Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Open Europe Chairman Lord Leach: We can't do nothing. Only #EUReform will work

Open Europe Chairman Lord Leach of Fairford has an article in today's Times, trailing this week's unprecedented Open Europe-Fresh Start Project pan-European Conference on #EUReform. He argues,
There will be no escaping the European question this year. The European Parliament elections in May will be followed by the selection of a new Commission, the EU’s executive arm and spiritual home for federal-minded officials. This is also the year when the Prime Minister will set out his negotiating strategy for Europe ahead of next year’s general election and the promised referendum in 2017.

Voters across the Continent will be assured by EU leaders that the euro crisis is over. It isn’t. A financial and currency crisis has simply morphed into a social and economic crisis, with youth unemployment running at 50 per cent in parts of Southern Europe. The European elections will return sceptical parties in record numbers.

These flashing warning lights illustrate voters’ deepening frustration with the status quo. An out-of-touch Brussels political elite will no doubt try to frame the debate about Europe’s future as a struggle between moderate idealists who see the EU as an end in itself, a staging post on the journey to a United States of Europe, and dangerous “extremists” who oppose it lock, stock and barrel.

That would be a grave mistake. Without radical change, the legitimacy of the EU will continue to decline in every member state. And if there is a referendum in Britain it will be so close as to leave the issue undecided and half the country feeling resentful and disenfranchised.

However, here’s the good news: as economic and democratic realities mount, the momentum for reform is growing. National politicians increasingly sense that they risk ending up on the wrong side of history if they settle for the “do nothing” option. In an unambiguous sign of the changing mood, Open Europe and the Fresh Start Project of UK MPs are this week hosting a conference for more than 250 leading politicians and opinion-formers from all 28 EU member states. Though we won’t agree on everything, we have a common mission: reform.

For years Europhiles have used conferences to set the agenda, talking to themselves about themselves. No more. For the first time, reformers are joining forces in large numbers to call for sweeping change.

This event is about substance. Beyond the simplistic ideological divide between those who want a superstate and those who want break-up, what is the most effective way to organise Europe, practically, democratically and economically?

Over two days the focus will be on competitiveness and democracy, a testing-ground for fleshing out which concrete EU reforms the Prime Minister can achieve ahead of the 2017 referendum. Our European friends will have constructive ideas of their own.

Countless statistics show how the EU is losing out in the global race. Yet it is not hard to see how to make Europe work for prosperity, rather than against it. A liberalised market, not least in services, with each country free to make its own successes and mistakes, would provide fresh competitive edge. Returning labour market laws to the domestic shop floor, dropping the centralised European management of farm subsidies and national energy policies, ending the grossly inefficient recycling of regeneration subsidies through Brussels and cutting needless regulation across the board — all these would immediately help growth and jobs.

Above all we need a new constitutional settlement to square national democracy with European co-operation. That means facing the existential question that was posed when the euro was created: what is the common cause that defines the EU? Is it the single currency, and its ideological parent “ever closer union”? Or the Single Market?

If the EU becomes a political extension of the euro, sooner or later the UK electorate will vote to leave. Yet there has been acknowledgement — from Berlin to Rome — that it is in no one’s interest to convert countries into first and second-class members, still less to sleepwalk into the exit of one of Europe’s main powers. However, in what will be a long battle, the UK needs allies. They will be worth listening to.







18 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Countless statistics show how the EU is losing out in the global race. Yet it is not hard to see how to make Europe work for prosperity, rather than against it. A liberalised market, not least in services, with each country free to make its own successes and mistakes, would provide fresh competitive edge. Returning labour market laws to the domestic shop floor, dropping the centralised European management of farm subsidies and national energy policies, ending the grossly inefficient recycling of regeneration subsidies through Brussels and cutting needless regulation across the board — all these would immediately help growth and jobs".

This is tantamount to stating that the EU has been a MASSIVE failure. And the shame of it is our MPs and Lords have thought that they have 'known best' all along.

The UK's membership of the EU has had an extremely large opportunity cost in the last c.10 years.

We could have been free to change things, become more efficient and compete on the world stage with all of the economic and social benefits that that would bestow.

Instead, all we have done is try to bat back stupid and costly regulations, dictats and directives that impact our sovereignty, culture, law and way of life.

The Far East is pulling away from us by the day and we yet we are still tied to this shambolic, undemocratic gravy-train bureaucracy that has such an appalling track record.

