It is good news that David Cameron wants to tackle the feeling of alienation from politics and government that so many people share. He is right to say we need power back from Brussels, we need to transfer more power to people away from bureaucracies, and need a stronger Parliament to challenge and influence government.
Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell set out a radical agenda for much of this earlier in this Parliament. I praised it at the time, and many of you thought their agenda contained good things. It is time to them to get it down from the shelves and use it to inform debate, as they are doing. I wish them every success.
I myself have set out an agenda for less government on this website, in the Economic Policy Review, and elsewhere. Today I will look at how we could transfer power from Brussels. Tomorrow I will look at how we can reduce the power of UK government and make it more accountable.
The origins of greater EU power came through the introduction of qualified majority voting. If we still enjoyed a veto on every measure Brussels proposed, a sensible UK government could avoid all new EU law that was damaging or unwanted. The first task is to make clear the UK will not accept any more erosion of the veto, and that the veto does have to apply to all Foreign Affairs, defence and taxation as a bare minimum.
This government has given away so many vetoes, that simply stopping the rot is not sufficient. We need our veto back over employment and social law, over immigration and Home affairs, and over other areas central to the tasks of self government.
Restoring the veto for future laws is no longer sufficient, as too many laws of a kind we do not want have been passed already. A renegotiation for powers back has to encompass the right to remove EU laws we do not like in areas where the veto has been restored.
Two big areas of spending are fishing and agriculture. Neither of these policies have worked well. We need our own control of our fishing grounds, as I have often argued. We need agricultural reform, which should include more being done nationally and locally.
The loss of part of our rebate was one of the worst features of recent hopeless negotiating by the UK government. If we cannot reach general agreement on a lower budget for the EU overall, we willl need to raise again the issue of our contribution.
Some of you will have items of your own you want to add to the list for renegotiaiton. Some of you just want to pull out of the whole thing. That would still require negotiation, as the UK is now so interwoven with the EU that all sorts of issues would need to be decided for a new bilateral relaitonship between the EU and an independent UK. Those who think it best to call for immediate withdrawal need to tell us what kind of arrangements they would want on tariffs, market access, transport links and rights, competition policy and other areas requiring agreement across borders and how these can best be secured.
I think it best to have a renegotiation, and then to put the results to the people. It is high time the people could express a view on the value of our relationship with the EU. We might get that on Lisbon, if it remains unratified and there is a change of government. If not, let’s have a referendum on any renegotiation. That will concentrate Brussels minds on the need to give us real power back, if the people are going to judge the outcome. As a minimum we need full control of our social and employment policies, taxation, foreign and defence policy, and of Home afairs.