Influence in the EU?

This morning a pro EU person was allowed uninterrupted airtime on the Today programme to tell us France and Germany have fallen out so now is a great moment for the UK to have influence. He went on to dismiss the positions of the smaller member states and the olive belt countries as so many pro EU people do.

He may be right. The question is, what if anything does the UK wish to influence? There are two things that could help us and the EU and would make a difference.

The first is to preach a simple doctrine, that at a time when member states are having to make large cuts in their own spending, they should expect the EU to make larger percentage cuts in its budget, as EU spending is less important than core national spending.

The second is to explain that the European econmomies are performing badly. We need more private sector led growth to tackle the deficits and create greater prosperity. The EU should make its contribution by cutting the regulatory costs it imposes with a substantial dose of deregulation.

Arguing such a case would make the British government a good European in a way which most sensible UK Eurosceptics could welcome.

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31 Comments

  1. Javelin
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Agreed.

    How will the EU react to a very public announcement of a possible 5% cut in contributions from the UK and other member countries.

    They can hardly jump up and down and complain that we can afford it.

    Budgets cuts in Government are historically the only things that lead to a better life.

    There was a progaramme on TV on Tuesday about the mental health services in the UK. In the 1960s FIFTY percent of all NHS beds were for mental health. Mental Health was an empire ,uch like many of the Government empires of today. It was only when Thatcher cut the budgets did the mental health wards finally close and patients learn the value of their own identity in the community. I think the pendulum swung slightly too far and there needs to be bed space for dangerous patients and temporary wards – but it was a qualitative improvement in people lives to have Government reduced in their lives.

    • A Griffin
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      Off topic, but in reply to this comment.
      The issue of how to provide treatment/care/support for mental health problem patients is very complicated and just because the BBC puts on a programme about some of the past historical injustices and excesses does not mean that the budget or quality of provision today is much better when taken overall.
      For a start I do not believe that proper 'care in the community' is less expensive than long term care in the old hospitals but the budget may be in a different department (ie. social services). Facilities like day hospitals and home visits are fantastic but some patients will live desolate ill lives in squalid conditions hidden away in their own homes because they cannot communicate with either mental health services or the real world and are incapable of looking after themselves. It is not unheard of for community homes housing mentally handicapped patients to burn down due to the residents frailties, or for said residents to suffer hatred from the 'normal' community within which they live.
      I am also convinced that in this day and age the suicide rate of mentally ill patients is far higher than in the eighties when I worked as a psychiatric registrar. Severe depression is a fatal disease. To put it bluntly my patients were not allowed to kill themselves when they were ill and that often required use of the mental health act and hospital admission with a very high expert staff input. Judging by what I read in the papers, a fair few today are scraped off railway lines and I don't call that progress.
      It seems really sad to me that there has been a fantastic improvement in the quality of life and outcome for cancer, heart disease and stroke patients over the last three decades but no comparable improvement in the treatment of the most common serious mental disorders.

  2. Iain
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    As Cast-Iron Dave has capitulated on pretty much all the fairly limp EUsceptic policies the Conservatives had in their manifesto, what chance do you think that Dave is going to go the EU and not hand over even more money we don't have?

    Rather than the EU getting more money their budget should be cut, but I won’t hold out much hope of that, for some really perverse reason/motivation, Cameron likes to give his friends a good kicking. So he stands for election as a British PM, yet ring fences overseas spending. He gets his electoral support from England, yet goes around Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland telling them that their budgets are safe, and the one place he should look to for support, his backbenchers, but he goes declares war on them.

  3. John Q
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    We can argue for it all we like, it’ll never happen. For those involved in the European project, even suggesting that ‘less EU’ is the answer is considered blasphemous. There is only one direction for the European project, forwards. Bigger EU budgets, more EU control. The euro crisis has thrown up the bleedin’ obvious (i.e. you can’t have monetary union without fiscal union) and, as expected, the EU masters want to advance the project further – firstly by inspecting national budgets before announcement. If anyone thinks that this inspection will not subsequently lead to direct intervention in national budgets then they are sorely misguided.

    The slow march towards a United States of Europe continues unabated.

  4. lola
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Yeah. Right. And the odds on that happening are………?

  5. Richard Saumarez
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I agree. Regulation is one of the hidden disadvantages of operating in the EU. A medical product I am developing is influenced by at least 15 directives. Many are contradictory, some are practically impossible to interpret and some, despite their claims, have no bearing on safety but are difficult, time consuming and expensive to implement. One has to conclude that much of the regulation is there for the sake of regulation.

    Given that Europe as a whole, and the UK in particular, has to increase innovative economic performance, EU regulation makes this more difficult and in many cases has no significant benefit. The problems with specific regulation are often not apparent to those involved in drafting the regulation and, given that bureaucrats are never wrong, reform of regulation may be difficult or, more likely, impossible.

