The background to the Bloomberg speech, hammered out in a series of private meetings the Prime Minister held with some Conservative MPs, Ministers and his advisers, was a realistic and pessimistic view of the problems facing the present EU.
The PM said that three major issues were going to require fundamental EU change. The first is the “problems in the Eurozone.” The second is the “crisis of European competitiveness” where the EU as a whole is failing to compete and generate the jobs and incomes it needs. The third is the “gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years – and which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is – yes – felt particularly acutely in Britain”.
I entirely agree. I find it bizarre that the many people I debate the EU with from the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties in the UK or from the mainstream governments and parties on the continent, cannot seem to grasp the seriousness of the EU crisis and the need to make major changes. When I put to them the obvious need for a new relationship for non Euro members as Euro members plunge into greater political union, they either tell me I am wrong or seek to change the topic. When I say the EU energy policy or the business regulation policy is exporting jobs and prosperity to Asia and America from the EU there is a wish to deny or ignore the reality.
The speech explained to EU audiences that the UK has “the character of an island nation, independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty”. The PM said he did not think there is a “single European demos” so there cannot be an EU wide democratic government. He explained that many of us “fear that the EU is heading for a level of political integration that is far outside Britain’s comfort zone”.
So, when people say what is the negotiating position, I say this is the negotiating position – the restoration of Parliamentary sovereignty and democratic accountability for the UK. The UK seeks a decisive move to being an independent state co-operating and trading with partners on the continent. At the same time we would be happy to accommodate the wishes of Euro members to create a political union for them which could not possibly include us.
Bloomberg should not be a prelude to some horse trading. It’s not a case of gives us back our fish and we will put up with your energy and agriculture policies. It’s not a case of repeal a few directives and let us make more decisions on welfare and we will be happy. Bloomberg is more radical than that. What Bloomberg pledges is to restore our right to self government. We want to trade and co-operate with the rest of the EU. We do not wish to be bound ever more tightly by rules, laws and EU government decisions.