not more health and safety regulations.
    Far too many failed UK MPs jump on the Brussels gravy train as MEPs, no wonder people are moving over to UKIP in droves.

  6. July 27, 2012 12:41 pm

    Dear Stephen,
    I can’t add any more to the debate except to bring attention to your simplistic assertion that the EU has prevented war single-handedly. I think you’ll find that it is NATO and not these unelected clowns running Brussels, that has prevented any conflict……so far.
    I would argue that if you keep forcing monetary and political union upon the great peoples of
    Europe then there is every likelihood that the EU will descend into a civil war given enough time. Therefore, it would be much better for us to be standing on the outside. Who knows, I’m pretty
    certain that the other 177 potential trading
    partners on this planet may stand with us.

    • July 27, 2012 7:52 pm

      Of course NATO has played a role, though I don’t see you referring to people who run that as unelected clowns

      • rosemary permalink
        August 2, 2012 4:26 pm

        Until the attack on Kosovo ordered by Clinton and Blair, I can’t think of anything to critcise NATO for.

        Moreover, France dined a la carte at the NATO table for years, and it did’t do them, or us, any harm. On the contrary, we have always co-operated together well militarily when we needed to, better than with the full NATO partners. France’s position in NATO is one we should emulate in the EU: pursue the national interest in foreign policy, and answer only to our own countrymen; but somehow I can’t see our guilt-ridden nation pulling that off. A pity, because it would cause far less trouble in the world in the end than our “ethical foreign policy” of recent years.

    • Paul Wilcox permalink
      October 11, 2012 8:55 pm

      Couldn’t agree more, Paul.. I personally believe that the break up of Yugolsavia is a portent to the future of the eu if it becomes what the politicos and commissars want of us in the future

  7. July 27, 2012 2:13 pm

    I’m old enough to have voted in the Referendum. We were only fed a diet of propaganda that assured us that we were only cementing our ties with the Common market. Never were we told that the goal was political union. If we had been informed of that at the time the most likely result would have been a resounding NO, from a generation that was proud of their country and it’s achievements.

    And as for this fatuous statement:

    “The Union now has 27 members, with more wanting to join. I don’t understand why anyone in Britain would want to leave a club that is still admitting new members who are clamouring to join.”

    Of course they want to join. Who wouldn’t want to join when they see the generous benefits they can claim if only they can get into Britain.

    And finally you state that:

    “Breaking away from our fellow Europeans, returning to the not very “splendid” isolation of 15o (sic) years ago, would be an act of madness.”

    I for one am proud of what this nation achieved in the last few centuries. Trial by jury, not napoleonic law. Exporting democracy around the world. World trade rather than trading with a narrow grouping of countries.

    Why is it that to many of your generation feel that we should be ashamed of our past history?

    • July 27, 2012 7:55 pm

      You’re mistaken if you think the main reason countries want to join the EU is so they can come to Britain! Not sure why my 150 years for splendid isolation policy gets a “sic” – it was the case from post Crimean war….

  8. July 27, 2012 2:58 pm

    Europe’s good for some things, but it needs radical reform. You don’t seem to have mentioned this.

    • July 27, 2012 7:58 pm

      Of course it does. But that wasn’t the point of the article. I am saying that despite its faults, the EU has been a force for good. What’s Green Party policy these days? withdrawal?

      • August 2, 2012 9:31 pm

        Er…if you bother reading Rob’s comment properly he summarises Green Party policy on the EU as ‘radical reform’ Stephen.