    The problem seems to overwhelmingly structural. The mindset of the EU is aggressively regulatory and stems from the belief that better regulation will lead to better performance and greater benefit to the citizens of the EU. Regrettably, any failure of policy is always attributed to insufficient regulation. Perhaps we will finally encounter "R-Day" when all economic activity ceases due to regulation and the benefits of deregulation will finally become apparent to us all!

  6. A.Sedgwick
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    A general comment but pertinent to the EU, after reading and hearing comments from the new ministers over the past week I am as pessimistic for the future of this country as with Blair and Brown at the helm.

  7. Amanda
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    John

    I agree with you. However, can I just add a word into your last sentence which every sensible person who questions the European project would add – government: "would make the British Government a good European government in a way ……"

    Could I also add something I saw last night in an account of the latest climate change conference in the US. There are no climate change sceptics or Eurosceptics anymore. To be sceptical is to not be convinced that something is true, when some evidence shows it may be true.

    However, there is now enough scientific evidence, in the first case, and empirical evidence in the second, to categorically state that the likelyhood of man made global warming destroying the world's climate, or the EU Commission beating the human benefits of national sovereignty is pracically non-existant: there is no real evidence at all for either, and much that says it is not true.

    Rather the sceptics are those who do not agree with the following:
    1. The world's climate will change naturally (eg sun, volcanos, orbit) and we have to ensure we look after our resources and environment.

    2. Human live happier lives in outward facing, culturally cohesive, socially involving, self-reliant groups.

  8. JohnRS
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    …or alternatively we could recommend that we all move to the Norway solution!

    Freedom of trade etc but no poliitcal relationships with Brussels. No CAP, no fishing control, no laws, no centrralised controls, no diktats, no Euro, no anthems, no ECHR etc

    Reminds me a bit of the EEC we thought we were joining not the EU it morphed into.

    • SJB
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Norway is one of 40+ signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights and their relationship with the EU "is as integrated in European policy and economy as any non-member State can be …" http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/norway/ind

  9. Ken Adams
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I don’t know Mr Redwood it seems to me that no one in politics actually understands the EU, what it is, what it is attempting to do and its end position.

    The secret can be read in the preamble to the treaties, it is written there in clear language.

    Are we really RESOLVED to or desiring

    mark a new stage in the process of European integration

    ending of the division of the European continent and the
    need to create firm bases for the construction of the future Europe,

    to deepen the solidarity between their peoples

    to enhance further the democratic and efficient functioning of the institutions so as to enable them better to carry out, within a single institutional framework

    to achieve the strengthening and the convergence of their economies and to establish an economic and monetary union

    to implement policies ensuring that advances in economic integration are accompanied by parallel progress in other fields.

    • Y Rhyfelwr Dewr
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      You're absolutely correct that I'm not resolved to those things. Nor do I see why I should be.

      I'm perfectly content with the divisions in the European continent. France is France. Britain is Britain, and we need a passport to cross from one to the other. I'm happy with that.

      I see no need for especial solidarity between our peoples. Why should Spain be more solid with Lithuania than with any other country that it has nothing whatever in common with?

      The EU is in no position to lecture anybody on the "democratic" — or for that matter, "efficient" — functioning of their institutions. While it wouldn't be a bad idea, an organisation as hopelessly chaotic, wasteful, bureaucratic, totalitarian, corrupt and arrogant as the EU is not the organisation to carry it out.

      As for strengthening and converging our economies, this would be unnecessary except for economic and monetary union, for which there was never any inherent need, and was never anything more than a vanity project. What's more, it was always doomed, and the current disaster has been forecast ever since the Euro was a mere glimmer in a Eurocrat's eye.

      Not least because the EU never does anything properly. It adopts fine-sounding principles, and then fudges them. This is the way it has always worked, and will always work. Mark my words: even the efforts to shore up the Euro's collapse will be fudged, and the Euro will collapse anyway.

      So actually, I and most other people do understand what the EU is attempting to do. We just don't think there's any need to do it, or, if there is, that there's any possibility the EU could organise the proverbial in a brewery.

  10. StevenL
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    "…what if anything does the UK wish to influence?"

    Apparently Sarkozy got the ECB to print a few billion Euros for his banks by banging his fist on the table and shouting a lot.

    Could we try a similar tactic over our rebate while the Germans are still a bit shaken?

  11. Winston's Black
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I have never understood why we have so little influence in this corrupt, undemocratic construct given that we pay more than everybody except Germany to finance the thing!

    Abolish all the treaties imposing political diktats, including Thatcher's Single European act which effectively prevents us from controlling immigration, and return to an EFTA arrangement (with the operative word being FREE within EFTA).

    While we are at it get rid of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries policies too.

    Under no circumstances should we be compelled to pay £13 billion (or more) to bail out a currency we are not part of.

    Compo and Clegg grow a pair rather than supinely rolling over to have your tummies tickled!

  12. Freeborn John
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    And you said David Cameron was a eurosceptic. I'm so glad i didn't fall for your spin and vote Tory.

