Douglas Carswell is MP for Clacton and he blogs at TalkCarswell.
Exactly one year ago to the day, at an emergency meeting of EU finance ministers, Chancellor Alistair Darling, committed us to bailing out the Eurozone. The deal he struck has made UK taxpayers liable for over £10 Billion. So far.
By any measure, this has been a disastrous deal for Britain. Having spent twelve months struggling to cut public spending by £6 Billion, we have ratcheted up liabilities worth far more.
Why then are ministers about to promote one of the senior officials behind the disastrous deal – Sir Jon Cunliffe – to be the next head the UK Permanent Representation to the EU?
Through an accident of history, the Prime Minister has inherited more or less intact the powers that once attached to the monarch: the award of peerages, treaty-making powers and, much the most important, the power to appoint officials.
In a Westminster Hall debate today, I will be proposing that these powers should pass to Parliament. Having freed Commons select committees from the dead hand of party whips, Commons committees should now be given the task of holding the executive to account with confirmation hearings for key appointments – starting with Jon Cunliffe’s.
UKREP’s own website states that UKREP “represents the UK in negotiations that take place at the EU level, ensuring that Britain's interests are heard”. But at what point do those who profess to represent our national interests answer to the nation for the deals they strike in our name?
The conventional model of accountability for European policy via ministers to Parliament no longer works. The Brussels agenda is too vast and all embracing, the scope of deal making too wide for ministers to track it working two or three days a week from London. It leaves too many ministers signing off on deals they did not actually author – as seems to have happened at both Ecofin meetings last May.
It is this, more than anything, which explains why Justine Greening MP, the Treasury minister, was able to write to the Lords EU Select Committee that “While these decisions [about joining the bailout mechanism] were taken by the previous Government, this Government judges them to be an appropriate response to the crisis.” Ministers may change, but the permanent officials who really decide stay the same.
Without effective Parliamentary oversight, those salaried officials negotiating with Brussels last May managed to make us liable to bailing out a common currency of which we are not even a part. Requiring Jon Cunliffe to appear before the Foreign Affairs select committee to explain why he is the best man to bat for Britain in Brussels might just begin the process of realigning the policy officials pursue in our name with the kind of Europe policy the rest of us would like to see.