Voters have to ask Donald Tusk some hard questions before they accept his EU ‘deal’

The choice is really quite simple. In favour of staying, it is in Britain’s geo-strategic interests to be pretty intimately engaged in the doings of a continent that has a grim 20th-century history, and whose agonies have caused millions of Britons to lose their lives. History shows that they need us. Leaving would be widely read as a very negative signal for Europe. It would dismay some of our closest friends, not least the eastern Europeans for whom the EU has been a force for good: stability, openness, and prosperity.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz

It is also true that the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty, while embroiling the Government for several years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country – low skills, low social mobility, low investment etc – that have nothing to do with Europe.

Against these points we must enter the woeful defects of the EU. It is manifestly undemocratic and in some ways getting worse. It is wasteful, expensive and occasionally corrupt. The Common Agricultural Policy is iniquitous towards developing countries. The EU is legislating over an ever wider range of policy areas, now including human rights, and with Britain ever more frequently outvoted. There is currently no effective means of checking this one-way ratchet of growth-strangling regulation, and to make matters worse the EU is now devoting most of its intellectual energy to trying to save the euro, a flawed project from which we are thankfully exempt. The EU’s share of global trade is diminishing, and the people who prophesy doom as a result of Brexit are very largely the same people who said we should join the euro.

So there is the dilemma in a nutshell: Britain in the EU good, in so far as that means helping to shape the destiny of a troubled continent in uncertain times, while trading freely with our partners. Britain in the EU bad, in so far as it is a political project whose destiny of ever-closer union we don’t accept and whose lust to regulate we can’t stop.

That is why for the last couple of years I have argued that we would be – on the whole – better off in a reformed EU, but that Britain could have a great future outside. In deciding how to vote I (and I expect a few others) will want to know whether we have genuinely achieved any reform, and whether there is the prospect of any more. So let’s look at the Tusk proposals, in turn, and ask some hard questions.

"EU leaders have apparently agreed that the phrase “ever-closer union” should no longer serve as a signpost for integration"

First: this “protection” for the UK and other countries that don’t use the euro: is it a concession by them, or by us? The salient point appears to be that the UK will not be able to block moves to create a fiscal union – a deeply anti-democratic exercise. Do we really think that they should be able to use EU institutions, which we share, to centralise tax and budgetary powers? Why? And what does it all mean for the City? What are these new “macro-prudential” powers over banks that Brussels seems to want?

Next: competitiveness. The language is excellent. Tusk talks about lowering administrative burdens, cutting compliance costs and repealing unnecessary legislation. Very good. But we have heard this kind of thing for a while. How many laws has the EU actually repealed, what are they, and why should we believe that this process will accelerate? Why are we not insisting on a timetable for a real single market in services?

On sovereignty, it looks as though the Prime Minister has done better than many expected, in that EU leaders have apparently agreed that the phrase “ever-closer union” should no longer serve as a signpost for integration. That is potentially very important, since the European Court has often made use of the phrase in advancing its more aggressively federalist judgments. But how bankable is this? Will it be engraved in the treaties? Will the court be obliged to take account of this change, or will it be blown away – like Tony Blair’s evanescent opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights? How can we restore the force of that Lisbon opt-out, and stop the court making rulings on human rights? In asserting Parliament’s sovereignty, how can we construct something that will be truly intimidating both to the law-making activism of the commission and the judicial activism of the court? Are we talking bazooka or popgun?

Last, on borders, we seem to have accepted the mantra that “free movement” is an age-old inviolable principle of the EU. This is not quite so. Until recently it only applied to “workers” rather than all EU citizens. Why didn’t we try harder to recapture control of our borders, rather than stick at this minor (if worthwhile) change to the law on benefits? There may be a good explanation, but we need to hear it.

These are the questions I pose, humbly and respectfully. Let’s hope for some answers in the next fortnight.

Renegotiation of Britain's EU membership

4 thoughts on “Voters have to ask Donald Tusk some hard questions before they accept his EU ‘deal’”

  1. Dear Rt. Hon. Mr Johnson,

    Last Friday (19/02) on the BBC News 24 Channel at around 23:20hrs, Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, was interviewed and asked if David Cameron’s EU Treaty change proposals would now be implemented? To which he replied that it depended on the forthcoming UK referendum. He said that should it be an OUT vote then the EU Parliament wouldn’t need to take things any further. However should the result be to stay IN then Mr Cameron’s proposals would then go before the EU Parliament for each one to be looked at further and voted on before being implemented and enshrined in law in any reformed EU Treaty changes for the UK. Therefore, it seems that Mr Cameron’s proposals are still only a wish list and only agreed to behind closed doors hypothetically. How can we be sure when voting on these indecisive conclusions? I’m for OUT please! Keep up the good fight for our Great Britain, thank you.

    Maybe Mr Schultz should be interviewed and pressed further on this matter once again for the benefit of the UK electorate for clarification especially undecided voters?

    Best regards,

    Don Boorman.

  2. Just had to turn down a job on europe because I wasn’t sure if i would have the right to work there in 4 months. So I thought i would put in my two pence in the hope that you will have some kind of European epiphany.

    So what exactly is the issue here? VAT rules might be irritating and probably should change, along with some unnecessary red tape. And EU VAT is so aptly named MOSS, perhaps because the outcome of irritating a country enough to leave could be economic chaos, and hence much less pollution – i.e. moss, growing everywhere, presumably.

    Alternatively perhaps these rules exist to see if anyone decides to leave because of them, then the other countries can repeal them instantly, have a golden age and laugh at the country who fell for the obvious prank. With such laughter and a golden age for Europe, our security would be virtually guaranteed as we all dive into the gutter, utterly hilarious.

    What else irritates people about Europe? Paying out more money than we get back – personally I’m happy to pay this money rather than suffer the consequences of leaving. And paying in actually pays agricultural subsidies that helps guarantee EU food stability in the longer term, otherwise we could end up being entirely dependent on foreign nations for food imports. We would instantly lose the benefit of what we have paid for by leaving, because we are less agricultural than the other EU nations! Talk about a bad deal, leaving would be the ultimate bad deal. Done completely in all directions by everyone. And probably going hungry on top of that. As for greater integration, would we prefer the greater likelihood of war, and with whom? Since we’re out of the Euro I think that most European countries already accept that greater integration is perhaps not our cup of tea.

    Leaving EU would risk expensive trading and political isolation. We would trade on our own – and hope that everyone sympathises with us. How much sympathy would we be likely to draw by placing the economic future of many other countries at risk? If we want less jobs, a weaker economy, most likely difficult trading conditions with everyone compounded by the risk of a global recession then perhaps we ought to vote to leave.

  3. Dear Boris,
    The Remainers are creating waves of fear over the prospect of a Brexit. One way of responding would be to organise a march in London to allow people to show their support for true democracy and the United Kingdom. Whilst we admire and respect our European neighbours we cannot allow them to meddle in our decision making. The dream of ever closer union is gradually turning into a nightmare. Let us show the people of Europe a better future without the political and monetary union!

  4. I am due to retire to Spain this year and now the whole ‘leave the EU’ could completely scupper my plans. I will only be voting to leave the EU if someone can say to me that I will still get my pension and healthcare in Spain. It makes sense to do that for the 2 million expats abroad rather than they all have to come back to the UK .

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