Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham, sets out his vision for what the EU should be.
There has been much said over the past couple of weeks over the future of the European
Union. Within our own party, of course, the EU rakes up decades of
splits and disagreements, which I believe has led us to an ‘all in or
all out’ attitude – an attitude that I believe is wrong.
I, as my Chairmanship of the National Committee for a Referendum
demonstrates, am not a Europhile, nor particularly pro EU. However I do
not subscribe to the ‘better off out’ theory either. Rather I – and, I
believe, the Conservative Party as a whole – now agree that the EU has
the potential to be great and wish to ensure Europe can continue as a
strong economic powerhouse in our globalised world, while promoting
European values of democracy, justice and freedom of speech around the
However last week at the EU summit this ideal met a great stumbling
block. The whole debacle was neither democratic, nor just, nor
consistent with the principle of free speech. Although our now former
Prime Minister claimed great success for his defining EU summit, the
media, the Conservative Party and the public are all calling for a
referendum on what is, in all but name a constitution – a constitution
that fails to promise a strong and democratic union. It panders to the
anti-capitalist, unionist politics of the Franco-German alliance and
undermines the sovereignty of all, but especially smaller nations.
In Britain we now find that we have entered into a Union that is diametrically opposed to our judicial and political systems. The EU is fundamentally a legal prescribing body: it has been created, then via treaties it gains control over many areas of life, then it prescribes what it believes is in the best interest of the European people. This is causing problems in the UK.
Under our UK Common Law system, something is legal until prohibited as being otherwise. On the continent, with constitutions and Roman Law, everything is illegal until granted to you by the state. Therefore, declarations of human rights, taken in the UK as given, have to be granted by the state on the continent and in the EU. This, as we are now seeing, causes problems and controversy when applied to our Common Law system.
For example, under EU human rights legislation, religion is not a prohibition to education. On the continent this has caused religious schools to thrive. In the UK it threatens religious schools, as Common Law interprets this rule as meaning religion cannot be a barrier to education, thus religion cannot be used to exclude certain children from certain schools. The writers of the Law did not intend this to be the case, but Law in the EU is designed from a Roman Law perspective, which is why it tends to cause more controversy, and has a greater impact on our way of life, our political system and our laws in the UK than it does elsewhere.
This is an extreme example, but it goes to demonstrate the difficulties of aiming for total political union and shows a union of greater political harmonisation to be futile. Each individual state has its own culture, both social – which of course is infringed relatively little by the EU – but also political and legal, which – as with the difference between Scotland and England – it is often better to leave alone. Furthermore we have a much more liberal attitude towards economic policy, a more balanced arrangement between business and trade unions, and less regulation upon business and enterprise, than many of our European neighbours.
What options are there, therefore, to help ensure that we and our fellow Europeans are allowed to live together, work together and propagate our shared values, while maintaining our independence and differences? Ironically – and I expect to be shouted down for this – what I would argue is that the last treaty should have been more of a constitutional change than what has subsequently actually taken place.
My answer? Put the EU Parliament at the very centre, at the heart of the EU machine, coupled with the return of many aspects of law and political control, back to the states from which they were taken.
The EU Parliament is the only body that represents all the people of Europe in a democratic manner. However, it has neither been granted strong enough powers to hold the Council and Commission to account, nor to direct policy. I would go further and argue that in order to protect the sovereignty of each and every state, it needs to become a bicameral institution, with an Assembly with Members appointed in proportion to population size, plus a Senate, with each state granted an equal number of Senators.
This is, of course, as any educated reader will notice the American system of government. It may seem that I am advocating a United States of Europe, but this is not the case. The EU is here, that is a fact we cannot avoid. At times it is beneficial, and it has the potential to be more so, but only by focusing on a few key areas in which it can have major global impact and not interfere in each state’s ‘every day’ sovereignty.
By proposing a Senate with equal representation, we ensure that every country, Germany and Malta alike, are seen as equal sovereign states. By having the Assembly, we transcend the borders and acknowledge we are all European members of a liberal-Christian heritage.
The EU should focus on fulfilling its original aims, before it contemplates moving to other matters, if indeed it ever should. We do not as yet have free trade and the Franco-German axis espouses protectionist ideals: they even tried to write out the idea of free trade from this last treaty. We do not have free movement of people, as only three of the original fifteen EU states allowed the ten new members to have access to their workforce, and all have clamped down on Romania and Bulgaria. If the EU wants to expand and benefit the people of Europe, it needs to stop playing political games and striving for political union, and focus on becoming a trading block to rival the huge markets of the USA, China, Brazil and India.
The EU should also focus in on democracy and on global trade. Internationally it should lead a greater movement for free -trade, in a positive way that protects the poorest nations and peoples around the world. The Euro-Med Partnership could be expanded to encourage a free trade zone in place of the present EU-dominated bilateral agreements, a move that would I believe also foster greater harmony between the EU and her neighbouring Muslim states. It should expand in areas such as collaborated aid to ensure that the G8 pledges and UN development aims are spearheaded by EU action. It should also work to help harmonise trading within states, to ensure an EU standard which can be respected and designed eventually to become a benchmark for a global standard.
The EU should also focus on areas of common mutual gain: eradicating disease, working on common scientific developments and tackling global warming, thus ensuring that Europe leads the scientific future.
Trade, democracy, justice, sovereignty, global warming, science and development are all areas as Europeans we can cooperate on to great effect and mutual benefit, but the EU seems rather to be intent on focusing on the minutiae of the lives of its citizens: it continues to be prescriptive. By moving the EU Parliament to the heart, the EU can become democratically accountable; by making a second equally-weighted chamber, we can ensure equal sovereignty. This body, this Parliament, elected by us – all of us – should be at the centre of the EU, making the decisions, and should even elect the new longer term President. The current collaboration of leaders looking for headlines means that smaller countries get browbeaten to accept a less fair deal: even a state the size of the UK has to accept compromises.