Sunday, 31 May 2009

UK Conservative Party’s European Election Manifesto

With national mentioned 36 times, UK 33 times, British 32 times and Britain 23 times the UK Conservative Party’s European Election Manifesto (2009) is hardly an inspiration to fellow-Europeans for its broader visions.


From a European perspective the relevance of the Manifesto is limited to what it augurs for European integration and the European Union, when a Tory government is in power in the United Kingdom.


Here is an effort to bundle the different promises in a slightly more systematic manner, with a limited number of shortcuts and explanations in the bullet points.



FUTURE OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION


• A referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon and a reversal of Britain’s ratification. [In his recent speech, party leader David Cameron promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty without qualification.]
• Alternatively, rolling back political integration if the Lisbon Treaty has entered into force. Details to be set out later.
• No further powers for the European Union. Introducing a legal requirement to arrange a referendum on each future proposal to develop EU powers.
• No adoption of the euro currency.
• Repatriation of social and employment policies to Britain (under Nice Treaty rules).
• Defending the British opt-out from the Working Time Directive.
• Specifically a rejection of (Lisbon Treaty powers concerning?) EU criminal justice, including the fight against terrorism.
• Opposition to Eurojust and Europol.
• Opposition to a European Public Prosecutor.
• Opposition to extended protection by the European Court of Justice in criminal law matters.
• Opposing harmonisation of asylum, visa and immigration policies (but some exceptions possible).
• National control of Britain’s borders.
• Continued EU enlargement, including the Balkan countries, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Turkey. No final borders for the EU.




EXTERNAL SECURITY

Foreign, security and defence policy


• UK independence (from Europe) on foreign policy and defence.
• Using the British veto on proposed EU foreign policy actions and positions.
• Opposition to the new role of the High Representative/Vice President and the European External Action Service.
• Commitment to NATO as the cornerstone of European defence, against development of an EU defence role.
• Strong transatlantic relationship; a capable EU seen as a threat.
• An EU role in the fight against global poverty, promoting good governance, democracy and human rights.



COMMERCE


Internal market and world trade


• Defend the Single Market against economic nationalism and protectionism.
• Proper enforcement of Single Market rules and deregulation by 25 per cent by 2012.
• In favour of free trade with the rest of the world.
• For a global trade deal (WTO). For a transatlantic market by 2015.
• Resist all tax harmonisation.
• Reject European level financial regulation.
• Resist European level telecoms regulation.
• Fight against climate change and promote a low carbon economy.
• Liberalising energy markets, communicatins, financial services and public procurement, if needed through “enhanced cooperation”.
• More opportunities for British people in the European jobs market.
• Extended patients’ rights in Europe.



Agriculture and fisheries


• Less spending on agricultural and regional policy. Simplify the common agricultural policy (CAP) and overhaul the common fisheries policy (CFP) to make it sustainable. Ending fish discards.
• Higher animal welfare standards.




BUDGET


• A firm cap on the EU budget at a maximum of 1 per cent of GNP, saving Britain €1 billion a year, and to defend the UK rebate. More funding for science and technology.




EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT


• Forming a new anti-Federalist group in the European Parliament.
• Forcing a vote in the European Parliament to scrap meetings in Strasbourg (the legal set of the EP).
• Force a vote to make Brussels the home of the EP [a matter agreed and changeable at treaty level between the EU member states].
• A review of the system for the European elections.
• Greater transparency, access to documents and freedom of information in relation to the EU institutions.
• Rigorous disclosure regime on MEPs’ expenses.
• Maximum transparency on financial matters (Commissioners).
• Improved domestic scrutiny of EU legislation.


***


Comments


The Tories seem to be keen to promote two transnational aspects of the European Union, for they can hardly believe that ad hoc cooperation (between free nation states) would suffice: to improve the internal market and to achieve a WTO deal on world trade.


In practically all other respects their Manifesto rejects the goals or the means for the European Union to rise to the global foreign policy and security challenges or to enhance the internal security of EU citizens.


In general, they reject the basic ideas of developing integration and a constructive role.


In the economic field they want to promote liberalised markets in important sectors, but they reject all attempts to regulate the European behemots at the same level.


They reject the single currency, and as a consequence improved economic policy coordination.


The Conservative Party looks set to use Britain’s veto powers to block European integration, while promoting EU enlargement without limits.


It seems to be of little concern to David Cameron and William Hague if they lose influence in the European Parliament or the European capitals, as long as they can veto progress on the inside.


This means that UK membership in the European Union is turning from a constant headache to a grave problem for the more constructive EU countries and for the European Union.


It has been said that Britain is necessary for the development of a European defence. Militarily, the United Kingdom is the most advanced of the current EU member states, but since it will reject common progress on the inside, the prospects would still be better with the UK on the outside.


On balance, it would probably be better for the rest of Europe if Britain leaves the European Union and joins the European Economic Area (EEA) or negotiates some other arrangement, where its veto does not block progress.


With or without the Lisbon Treaty, the Conservative Party has promised to renegotiate its EU relations. Its proposals to tear up the Lisbon Treaty or to repatriate EU powers should be rejected, politely but firmly.


David Cameron would then have few options but to arrange a referendum on Britain’s membership, and his empty handed government could hardly contemplate recommending continued membership.


This would end in the rest of the European Union being able to live somewhat less unhappily ever after.



Ralf Grahn