Until now, the only thing that has maintained Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s credentials as a European statesman, has been the Conservative Party’s complete lack of constructive EU policy.
Yesterday, Brown did much to cast off his crown as curmudgeon of the year among EU leaders. Speaking to a business audience Brown finally outlined a programme for Britain in Europe, laying the background for future success, coming out strongly in favour of British EU membership and pointing towards the needed economic reforms within the Union.
What is needed for future success? Brown clearly placed himself in the economic reform camp:
“The countries and continents that will succeed in the new era of globalisation will be those that are open rather than closed, for free trade rather than protectionism, are flexible rather than rigid, and invest in high skills and the potential of their people.”
The future of the United Kingdom lies in the European Union, was the message of Brown:
“But what is clear is that at this time of global economic uncertainty, we should not be throwing into question -as some would - the stability of our relationship with Europe and even our future membership of the European Union --- risking trade, business and jobs. Indeed, I strongly believe that rather than retreating to the sidelines we must remain fully engaged in Europe so we can push forward the reforms that are essential for Europe's, and Britain's, economic future.
The EU is key to the success of business in the UK:
Europe accounts for nearly 60 per cent of our trade;
700,000 British companies have trading ties to Europe;
And 3.5 million British jobs depend upon Europe.
And even in the face of rapid globalisation, our trade with Europe continues to rise, meaning Europe is as important to the future of Britain than ever.”
Economic reform is key to the European Union’s future and relevance, according to Brown:
“At the heart of a more competitive Europe in the 21st century must be a long-term commitment to a more outward looking relationship with the rest of the world. This is what I mean in practice by 'global Europe' - a Europe that knows it must face outwards if it is to be open for business.”
A few comments:
Great Britain has a lot to give its continental European partners and the EU when it comes to a dynamic business climate, although the Nordic countries may have succeeded at least as well while excelling at public services and social security. Brown’s programme on economic stability, growth, competitiveness and jobs reads like a roadmap to a more prosperous future for European citizens.
On more foreign policy oriented themes, Brown made the case for European climate change and environmental policy and reforming international institutions.
So far, so good. But what did Gordon Brown leave uncovered, at least in this speech?
More than twenty years have passed since the European Community (formerly the EEC) began its transformation into a political union, with efforts to forge common foreign policy as well as new internal policies.
The future security and prosperity of EU citizens is going to depend on how successfully the European Union manages to pool the resources of its member states in the areas of common foreign, security and defence policies, including a common defence.
When are we going to hear this speech?
Gordon Brown: Beyond The Reform Treaty: Business Priorities For A ‘Global Europe’; 14 January 2008;