When and how do we hold all of these idiots to account? Exactly - we cannot even do that.

No reform as it is just more hot air and represents more opportunity cost. Let the Titanic sink.

Free trade. No sovereignty.

SC

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with the E.U is not the euro or integration in to Europe but the lack of democratic accountability and the Brussels political elite will not allow a little thing like that stopping their dream of a United States of Europe any raise in parties like UKIP will just be blamed on national Governments not doing enough to persuade people that a United States of Europe is the best thing for them

Jim Kemeny said...

All this is about the UK. Yet there are smaller countries where opposition to the EU is just as relevant and the arguments against are as strong but carry greater force, precisely because the countries are small.

Sweden is one such, my country of permanent residence. Reinfeldt and Bildt are in favour of the EU but refuse - quite rightly - to join the euro, fatally flawed as it is. I grow increasingly concerned about Swedish membership of the EU the more time that passes. Democracy is based on the sovereign state and not on membership of a foreign alliance whether for trade and peaceful co-operation in the EU or for warfare as NATO.

Sweden's policy of armed neutrality has served it well and I see no reason to abandon it for creeping centralisation that involves the weakening of democracy, in which national interests are increasingly compromised.

Open Europe blog team said...

@ Jim Kemeny
Many thanks for the comment and we couldn’t agree more. The conference which Lord Leach mentions is in fact designed to tackle the issue you mention. It will bring together speakers and delegates from all EU member states and will seek to find common ground between the UK and others on ways to reform the EU.

This is an issue which we have written about extensively, see for example:
http://openeuropeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-view-from-sweden-barroso-is-making.html
http://openeuropeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/joining-euro-not-in-my-lifetime.html

While we have looked at similar concerns in Germany and the Netherlands:
http://openeuropeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/dutch-government-time-of-ever-closer.html
http://openeuropeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/uk-german-push-for-eu-reform-gathers.html

Rik said...

@Anonymus 10:46

You are simply comparing an idealised not existing situation with the present (hardly great) existing one.
Which excusez les mots: 'is simply bollox'.

Your country like most of the rest will first change and start the process of change if it is forced by the circumstances. The Thatcher era to which you folk like to refer is one of the best examples. Everybody with more than 2 economic braincells knew for decades before that, that there were structural issues and big ones.
But like most human beings you needed a slap in the face first before the whole process started.

So (main) points:
The UK would have made a large number of mistakes (or run into structural issues that need change, pick one), even if it would have been outside the EU.
As it would have created and will create a lot of inefficient/crap legislation if it would have ever/ will have to do that on its own. Your 'Health and Safety' is famous even in the rest of the EU.

Change in the EU is a process and one that takes even longer than change in the UK only.
Basically this (former) process has just been started.
And like in the rest of Western politics this process is carried not by main stream politicians and media, but by outsiders. And that wouldnot have been different if it would have been the UK only as well. Powers that are hardly ever see the need for change (until their heads are in a basket).
Not exactly the same change all over the place. Clearly the UK has other demands and priorities than say Spain. Which should have been a clear indication of the boudaries of integration but it wasnot. Mediocre politicians backed up by pretty stupid voters believe that they are able to organise a society more than they really can (a standard mistake and again all over the world). So you get up with Euro's or at least some people do. Others end up with other crap.
But at the end of the day everywhere for change there needs to be a kickstart (the 'people have to be kicked before they start' way).

The good news is that there looks still more than enough time for evolution iso revolution (not a verbal one but the heads on a stick kind).

Rik said...

Part2
In this respect OE imho is doing a very fine job. It is clearly one of the most important horses that are pulling the change carriage. As well as bring structure in the whole discussion about it. To be honest nearly all others including leading politicians like Hague and Mssrs Ed are (and to a lesser extent Cameron) go from one incident to the next with 'ad hoc' on the top of the list of solutions.
OE keep a high quality level AND get the media attention. And the right media attention (also the one focussed on politics in general and business in stead of mainly EU burocrats and academics as most do). Nearly all others mess up on at least one of those. Imho the combination is essential here. It is very complicated both legal technically and politically and by nature very long term. Without consistency/ a strategy you end nowhere. Would have been the EU copy of the immigration discussion in your country. 2 sides shouting at each other for 2 decades now with no coherent measures in sight. Another example btw to show that a) your quite able to mess things up yourself and b) not capable to create the right measures to begin with or even adjust measures when things go wrong.