  9. Richard Cartwright permalink
    July 27, 2012 8:02 pm

    One can’t help but be appalled at the euphemism ‘pooling their sovereignty’. How can sovereignty be ‘pooled’ without a nation’s independence being compromised? Perhaps the idea is to avoid war between nations by jettisoning all natural sense of nationhood. It could be argued that it is better to live with the risk of war. It seems that there is currently a rise in the popularity of extreme politics in Europe. This is surely a result of voters feeling disenfranchised. Are we to be shackled to such a dangerous political construct? When asked to vote on the European Constitution, France and Holland voted against! So it was reconstituted as the Lisbon Treaty and waved through our Parliament by those such as the Liberal Democrats who had previously offered us a referendum. This kind of sleight of hand is all too common when it comes to matters on Europe and is morally repugnant. This EU project is as much a threat to all the European countries and not just Britain. The last 100 years in Europe has seen three waves of extreme political totalitarianism- Nazism, communism and now ‘Europeanism’. As in the past, perhaps this island nation, by not being totally hypnotised by the EU pipe dream, can help inspire our European neighbours to rediscover their identities. To believe in the European project seems to me to totally disrespect the individual countries’ sovereignties. To my way of thinking it is not Nigel Farage who is being extreme.

    • July 27, 2012 10:18 pm

      Oh dear, oh dear. Anyone who compares the EU to the nazis and communists really has lost the plot.

      • Richard Cartwright permalink
        July 28, 2012 2:31 am

        Stephen, yes I apologise, I think I did lose the plot by using over-emotive words like Nazism. Europe appears to be a very emotive subject judging by these posts! I didn’t intend to make an exact literal comparison to nazism and communism. Merely that dubious political ideologies have swept through Europe in the past, and it has turned out to be to Europe’s benefit that we maintained an ‘isolationist’ stance. Surely any country or individual should not fear being ‘isolationist’ when invited to take part in a political experiment that may well turn out to be based on a falsehood. The Greeks tossed away the drachma, the oldest currency in the world, without thinking
        of the consequences. Are we not relieved now that we failed to follow suit?
        Surely it is true that a political project that requires myriad ancient nations to ‘pool their sovereignty’ is bound to cause concern to those who value hardwon parliamentary democracy. The citizens of Europe have either not been given a vote on these matters or had their vote ignored. Surely all Europhiles should welcome a mandate to legitimise their radical proposals. In that way, when difficulties arrive, all European citizens would share the responsibility and not take to the streets as we have seen in Athens and
        Madrid recently.
        It’s alarming to think these these opinions might be considered extremist, when I believe they are an attempt to gain a sense of perspective. Common sense is what is needed in the world today. Damned rare commodity!
        Thanks for reading this. With respect Richard

      • July 28, 2012 1:16 pm

        Richard – thanks for a much more constructive and thought provoking post! I can agree with you that the Greeks were mad to ditch the Drahma (and the EU mad to let them) but the problem was of course they lied their way in and that deception led to self delusion as the country lived beyond its means. The Euro is not the cause of Greece’s problems but it has cruelly exposed them.

  10. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    July 27, 2012 9:13 pm

    I also voted in the referendum. No talk then of political integration. There have been to many lies and too much of treating the people of this country as idiots. We were told the new Accession countries in 2004 would mean more markets for our exports, but as I said at the time, how can nations much poorer than us and with high unemployment, purchase our goods? As predicted, we imported workers and exported jobs. The Gov. predicted 10,000 which they knew was a lie, because Blunketts office had been caught fast-tracking visas to get many in before the counting started. We were told workers from Romania and Bulgaria would be stopped from coming, but they are still here. All lies. If Cameron wants to continue the expansion it will be the end of him, though I doubt he will last much longer anyway.

    • Richard Cartwright permalink
      July 28, 2012 2:45 am

      And I did too. In fact we were categorically told REPEATEDLY that the EU was only to facilitate trade between nations and those who suspected a political agenda were derided as paranoid anti-Europeans.

  11. July 28, 2012 10:22 am

    Sorry to post this twice but I think it is important. In 1971 The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The basis of the text was “The report was quite clear, they dismissed sovereignty as a concept with no real meaning, and postulated the theory that if we joined EEC we would lose Constitution and sovereignty. It predicted that eventually (by the end of the 20th century), the United Kingdom would cease to exist as a sovereign state..”

