It takes something to get Mr Clegg to say the EU should stop lecturing the UK on growth, yet that is exactly what he said yesterday about the EU’s predictable intervention in our economic policy. The EU, whose policies in Euroland produced a long and deep recession in most parts of the zone, with a late and feeble recovery so far, has presumed to tell the UK how to grow more quickly. Apparently higher taxes are part of the answer!
I write about it not because I am surprised or even shocked, but because others have suddenly woken up to a phenomenon which has been around for several years. Labour gave the EU the power to demand details of our economic policies, and for the Commission to mark our homework with a report telling us what we should be doing. Successive governments have dutifully filed copious pages of information with the EU each year, Parliament has debated these figures, and the EU has pronounced. The only conession to the UK as a non Euro member is we are not subject to EU fines for failing to comply with EU Commission recommendations and requirements on deficits and other matters in the way Euro states are. I am glad that at last others are unhappy about this needless development.
The UK government has indicated that it does not want to see Mr Juncker as the next President of the Commission. He is seen as an establishment EU candidate who will want to make further progress to full political, monetary and banking union. His supporters say the centre right federalist party grouping “won” the EU elections, and should therefore have the right to impose their candidate as President. They say for the Heads of government to come up with an alternative would be undemocratic.
This is far from the truth. The centre right grouping is the largest grouping, but it is still a minority. It has no right or ability to impose its candidate on the Parliament. Under the Treaties the power to chose rests with the Heads of government meeting as the Council of Ministers. These people are all elected, usually on much larger turnouts than the EU Parliament. The UK and others are well within their rights to try to find a different candidate if they wish.
The squabble over this post illustrates just how difficult it will be to find a consensus between so many different interests around the Council table and in the Parliament. It also underlines how difficult for the EU it is when a major country like the UK has an electorate who vote by a majority for non federalist parties who not join the main groups. EU lovers want the EU to settle down to tweedledee and tweedledum demcocracy, alternating power between centre left and centre right on an EU wide scale, when much of the power rests with the Commission and Court, and when policies show considerable continuity between the two blocs. 30% of those voting on May 22nd across the EU do not agree. Managing that minority is going to be quite a task.
The European Parliament has a right of veto on the proposed appointment by the Council of Ministers. If the two federalist groups combined to agree a candidate then they could of course continue to veto any other proposal from the Council.