On media attention these kinds of original initiatives bring next to media attention create longer term the platform needed for change. With the public but as well with the people who actually have to manage the change job, the politicians. It simply 'deprogramms' the mindset of people. And the more stupid people are the more difficult that process goes. The '2 braincells' notoriously incapable of any change (and there are alot of those around and even worse they are all allowed to vote anyway and a lot ended up as politicians probably because of lack of other (better) alternatives).

In a nutshell this is a process and will take time, a lot of it.
And donot think that yourself would have done everything perfect in the first place. Usually only people who f-up things theirselves (and big time) as a general rule do that.
There is hardly a better guarantee thinkable for the next major f-up, only this time self created.

Anonymous said...

A Briton warned Britain about its membership of the European Union even before the founding fathers of the EU - Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman - were born in 1888 and 1886. We must heed his warning.

IDRIS FRANCIS said...

I yield to no one in my admiration of Lord Leach for what he achieved with Business for Sterling - which makes it all the more puzzling that he cannot see the compelling logic of our EU membership.

Everything he calls for is in direct conflict with the declared aims of the EEC/EC/EU for more than 50 years, and the EU elite daily make it clear that they have no intention whatever of making on any significant scale the changes which Lord Leach calls for, and which, if achieved would amount to abandoning the substance of those long term ambitions.

That they are prepared to keep who knows how many millions of people unemployed withhout hope of change, and millions in desprate poverty, prepared to see those who can escape to other countries, to keep the euro afloat tells us all we need to know about their willingness - or indeed ability - to see sense.

The blunt truth is that the EU elite are grossly incompetent in economic terms, so much so that they cannot even understand that they are incompetent (like Nick Clegg in a much larger scale, and even worse)

Neither do they have any understanding of democracy - or if they do, they despise it.

As I found out many years ago in buusiness any time I found myself dealing with crooks and charlatans, the only sensible thing to do is walk away immediately and make other arrangements.

All that this renegotiation nonsense - oh that Chamberlain could have been alive to see it - will achieve is delay and a deeper hole to dig ourselves our of when we dom finally but inevitably, leave the EU.

To quote the late and great Kenneth Williams "Nah - stop messing about"



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christina speight said...

Open Europe and its chairman are part of the problem. There is no achievement if any kind that merits the EU at all. Finance - a disaster.... Fisheries - a sick joke .... Human Rights - an abomination .... Agriculture a world-wide crisis creator .... and democracy - it's killing it!

The EU nomenklatura are hell-bent on a US of E and Open Europe want to tinker with it at the edges.

This daily bulletin is becoming severely biassed and is dangerous. For example Boris J's endorsement gets uncritical and incomplete quotation giving totally the wrong impression.

Anonymous said...

Jim Kemeny Swedens policy of armed neutrality is at risk because the eussr wants to set up pan eussr armed forces, as a member you neutrality will disappear at the stroke of a pen because even without supplying people towards it you will be paying in to the pot.

Only politicians and people who are filling their pockets at our expense believe in the project now and that is why we are never asked for our opinions.

christhai said...

Thank you Lord Leach for your considered, if very partisan opinion.

Anyone familiar with OE is aware that it is an EU organisation.

No politician in any country, can explain to its citizens, what the real benefits in being a member are.

Indeed, this EU, this corrupt Government of Governments, as it styles itself, is a pure cost factor.

There are no benefits. None.

jon livesey said...

There is one key insight in this piece, and one very bad idea.

The key insight is that the member states have to be able to compete with one another to find the best ideas and systems. The idea that the EU exists to prevent "unfair" competition is just a leveling down mechanism.

We don't even know what "unfair" competition really is, only how the EU defines it. Is it unfair for Ireland to have low corporate tax rates? Do those rates draw businesses from the rest of the EU to Ireland, or do they draw businesses to Ireland that would otherwise not enter the EU at all?

Is it unfair for the UK to offer to guarantee loans for investors in nuclear power? Do such guarantees increase the competitiveness of the UK and therefore the EU economy, or do they somehow handicap other EU member states? In other words, is energy self-sufficiency an overall benefit or a zero-sum game?

Is it unfair for Germany to generate a trade surplus by pursuing a policy of low wages and flat real wage settlements? Does Germany's trade surplus drive the Eu's trade surplus, or does it come at the expense of other other EU members?