    Heath was a lying traitor as I said. He knew full well that it was not a ‘Common Market’ but a European superstate.

    Here is the link to the National Archives.

    • July 28, 2012 10:27 am

      Sorry missed a sentence out. In 1971 The Foreign and Commonwealth Office were commissioned to report on what the long term implications of membership were. The document is numbered FCO 30/1048.

  12. July 28, 2012 11:01 am

    When the referendum in 1975 was conducted when Harold Wilson’s Labour Party was in power. I have been able to track down on Google a copy of the manifesto that was sent out to the voters.

    On pages 10 and 11 was a heading WILL PARLIAMENT LOSE ITS POWER?

    The prose goes onto say:

    “Another anxiety expressed about Britain’s membership of the Common Market is that Parliament could lose its supremacy, and we would have to obey laws passed by unelected ‘faceless bureaucrats’ sitting in their headquarters in Brussels.”

    “No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament.”

    “It is the Council of Ministers, and not the market’s officials, who take the important decisions. These decisions can be taken only if all the members of the Council agree. The Minister representing Britain can veto any proposal for a new law or a new tax if he considers it to be against British interests. Ministers from the other Governments have the same right to veto.

    All the nine member countries also agree that any changes or additions to the Market Treaties must be acceptable to their own Governments and Parliaments.”

    We have been badly misled.

    • July 28, 2012 1:18 pm

      For the avoidance of doubt I am NOT in favour of a European super state. I want the EU to continue to be a voluntary federation of nation states.

  13. Sadie Smith permalink
    July 29, 2012 5:57 pm

    Glad you published this.
    I have been so irritated by people who say ‘trade only’ at Referendum, which I took part in. The Trade option was EFTA. But the press and NO campaigners who visited N. Staffs were obsessed by this and by the price of butter. They found the Yes campaign hard to understand. We were talking about wider issues both economic and social.
    Since then the EU has made a mess of the EURO, by tweaking the rules at least twice.
    But there is a lot to celebrate.
    And does anyone really think France will be less French?
    Be more confident!

  14. July 29, 2012 6:45 pm

    You state in your last comment.

    “For the avoidance of doubt I am NOT in favour of a European super state.”

    But isn’t that in fact what we really have. Considering that the majority of laws affecting this country of ours are written by the EU commission, and rubber stamped by the EU parliament (Some of these bills are talked through in less than one minute). These laws then become binding on the UK.

    In fact the number of laws and statutory Instruments emanating from the EU and written into UK statute is estimated at 80%.

    Which brings me to my final point. Why has the number of MPs increased from 646 to 650. If the EU is making the laws of this land, why do we need so many MPs if they can only affect 20% of the laws introduced?

    Of course you will most probably reply that you are there to help your constituents.Now you maybe very concientous about yours. However when I’ve contacted my MP. I either get fobbed off with a patronising letter that barely has any resemblance to the question asked, or it’s referred on to a minster. This also ends up with a reply, probably written by a junior civil servant, who has even less understanding of the question asked.

    Of course you are not my MP and can quite rightly ignore this missive. However I would advise you just to think about. The ordinary people in this country are getting much more agitated than those of you in the Westminster Bubble seem to realise. Our voices are being ignored. By all parties.

    If we’re not careful we may end up with what I witnessed in Madrid two weeks ago, (hardly a word in the MSM), areas out of control, with the police have to use more and more force against Men, Women, and even Children. We never want to have that in the UK. Do we?

    • July 30, 2012 1:30 pm

      Where do you get the “estimate” of 80% of our laws coming from the European Parliament? Westminster (and Cardiff and Edinburgh) are quite busy passing and amending our laws so I would be surprised if our output was surpassed by a 4:1 ratio in favour of Brussels…

      The number of MPs is set to be reduced to 600 and if Lords reform goes through there will be about 500 fewer of them.

  15. George Howard permalink
    July 30, 2012 3:27 pm

    The EU was an economic union never so true than today to get them out of this big black hole. The peace in Europe since WW2 is not attributed to the EU but to NATO. One need only look back at the break up of Yugoslavia and the impotence of the EU in averting so many atrocities. Too many meetings too many committees with little effect again look at their handling of the Euro debacle. I think I would rather rely on NATO if our backs were to the wall!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • July 30, 2012 5:19 pm

      I’ve already acknowledged that NATO has also played an important role. Since 1989 former communist states have largely joined both the EU and NATO. But the original purpose of NATO (created by Truman and Attlee) was to protect the democratic West from the communist East. The EU was created to sustain peace and prosperity between the states in the West. So their origins were quite different but have now come together.

  16. James Willby permalink
    August 2, 2012 1:10 pm

    The trouble is that people feel like they do have a number of legitimate grievances and, as someone wiser than me put it, their perception is their reality even if it isn’t true. Lets look at some actual facts. The UK is the second largest contributor to the EU budget, behind Germany, has accepted the third highest number of EU citizens within its borders (behind Germany and Spain) and, frankly, has one of the best records when it comes to implementing EU law, unlike those supposed “good europeans” who’ll say yes at euco summits then stab you in the back. If it wasn’t for the economic case, the UK would be out of the EU tomorrow and even those on the right like myself who hold a more pragmatic view know that this is the case.

    The benefits of EU membership to the citizen really only make sense if you want to study abroad or move in search of a better life and frankly that’s not something that as a nation we are interested in doing. Despite being the third most popular Erasmus destination, UK students have little interest in going to Europe and the Brits living abroad are mostly wealthy and retired, hence they support the local economy rather than push down wages like the younger europeans coming to the UK.

    There are also huge cultural differences. We are, in general, more liberal and internationalist than continentals, who are protectionist and only care to protect the mythic “european model”, which we all know they can’t afford. Its also galling to be told that whilst we are cutting services at home we have to ring fence money going to the MFF, paying for schools and hospitals in Bulgaria rather than the UK. The accession of Croatia will further stretch these structural funds and i fear lead us to having to pay even more money. So, with an ever increasing bill, a feeling that we are being ruled by those we cannot remove, a loss of control in so many areas of our life are you honestly surprised that euroscepticism is as rife as it is today? I’m not in favour of withdrawal and i don’t think renegotiation is possible, but as a representative of the people you have to start addressing their concerns.

    • August 2, 2012 1:38 pm

      James – thanks and I think you analyse the situation very well. I’ve said on several occasions in the Commons in recent economic debates/statements that the UK should work with more like minded states to extend the single market. There is indeed a perception that the EU is a top table project, with few bread and butter wins for Europe’s citizens. Govts need to talk more about mobile phone charges, air fares, property laws, ease of skill transfers,etc. These are the sort of things that matter to people, while they take peace and general prosperity (with some bumps) as a given.

      But giving the EU a fair hearing, when it deserves one, is bloody hard in the UK when the Murdoch/Rothermere press are determined to undermine it.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 6, 2012 9:41 pm

        It is hard to come across a sensible, balanced discussion on the EU on the air when the BBC are hell bent on our staying in at any price, and Sky news and Classic FM ape the BBC bias. The BBC has far too big a chunk of opinion forming for the country’s good. The newspapers which inform the BBC’s biased unpatriotic opinions are not the Mail, the Sun, or the Times.

  17. Ian Tighe permalink
    August 2, 2012 1:43 pm

    I don’t think you quite get it. The people of UK were never told it was a complete union and the Rome Treaty was not available to folks back then like it is today. States are being forced into treaties – like vote again Ireland – by underhand political acts out of sight. The UK traded with the whole world before the EU and there was little need for rules – and where there was the WTO does a half decent job. We don’t want an EU army, an EU navy etc. or to be told how to run our lives by the EU. If I want to work longer hours its my choice not their’s. Truth is your 69 years of peace is about NATO and the atomic bomb being in our armoury. NOT the EU. The EU may yet be a cause for war – civil! Wake up!

