Letter from Brussels Jun01

Many Member States, small and large, have witnessed civil war and revolutions. They have seen their monarchies dislodged and, in the case of Spain, restored. They have accepted changes in their national boundaries and new national constitutions under pressure from international mediation. Hundreds of thousands of people fled from persecution and settled in lands where they are today’s minorities. Therefore, it is not surprising that countries with insecure borders, weak political systems and undeveloped economies will support measures devolving powers from their national parliaments to EU institutions. They have derived substantial economic benefit from EU membership. This prosperity has diminished their concern for the political and economic implications of enlargement.

Many countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia and Slovenia can hardly wait for their accession as they perceive substantial economic gains in membership of the EU. Others, like the Balkan states, are hoping that they would be offered a fast track for membership that will help give them social and political stability. Ireland has benefited from membership for the full period of its membership as it drew a net 1bn Euros each year from the EU budget. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Irish public rejected the NICE Treaty as they feel enlargement will threaten this economic benefit as the EU will need to pay for agricultural subsidies and structural funds for new members.

Peace, democracy and economic prosperity have taken root in Europe since World War II. Birth of the EU and its enlargement to 15 Member States, have contributed substantially to the economic prosperity and political stability of Europe. In January 2002, 300 million Europeans in 12 Member States will adopt the Euro as their common currency. This will, inevitably, help promote the idea of a "European" identity.

Clearly, Britain´s history and record of its parliamentary democracy are unmatched in the rest of the EU. Britain has an international presence - a seat at both the UN´s top table and the G8. It has the fourth largest economy in the world and its non-EU trade is larger than any other EU Member State. It is a net contributor to the EU.

Whilst we have been fierce in demanding transparency and accountability in EU institutions, elected MEPs are still denied full access to information by the European Commission and the European Council. Whilst we have been actively engaged in securing the single internal market in the EU, Member States continue to delay implementation, especially with respect to financial services. Whilst we have been keen on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the Council of Ministers continues to dither. We are outside the single currency and exercise no influence on the European Central Bank. Therefore, it is no wonder that many of our people see little relevance in our membership of the EU.

Why is it important for Britain to continue its membership of the EU? How can we make our people more aware of what the EU does so that they can judge for themselves? 

The Amsterdam Treaty of 1999 gave the European Parliament “equal” status with the Council of Ministers in some major areas through a decision-making process called “co-decision”. In this way it has co-regulatory powers in about 75% of policy areas including internal market measures, employment, the environment, consumer protection, health and safety, transport and e-commerce. So Member States cannot disregard the European Parliament’s demands as there is conciliation where there is disagreement. Conciliation based on negotiations is translated into EU law that supersedes national legislation.

Therefore, the EU and the laws it passes affects us directly - our industries, businesses, local authorities and all of us as individuals!  Currently, the Parliament is, for example, dealing with rules on company takeover bids; common approaches to product safety including food safety; defining the EU environment action plan; liberalisation in energy production and distribution and reform of competition policy.

Clearly, the EU laws will impact us directly. That is why, I believe, Britain has a major role to play in Europe. We must use our reputation for fair play and justice, use our experience and skill in drafting parliamentary statutes and exert our influence with Member States, large and small. We must use our international influence and economic strength to ensure that we are the centre forward in control of the ball and in position to score. We must ensure that the best British practices are adopted as the gold standard in the EU in general and in the European Parliament in particular.

What must we do in Europe?

1. Reform of EU institutions to establish legitimacy - reforms that will substantially improve transparency and accountability thereby "connecting" the EU with the ordinary citizens of Europe.

2. Initiate and insist on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy as well as the Common Fisheries Policy.

3. Determine the conditions and pace of enlargement without overstretching the EU budget and without precipitating social instability in existing Member States.

4. Accelerate the privatisation of state owned enterprises on the continent to strengthen the Eurozone economy as a weak Euro and recession in the EU are not in Britain´s best interest!

5. Shape the development of Europe by formulating policies based on diversity, subsidiarity and economic competition between member states.

Britain is in Europe and likely to remain an integral part of Europe.

Therefore, we must be actively engaged in Brussels. We must fight  for our interests. We can and we must win for Britain and deliver peace and prosperity to our people!