Cameron’s Europe speech highlights

John Rentoul

cameu 300x168 Camerons Europe speech highlightsThe important bits of the Prime Minister’s speech this morning:

The biggest danger to the EU comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy…

Let’s start from this proposition: we are a family of democratic nations, all members of one European Union, whose essential foundation is the single market rather than the single currency. Those of us outside the euro recognise that those in it are likely to need to make some big institutional changes.

By the same token, the members of the Eurozone should accept that we, and indeed all Member States, will have changes that we need to safeguard our interests and strengthen democratic legitimacy. And we should be able to make these changes too.

Some say this will unravel the principle of the EU – and that you can’t pick and choose on the basis of what your nation needs.

But far from unravelling the EU, this will in fact bind its Members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre.

Let me make a further heretical proposition.

The European Treaty commits the Member States to “lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

This has been consistently interpreted as applying not to the peoples but rather to the states and institutions compounded by a European Court of Justice that has consistently supported greater centralisation.

We understand and respect the right of others to maintain their commitment to this goal. But for Britain – and perhaps for others – it is not the objective.
And we would be much more comfortable if the Treaty specifically said so freeing those who want to go further, faster, to do so, without being held back by the others.

So to those who say we have no vision for Europe.

I say we have.

We believe in a flexible union of free member states who share treaties and institutions and pursue together the ideal of co-operation. To represent and promote the values of European civilisation in the world. To advance our shared interests by using our collective power to open markets. And to build a strong economic base across the whole of Europe.

And we believe in our nations working together to protect the security and diversity of our energy supplies. To tackle climate change and global poverty. To work together against terrorism and organised crime. And to continue to welcome new countries into the EU.

This vision of flexibility and co-operation is not the same as those who want to build an ever closer political union – but it is just as valid.

There was the bit about the democratic basis of the EU:

There is not, in my view, a single European demos.

It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.

It is to the Bundestag that Angela Merkel has to answer. It is through the Greek Parliament that Antonis Samaras has to pass his Government’s austerity measures.

It is to the British Parliament that I must account on the EU budget negotiations, or on the safeguarding of our place in the single market.

Those are the Parliaments which instil proper respect – even fear – into national leaders.

We need to recognise that properly in the way the EU does business.

And the bit about the referendum:

I agree too with what President Barroso and others have said. At some stage in the next few years the EU will need to agree on Treaty change to make the changes needed for the long term future of the Euro and to entrench the diverse, competitive, democratically accountable Europe that we seek.

I believe the best way to do this will be in a new Treaty so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this.

My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain.

But if there is no appetite for a new Treaty for us all then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners.

The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament.

It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart.

And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether.

It will be an in-out referendum.

Legislation will be drafted before the next election. And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.

It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics.

I say to the British people: this will be your decision …

At the end of that debate you, the British people, will decide.

At this point, Camera-On remembered to look directly at the camera.

He was nervous, sticking closely to the text on the prompter, and reading it too fast. He does not usually use the idiot boards, but I suppose it was important to get the words right; even so, he garbled the last line: “And for the prosperity of peoples and for generations to come.”

He didn’t answer any of the questions from journalists at the end, most obviously that from Nick Robinson of the BBC, who asked if he would vote No in the referendum if he could not negotiate satisfactory terms. He replied by asking, “Who goes into a negotiation hoping and expecting to fail?”

If you believe that a referendum in the UK at some point is either unavoidable or desirable, however, it was a good speech.

Tagged in: ,
  • creggancowboy

    You needed to attend the conference on Law and Human rights I went to in Oxford recently. Quite scathing verdicts on ZaNuLabour’s record and the (in)action of Tories. There is only so much propaganda dear Yevgeni can churn out.

  • greggf

    Every action has a reaction.
    Either way, whether the UK negotiates and stays in or negotiates and leaves, the parties to these negotiations will change. Indeed the whole arrangement of the EU and its member states will alter.
    So Cameron’s speech will probably come to be seen as a catalyst for change, which may be what he means by replying “Who goes into a negotiation hoping and expecting to fail?”

Property search
Browse by area

Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter