Cameron achieves far more than press gives credit for
The Government’s 2012 balance of competences review concluded in 2014 there was no need to make huge changes to Britain’s relationship with the EU. It is against that backdrop that the PM’s renegotiation should be considered.
Cameron has achieved all the aims he set out in his 2013 Bloomberg speech. It does not represent a fundamental redesign of the EU’s institutional architecture but this was never promised or demanded by the government, nor desired by other EU Member States. The deal should therefore be measured on this basis and not by the standards of those implacably opposed to the UK remaining in the EU as nothing could ever placate them. In addition, Britain already benefits from a number of opt-outs: the euro; Schengen zone; police and justice measures; and the common asylum and immigration policy. It is a package without precedent within the EU.
In the realms of economic governance, sovereignty and competitiveness, there is little doubt Cameron has achieved what he set out to do. The enshrined principles relating to economic governance will provide further protections against Eurozone caucusing, as the introduction of formal principles and procedures would provide new legislative hurdles to any proposals hostile to UK financial services.
The clarification of what “ever closer union” means will provide a useful form of attack for those that, including the European Court of Justice, wish to misinterpret it to further federalist aims, whilst the British opt-out of it altogether is again a powerful legally enshrined declaration. As for the red-card system, the proposals embolden the existing process for national parliaments to caucus together in preventing Commission proposals they object to. Anything more - such as an ultimate veto of legislation for each national parliament as some wanted - would be entirely unworkable in ensuring a level playing field in the single market.
The motives of those advocating such a position must surely be questioned, as must their belief that this could be the basis of a serious negotiating platform. Where the press has really failed to grasp the detail, however, is in the benefits package. Far too much attention has been placed on the seven year graduated delay in access to in-work benefit, to the detriment of meaningful mechanisms of great use to the Home Office. Whilst an indefinite absolute right of imposing limits on access to in-work benefits has not been achieved, the compromise comes very close to this. The UK Government will be able to impose a graduated seven year ban on in-work benefits as wished and the EC has agreed the conditions have already been met - the Council has agreed, in principle, to approve it.
Furthermore, many other additional tools against benefit abuse have been achieved. EU citizens will no longer be able to claim universal credit, therefore preventing those from landing themselves on the British taxpayer whilst looking for work. Meanwhile, child benefit payments can be pegged to the standard living of the child’s residence. Member States will have far more flexibility in removing EU citizens on the grounds of economic inactivity or threats to public security even without a criminal record.
One particularly good achievement of the renegotiation is giving immigration controls power back to Member States over right of entry of third country-national spouses of EU citizens. EU treaty rights will no longer be able to trump national law and EU citizens will now have to meet UK criteria for bringing a spouse from a third-country, eliminating an area that has been a means for abuse via sham marriages evading national immigration laws.
This package is not a major reorganisation of the EU and nobody would claim that. It does, however, represent an EU willing to change and accommodate a country like the UK with its own priorities and an EU that is understanding of the need of enshrining the principles of subsidiarity into the treaties and reasserting that the EU is a union of 28 states who have by their own consent pooled a limited amount of their national sovereignty for the collective greater good.
With Nick Herbert in Westminster following his speech as Chairman of Conservatives IN, describing what a ‘Brexit’ leap into the dark might look like. Conservatives IN is united by a view that Britain is stronger in a reformed Europe, which would give us the best of both worlds. You can sign up to our campaign through the website www.conservatives.in or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Backing Zac in Croydon
Campaigning for Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith with Croydon South MP Chris Philp, Croydon & Sutton GLA Member Steve O’Connell and local councillors and activists.
Colombia peace process
With former Irish Foreign Minister, Eamon Gilmore, now EU Special Envoy for the peace process in Colombia. The EU has supported the process and is setting up a trust fund to help with disarmament and the reintegration of FARC fighters into mainstream society.
Student murder resolution
Giving an interview to Egyptian television to discuss the resolution of the European Parliament regarding the tragic case of the murdered Italian student from Cambridge University, Giulio Regeni.
Chairing a joint ECR conference with the Imam foundation discussing intolerance and the rise of radicalisation and the threat of extremism in Europe.
Law student visit
Welcoming to the European Parliament law students from University of Greenwich who clearly supported the case for the UK being stronger in the EU.
Meeting former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, in London. We discussed the Maldives’ continued slide towards authoritarianism, its allegedly growing links with international terrorism and the personal fight for justice of Nasheed himself.
Prevention of puppy smuggling
With Brian da Cal, UK country manager of Four Paws, a charity campaigning against illegal puppy smuggling from Eastern Europe.
Attending, in my role as co-president, a meeting of the Friends of the Community of Portuguese Language speaking countries. London is the home for some 100,000 Portuguese speakers.
Relations with Bahrain
With Ambassador of Bahrain to the EU to discuss UK and EU-Bahrain relations and the Iran and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia situation.
EU-US level playing field
Meeting Andrew Kaye, who runs a London-based escrow service in my constituency. He is concerned a level playing field does not exist between his firm and US competitors pitching for the same business in Europe. An escrow account is essentially a holding tank for funds, held by a third party on behalf of two parties in a transaction.
Spreading the IN message
Speaking at a Conservative dinner in Hertfordshire as guest of Sir Oliver Heald MP, advocating for the UK to stay in the EU.
Talking to Italian TV
Giving interview in Italian to RAI Uno television in the Strasbourg European Parliament on Brexit and the case to Remain and Anglo-Italian relations.
Campaigning in Wood Green for the UK to remain in the EU with cross-party activists from Labour and the Lib Dems
Campaigning in Ealing & Hillingdon
Campaigning for London Mayoral candidate Zac Golsdmith, along with Ealing & Hillingdon GLA candidate Dominic Gilham, Nick Hurd MP for Ruislip Northwood and Pinner and many other activists.
India PM visit and FTA
Honoured to meet with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on his official visit to Brussels for the India-EU summit and to kick-start the EU-India FTA talks between the two of the world’s greatest democracies. Wide-ranging discussions were held on economic and security issues including the fight against terrorism in the wake of the Brussels attacks in which an Indian citizen was murdered on the Metro along with other innocent victims from many countries including the UK. India suffered a similar attack in Mumbai and there is close cooperation between the EU, its member states and the Indian intelligence community.
Remembering the Holocaust
Attending the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony in Yehudi Menuhin Hall, European Parliament.
Kurdistan and the Peshmerga
Chairing a meeting of the European Parliament Friends of Kurdistan to discuss the issue of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s lack of funds following the collapse in the price of oil. It is vital for the EU, Member States, US and others to help plug the financial hole in recognition of the role their Peshmerga fighters play in the fight against ISIS and their hosting of over 2 million refugees and Internally displaced persons.
Montenegrin Prime Minister
Pleased to meet Prime Minister Djukanovic of Montenegro in my role as Standing Rapporteur in the European Parliament regarding the country’s accession process to the EU. We discussed the upcoming elections and NATO aspirations of Montenegro in the year of its tenth anniversary since independence.