To me, the answer is that you can only decide this on a case by case basis, and that an EU-wide bureaucratic definition of unfair competition will lead to least common denominator competitiveness.

The really bad idea here is in the final sentence. No, a two-speed Europe is not a bad idea. In fact a two - or more - speed Europe is exactly what we need to reduce tension between EU member states that have very different legal, political, cultural and economic traditions.

When Europe is split between common law and civil law, between multi-party PR coalition versus FPP politics, and between relatively closed social market versus open free market economies, one size definitely does not fit all. In fact, refusing to accept a two-speed Europe simply leaves us in the situation where one side, convinced of its rightness, seeks to impose its will on the other side. That cannot be a recipe for a harmonious Europe.

And no, a two-speed Europe does not mean first- and second-class members. It means everyone retaining as much or as little of their national traditions as they want.

Anonymous said...

More Eurofascist claptrap from the vile and intellectually dishonest Open Europe.

"it will be so close as to leave the issue undecided and half the country feeling resentful and disenfranchised.:

Nonsense.

Apart from the fact that ALL referendums have winners and losers, we have no idea how close the results will be.

Also, the claim that staying in a "reformed" EUSSR is preferable must, somewhere along the line, include an explanation as to how, legally, that reform can be achieved when there is no legal mechanism to achieve it.

Time to dump these Eurofascist liars and fools such as Leach and his Open Europe.

Out.

Now.

Jim Kemeny said...


I am fully aware of this, and it is one important reason why I have been and continue to be implacably opposed to the EU. In fact it is already
happening.
Anonymous said...
Jim Kemeny Swedens policy of armed neutrality is at risk because the eussr wants to set up pan eussr armed forces, as a member you neutrality will disappear at the stroke of a pen because even without supplying people towards it you will be paying in to the pot.

Only politicians and people who are filling their pockets at our expense believe in the project now and that is why we are never asked for our opinions.
14/1/14 2:49 pm

Jesper said...

Interesting analysis from 2003, before the treaty of Lisbon...
http://www.brugesgroup.com/mediacentre/index.live?article=192

"Introduction

FOR OVER A decade, in response to anxieties expressed about the gradual shift of decision making power from this country to the European Union, the doctrine of subsidiarity has been hailed as the saviour of British sovereignty. The Major and Blair governments alike argued that it would ensure that decisions were taken at the level closest to the citizen and they have been content to give the impression that it would halt the juggernaut towards a centralised Europe."

Do the conclusions at the end of the analysis still apply?

Anonymous said...

The biggest danger is those well-meaning types who advance EU reform that will never be achievable.

Van Rompuy, Barroso and Schulz have all made it clear that cherry-picking (aka the concept of not accepting that the full range of powers stays with the EU) will not be allowed. They are totally supported by the treaty and EU case law.

The treaties can only be changed in the direction of further integration.

Rollo said...

Lord Leach is right, then wrong. We cannot do nothing. But EUREFORM is not an answer or an answer. The only sensible thing is to unshackle us from the Sinking Ship of Europe, and paddle away as fast and as far away as we can, so that we do not get swamped when it finally sinks.
The real world grows; the EU shrivels.

Bill Walker said...

@christhai "Anyone familiar with OE is aware that it is an EU organisation.

No politician in any country, can explain to its citizens, what the real benefits in being a member are.

...There are no benefits. None."

The most important benefit given to states by the EU is that it allows us to eliminate regulatory barriers to trade within the single market. That involves coming up with EU regulations to replace conflicting national regulations. The benefit of being an EU member is that we get a say in that process rather than just sitting on the outside while the rest of the EU determines regulations for us (which, like Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, we'd then likely just adopt in any case).

That is the primary benefit and the fact politicians like Cameron are exceptionally poor at making the case doesn't make it any less valid. UKIP have no answer to this at all - they simply trot out a line about a "free trade agreement" as if all regulatory barriers to trade can be removed simply by signing a piece of paper.

It's about time we stepped into the real world and stopped buying into populist gibberish. The EU is a beneficial, if imperfect organisation that needs to be reformed. That might involve complex negotiations and it might be wildly unpopular with the anti-immigration crowd, but it's a reality.

Voting UKIP is simply a self-indulgent lark: it will have no tangible policy impact whatsoever. Say what you like about Open Europe, but at least they're engaging with the real world of politics.