Last week, Ken Clarke was reported in several national newspapers stating that “we face a difficult two or three years”. Whilst this is undoubtedly the fault of the previous Government and a consequence of the financial and banking crisis, in part the difficulty also stems – as I indicated before the General Election and in my election address – from a failure to recognise the need to get on with establishing policies for growth.
On the economy, my election address referred to the then net debt as being “over £2.65 trillion including hidden costs, e.g. public sector pensions, not the £1 trillion the Government has misleadingly claimed” and I issued a statement on “Telling the Truth to the British people on actual debt”. Even now this is not being fully recognised. It also said “Only the Conservative Party offers new hope and the rebirth of enterprise and stability and jobs. Every penny of public expenditure comes from private enterprise…”, which was essential to acknowledge.
Indeed, there is going to be serious trouble from the public sector – and the trade unions are already flexing their muscles in the light of the austerity measures which have been necessarily taken. The issue of bank bonuses on which so much time is spent is important – but less important by far than the means to achieving growth.
We cannot and need not wait to improve growth. This means competitive trading. But 50% of our trade is in the crisis-ridden EU devastated by riots, protests and its own low growth – the product of failed EU economic governance.
Our balance of payments with the EU-27 between 1999-2009 has worsened by £5bn whilst with the rest of the world it has improved by £11bn.
We must therefore veto any Treaty for economic governance, fiscal, social and similar policies. These will massively affect us even if the Treaty applies only to the eurozone, as a leader in The Times (£) (13th January) has indicated.
The Times also called for a referendum on such a Treaty under the EU Bill but this is shut out by the Clause 4 exemption. The Government should accept our amendments to get this right.
Camilla Cavendish was also in The Times (£) more recently, on 27th January, explaining why we must repeal “crazy red tape” to achieve growth. EU regulation is 50% of our economic regulation, costing British business £124 billion since 1998. We must stick to the Conservative manifesto commitment to repatriate EU social and employment legislation, for which the EU Bill, again, does not provide.
Stopping EU economic governance and repatriating EU regulations would transform the UK economic landscape. Both require unravelling existing EU legislation. The EU Bill deals only with the future and not the effect on us of the present EU crisis. We should amend the European Union Bill now, in the Report stage, before it is too late.