    • APL
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Freeborn John: "And you said David Cameron was a eurosceptic."

      Ha ha! Cameron is no more eurosceptic than he is Conservative.

  13. Neil Craig
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Good job the BBC respects its legal duty not to engage in partisan political propaganda or we might not have somebody on tomorrow uninterruptedly putting the opposite case 🙂

    Since the EU costs us between £90 & £120 billion annually we would be better off out but I do not remember EVER seeing somebody allowed to say that at any length on BBC or ITN let alone without interruption. I do not say it has absolutely never happened but I don't remember it.

    • Y Rhyfelwr Dewr
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. With Wavy Davy scrabbling around for ways to reduce the budget deficit, I could tell him how to abolish it tomorrow.

      He won't listen though.

  14. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Does it really mean that we have to intervene to put it right?

    Is the euro really Britain's fight?

    Do all the Tories look too smug whilst mouthing "told you so"?

    As has been pointed out the correct rules are not in place for the currency to work and allow independant states.

    As was pointed out at the time, all states joining the euro would have to give up sovereignty and submit to financial rule from the european bank despite the fact that many members had to fudge their entry requirements.

    Now that the chickens have come home to roost, it should really be up to the federalists who dreamt up the scheme to think up ways of getting out of the problem.

    Personally I believe that the days of the euro could be numbered because the individual banks could be bankrupted by the hedge funds and speculators who just chase the prices down as per Black Wednesday. They can't lose, it is a sure fire bet. The plug needs to be pulled before they waste anymore of their taxpayers money and hobble their economies with massive unsupportable debts.

    If Britain is then beholden to pick up the pieces, it could be the final nail in the euro parliament as we could demand that it is all run from London because we have experience of running a commonwealth.

    • SJB
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      If the euro did fail how do you think the UK would fare in a climate of competitive devaluation? http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/

      • Stronghold Barricade
        Posted May 21, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        I believe that the euro mk1 will die, and those eager to ensure that some positive spin on the whole issue emerges, will campaign for a reduced membership.

        I believe that the Germans are already asking for european articles to be changed to pull financial control into a central point, thereby removing individual sovereignty and creating the EUSSR by the back door through a disaster that was predicted sometime ago.

        A war fought with cash rather than hurling pieces of metal at each other

  15. TC
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    She does indeed need to grow up!

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      agreed.

      They got short shift from Archer as well.

  16. Robert K, Oxford
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Mrs Merkel seems to believe, rightly I suspect, that if the euro fails the EU will fall with it. Let's hope Soros or equivalent steps up to the plate.
    Incidentally, I'm not sure how eurosceptic the Tory party can claim to be when we read this, from the FT:
    "David Cameron is urging Nick Clegg to use his contacts and foreign language skills as part of a charm offensive designed to convince other European Union countries that the coalition wants to be a constructive player in the EU.
    "Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg will launch their 36-page final coalition agreement on Thursday before the prime minister embarks on a two-day diplomatic mission that includes meetings with Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, his French and German counterparts.
    "In a sign of their close working relationship, government officials have said that Mr Cameron has asked Mr Clegg to use his experience of working in the EU as a trade negotiator and MEP to build relations."

    • MaxVanHorn
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      In all my experience,I have never known anyone so eager to board a sinking ship.It beggers belief.

    • Winston's Black
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Realpolitic speak for roll over and have their tummies tickled by the EU.

      I'm now pleased I voted UKIP. Conservatives (with very few exceptions) only ever make Eurosceptic noises in the run-up to elections.

      Why are we paying to bailout a currency we do not belong to when we are skint ourselves?

  17. Nick
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    What about saying "the public" rather than "the private sector"?

  18. Acorn
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Best just read Gary North:-
    http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article19604.html

    The EU is a busted flush.

    • SJB
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the link, Acorn.

      North does appear to credit the EU with some success.
      "The euro area deficit ratio of just below 3% over the past three years is higher than we would like, but it is still considerably better than the 5% peak reached during the recession of the early 1990s. And while the euro area debt ratio has not been falling, the upward tendency of recent decades does at least seem to have been brought to a halt. To sum up, I am quite certain that fiscal policies with the Pact have been more disciplined than they would have been without it." http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article19604.html

  19. Nick "NiCam&quo
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I think there has to be a Plan B for Europe.

    A progressive and controlled devolution of power back to the nation states.

    The Great European project was fuelled by the dogma that bigger is better. Unfortunately bigger often means more complicated, laborious and inefficient and less responsive to change and democratic public opinion. In short, greater European Integration means more bureaucracy and less democracy.

    The problem with the Euro is that it is irreversible, there is no safety net if things go wrong. If Germany want out of the Euro, it will be painful and it will cost.

    Whatever happened to subsidiarity?

  20. Donna W
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    The EU is simply a combined Franco-German Reich. They want the UK inside so that they can control it – and so we can help fund it. They are not interested in our opinions; we have very little influence and that is the way it will stay.

    Our best option is to get out.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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