Conservative policy has changed a lot towards the EU in recent years. The biggest change came with the Prime Minister’s decision to require a renegotiation of our relationship with the EU and to then let voters decide with an In/Out referendum. Supporting decisions have included the veto on the Fiscal Treaty, keeping the UK out of it, the demands for a lower EU budget, and the extrication of the UK from further financial support for Euro area countries and banks in trouble.
The mood in the Conservative Parliamentary party is supportive of all these initiatives, and understanding of the limits on immediate action imposed by the Lib Dems and the lack of a Conservative majority. This has not prevented us from thinking of other ways of trying to accelerate the change to the relationship we want, despite the present Parliamentary constraints.
There are two immediate opportunities that require decision this Parliament. The government was rightly persuaded to opt the UK out of all the Criminal Justice measures of the Union, using a right Labour put into our version of the Lisbon Treaty as reassurance at the time but would not itself have used. The Lib Dems and Labour wish to opt back in to many of the central measures. If we do so then these powers pass from the UK to the EU in perpetuity or until we leave the Union. Many of us are urging the government to come to separate extradition arrangements with the EU similar to those we enjoy with other non EU countries, to avoid this area falling under EU and ECJ control.
The second is the government needs to respond to a wide ranging and important unanimous report from the European Affairs Committee. This Report recommends that the UK government amends the 1972 European Communities Act to reassert Parliamentary sovereignty. We could for example reinforce our version of the Lisbon Treaty which expressly opted the UK out of any move to include the European Convention on Human Rights in European Union law. A recent ECJ Court case appears to have done just this despite the Treaty, so the Committee recommends asserting Parliamentary sovereignty in this respect. It would be an important precedent, and would mean the UK Parliament resisting erosion of our right to self government in an important area.
These are matters which we have been working on for many months. They are nothing to do with UKIP or the political response to UKIP. The serious business of the UK Parliament struggling to combat excessive EU power and legislation continues daily as it has done for many years, against a background of too many Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs who vote for any extension of EU power.