Europe Oct00: delivered in Southwold

British people must decide on Europe!

Why must  Britain remain a self-governing nation within the European Union? I believe, as most British people do, that our democratically elected Westminster Parliament should determine policies on our economy, foreign affairs, defence, judiciary, immigration and social welfare. We, as electors, reserve the right, to vote in or vote out, any Government on its record of managing such essential functions of State. Such control of executive Government by the electors, is not offered by the European Institutions as they are constituted. Therefore, British people must now decide what is in Britain’s best interest? Should Britain be leading in the development of Europe or should it continue to dither and sit uncomfortably on the periphery and let the Franco-German axis dictate the terms?

We were invited to join the European Common Market. It changed its name to the European Economic Community and now it calls itself the European Union. Clearly, Mr. Delors’s socialist utopia had a lot to do with such a change of perception. The top priority for the European Union, I believe, must be to achieve the open, free, competitive single market for goods and services, including financial services. We in Britain, wish to see the European Union develop economically to achieve this single market. We believe, that at this stage of Europe’s development, achieving the single competitive market is more important than enlargement.

Britain had to bear its own costs when we  privatised our state owned industries in the Thatcher years! Our people suffered the hardship of unemployment in those years.  Conservatives, under Thatcher and Major, achieved the  economic transformation of our economy so that the sick man of Europe – as we were known in the 70’s – is today’s Britain with the best economy in Europe. Britain did not receive, in these years of hardship, any subsidy or help from the European Union.

How will the single market be achieved, if we, at this stage in Europe’s economic development, accept new applicant countries employing millions in primitive agriculture? How will the single market cope with their state monopolies and their state subsidised industries?

We, in Britain, agree with the principle of enlargement, as it would make Europe’s single market the largest and strongest in the world. However, there must be a serious public debate in Europe about such a major change. People must know what is involved and how it will affect their livelihood. Whilst German and French politicians are pushing for Enlargement and EU institutional reform, taxpaying citizens of the EU, would like to see the applicant countries transform their economies from state control to free market. I believe, the EU should require these applicant countries to bear the cost of such transformation in order to join. This would link rights with responsibility and re-inforce the principle that there can be no representation without taxation!

European bureaucrats love setting timetables for change. They have done so for the introduction of the Euro and Enlargement. Applicant countries like Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia and Malta are expected to be members of the European Union by 2004.

Polish agriculture ( 2m farmers in Poland against 9m in the EU today) cannot shrink in time by 2004. Therefore, if the 2m Polish farmers, and others from Eastern Europe, will receive agricultural subsidy from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), how will the EU budget be re-arranged? If the budget is to be substantially increased how much more will Britain have to pay? Are the British taxpayers ready to pay more to subsidise food produced abroad when our farmers are going bankrupt, trying to compete with low price of imported food? No wonder the Spanish and the Irish - net beneficiaries of the EU today - are already using the language of Eurosceptics!

If these applicant countries shrink their agricultural sector and privatise their state-owned industries, millions of their people will be unemployed. Are the European citizens of existing Member States ready to accept millions of  unemployed East Europeans in search of jobs as they migrate from their countries? Who will pay for the social services for these migrants with the right to settle anywhere in the EU?

What does Britain pay for its membership of the EU? Who are the net contributors and net beneficiaries? In Euros, the paymasters are: Germany  9bn; the UK 3bn; France 2bn; Italy 2bn; Holland 1bn. The beneficiaries are: Spain 3bn; Portugal 2bn; Ireland and Belgium each collect 1bn.

How much voting power do we have in the Council of Ministers which is the executive

Cabinet of the European Union? There are 87 votes for 15 Member States. A vote of

71% is needed to legislate if voting is by majority. Both this voting power in the Council and the number of seats in the European Parliament are weighted heavily in favour of  the smaller countries. At present, the Mediterranean countries have been able to frustrate the British and the Scandinavians. We, supported by the Scandinavians, want a looser Europe with a free market without subsidies, and a more accountable bureaucracy. The beneficiary countries favour a more bureaucratic federal Europe. Applicant countries joining the EU, with weaker economies, will want any system that allows them to squeeze the maximum subsidy for themselves!

Poland, with a population of 40m, would qualify for 60 seats in the European Parliament. If the number of seats in the Parliament is to be capped at 700, who will give up the seats? Luxembourg, with a population of half a million, has 6 seats, one Commissioner and voting power in the Council. Our Region, Eastern Region, with 10 times the population of Luxembourg, has only 8 seats in the European Parliament, no Commissioner and no votes in the Council! Luxembourg was a founder Member of the EU! Sadly for us, this is the cost of joining late!

The European Union today, is slowly but surely, developing institutions that are manifest in any State - a democratically elected Parliament, a bureaucratic civil service (the European Commission), the Council of Ministers forming the executive cabinet, a common Foreign and Defence policy, a European army for peacekeeping, a common arrangement for immigration and asylum, a Central Bank, a common currency,  a common flag and a common identity. We must recognise that these manifestations are already in place. Both our Conservative and Labour Governments, have made these commitments on our behalf.

Do we, today, wish to continue to be part of this European project? If we do – and I believe we must - then we should take the initiative and seize the lead from the French and the Germans, in the future development of Europe. In this way, we can set our agenda in Europe and introduce the changes that suit us - changes that will promote our idea of a Europe of nation states; a Europe where diversity and competition are paramount; a Europe where democracy and public accountability are the hallmarks of bureaucracy; a Europe where the single market and economic co-operation prevail over political integration; a Europe that is economically strong and politically stable; a Europe that we can be proud to lead!