Reshaping the Eu: a Manifesto For Reform
- Civitas report details the powers David Cameron must try to win back
- Sovereignty over trade, agriculture and fishing vital to British commercial interests
- Failure to achieve demands will embolden supporters of UK withdrawal from EU
David Cameron must seek to win back British control of agriculture policy, UK fishing waters and international trade deals as he tries to negotiate an acceptable relationship with the European Union, a new Civitas report argues.
The study sets out an extensive shopping list of reforms in key areas that the Prime Minister should prioritise as he seeks to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU over the coming years.
It details why Mr Cameron should be confident in making the demands, how he can best win support from other EU heads to advance British interests, who our allies are in which areas and what are our chances of success.
As well as exploring areas of immigration, welfare and employment law that should be repatriated, the report places a strong emphasis on releasing the UK from restrictions currently curtailing international trade, agricultural advances and fishing.
It will provide a valuable checklist for monitoring the Prime Minister’s progress in the years between now and his planned referendum in 2017. The government has refused to say exactly which powers it would like to win back.
Policy analyst Glyn Gaskarth writes that having a list will “highlight the gap between the UK vision of the EU and the compromises our EU partners are willing to make”.
“Negotiations must be evidence based. They cannot succeed if the UK does not have a firm idea of what it desires and what it is willing to accept,” he says.
“Having a firm idea of UK aims makes it more likely that the renegotiation process will succeed. If UK proposals are rebuffed or watered down those seeking a UK exit will be emboldened. The EU would be shown to be inflexible and incapable of reform.”
In a series of innovative proposals, Gaskarth charts how the EU must be fundamentally reshaped to best serve Britain’s – and other EU nations’ – commercial interests. These include what will be highly controversial proposals to:
- Allow smaller groups of EU nations to sign up to free trade deals with the rest of the world, putting a stop to protectionist nations blocking competitive arrangements for all members;
- Allow non-Eurozone members to enter enhanced trade deals with each other;
- Allow individual members to decide how to spend Common Agricultural Policy money, enabling Britain and other members to set their own agriculture policy;
- Return UK fishing waters to British sovereignty, enabling the Westminster parliament to preserve fish stocks and build a stronger fishing industry;
- Secure for the UK the ability to veto legislation affecting financial services and the City of London;
- Restore control of employment and social regulation to the Westminster government;
- Establish the right to deport non-EU individuals regardless of concerns for their safety where they pose a threat to national security or community harmony;
- Secure the right to restrict welfare payments to nationals from accession countries until they have a record of tax contributions in the UK;
- Withdraw from the European Arrest Warrant and enter bilateral agreements with individual nations.
Central to Gaskarth’s argument is a vision of the EU as a flexible, multi-tiered organisation that facilitates more competitive trade arrangements between EU members and the rest of the world. With approval for trade deals sought from national parliaments rather than the European Parliament, and with individual governments allowed to move ahead without others, protectionist countries would no longer be able to hold up negotiations for everybody.
“The rejection of a trade deal by one EU member state should not prevent other EU member states that have approved the trade deal from proceeding. Trade deals would proceed on the basis of an agreement between the countries that approved the trade deal and the non-EU trade partner,” Gaskarth writes.
“This would fundamentally change the whole nature of the EU. It may not be accepted by all EU members but it should be a UK aim. This proposal will restore democratic control to UK trade relations.”
Where attempts to complete the Single Market are being frustrated, the more liberalising members of the EU should be able to forge ahead between themselves.
“This would create a more flexible and dynamic EU where competing regulatory regimes based on local democratic preferences was allowed to emerge.”
In agriculture, Gaskarth argues that CAP payments should be given to individual governments to spend at their discretion, rather than by a one-size-fits-all rule.
This would allow the UK to “invest more in crop development, diversifying rural incomes and building a more productive agricultural sector”. The recommendation could lower food prices for consumers and make farming a fairer industry, limiting payments to inactive landowners.
Multiple fisheries options are discussed, ranging from demands for a fairer quota system, to a full repatriation of British waters.
Another key idea is to safeguard “opt outs” in perpetuity, so a member state never loses the right to avoid EU control – for example in labour law or justice cooperation. This would create a flexible multi-level union.
In a foreword, Civitas director David Green writes: “Our main aim should be the full return of our powers of self-government, but that can’t happen before the referendum promised for 2017. In the meantime, the Government plans to try to re-negotiate our relationship with the EU.
“There is little sign from other EU members that anything other than token concessions will be made. Nevertheless we should enter into the negotiations in good faith and so we invited Glyn Gaskarth to identify the powers we would like to be returned.
“He has produced a very worthwhile list of recommendations and, even if the negotiations draw a blank, his proposals serve as useful reminder of the vast powers that we have given up.”
‘EU Renegotiation: Fighting for a Flexible Union’ can be accessed below.
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Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society is an independent social policy think tank that facilitates informed public debate on important issues of the day. It has no links to any political party and its research programme receives no state funding