  18. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 5, 2012 11:27 am

    The truth is, the more we are denied a referendum, the more we will seek one. Labour made the mistake of stifling bebate on immigration and lost their core vote and the election. The Tories are making the same mistake. Surely better to present the facts to the people and let them decide. The longer this goes on, the less people will listen to those facts and opinions will become more entrenched. Name a date now, lets have the discussion and then let the people decide.

  19. Philip Morris permalink
    August 5, 2012 8:03 pm

    Mr Williams
    “Govts need to talk more about mobile phone charges, air fares, property laws, ease of skill transfers,etc. These are the sort of things that matter to people, while they take peace and general prosperity (with some bumps) as a given”.
    The quote I have copied from your reply to James, just about sums up your thinking (?) behind your arguments – I am NOT worried about mobile phone charges etc..
    WHAT I am worried about is St Werburghs Nursery School & Barton Hill Nursery ,here imigrant parents drive up in new cars – yet claim free school meals for their children. Free School meals are income based/related not on any other critera. So how come they can live such lives, to afford Big 60″ T.V. Sky, holidays in Somalia. yet get free shool meals – do they know what to say or is the Government/Council scared of being seen as racest ?

    I see abuse of the welfare system everyday, by people from Countries whom have come here as E.U. citezens.

    In your considerered opinion what will Croatia bring to the E.U.? Please answer this ONE question

    • November 6, 2012 10:10 pm

      How do you know that that the “immigrant parents” that drive in new cars do claim free school meals?

  20. Philip Morris permalink
    August 5, 2012 8:06 pm

    Mr Willims
    Sorry just posted the coment without reminding you that I shall NOT be voting for you at the next election – it can not come soon enough in my eyes.
    I left my address in the previous comment so you can check me on the election roll.

  21. January 30, 2013 9:57 am

    Excellent article Stephen, but what a lot of xenophobic moaners who have leaving comments!

  22. Paul Wilcox permalink
    January 31, 2013 11:03 am

    It is purely because UK citizens are seeing through Brussels inspired propaganda and mis-truths like Williams blog, that we are waking up to the deceit being played upon us for the last 40 years. Our own economic slump Oscar worsened by the eurolands inability to sort out their economic and financial woes duettomembership of the euro! Peace in Europe is pre to do with NATO, Gorbachev, Thatcher and Reagan than a quasi trading partnership masquerading as a political union. Recently feed eastern and Balkan countries want to join a club where they receiveore than they put in Europe(who wouldn’t?!)…. And finally, if the UK were to leave it would set the domino effect off for the others to do likewise – as the Greek PM mentioned in an interview just the other day!this point alone worries UK meps the most as they will no longer be able to suck from tow Brussels teat! Out now and stick with the trade… not the french idea of not wanting the Germans to invade them ever again!

  23. Alastair_JB permalink
    May 27, 2013 9:43 am

    Interesting article- first time I’ve read it. Couldn’t agree more that the EU is a political project and that it is absolutely vital to our economic interests.

    I would love for there to be a referendum and to get this matter sorted once and for all- I’m confident that in the light of a concerted and truthful campaign the Great British Public will return a decisive majority in favour of us remaining within the Union.

    We need to address the myths and the foolhardy nonsense spouted by the press head-on.

    A small footnote. Nonsense from the Commission along the lines of that stupid olive oil directive (now reversed) does not help our cause and should cease immediately- when I read that last week it almost felt like part of an EU conspiracy to give ammunition to our media and to expedite our leaving…

    • May 27, 2013 3:22 pm

      Thanks. I actually look forward to an in/out referendum but Cameron is making a big mistake pinning it to an arbitrary 2017 date.

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