Nadhim Zahawi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Stratford On Avon.
The rarest of events happened last week. Jean Claude Juncker did us a favour. The President of the European Commission set out his vision of where the European Union will go, and it could not have been a better explanation of why the United Kingdom should leave.
Juncker detailed his view that more help should be given to countries to join the Euro as soon as possible, and that there should be a European finance minister. In addition, despite attempts by many countries to enhance intra-EU border security during the migrant crisis, and controversies around the free movement of terrorists, he also wants Schengen to be widened.
The President also demonstrated his trademark distaste for democracy and his desire to silence individual nations’ voices. He set out his plan for MEP elections, already a complicated mystery to many in the UK, to be elected from across Europe, rather than representing any particular region. Even worse, he wants to see just one President of the European Union because ‘Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship’. This roughly translates to having someone able to overrule the wishes of the leaders and democracies of member states.
We should not pretend that this speech was met with universal acclaim. The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte said that, if Juncker was having visions, he should go to the doctor, and that he would not support the extension of Schengen to include Bulgaria and Romania.
However, we should also not be blind to history. The EU bureaucrats have often had lofty goals from the creation of Schengen itself to the creation of an entirely new currency. There has always been opposition, but it has never diverted the EU from its slow, steady and determined progress towards its goals. Juncker’s vision will not come to pass tomorrow, it may not come to pass for a few years, but this is the direction that the bloc is heading.
The most convincing argument to leave the European Union, and one of the key factors in my own decision that we were better off out, is that the status quo was not on the table. The EU does not pause from its goal of creating more institutions, controlling more decisions and widening membership. It may experience setbacks, but it always grinds forward.
And this destination of the EU is one that the UK could never accept. I was firmly of the belief that if the UK did not leave last year, then it would eventually find itself on the outside anyway. Our country would not acquiesce to being one part of a superstate. The only question is whether it is best to leave now or in a number of years’ time, after further integration and entanglement.
Our vote to leave is not about holding anything against our European friends, it’s just that they appear to be determined to go in a direction that isn’t right for us. I hope that this attitude is reflected in Theresa May’s speech in Florence on Friday.
The Prime Minister should make it her goal to remove the acrimony from negotiations. We are not intent on undermining the European Union, we are not intent on encouraging others to leave, we are not intent on stopping European Union member states from doing whatever they want to do with regards to their own borders, their own economies and their own currency. We just don’t agree with what they want. It’s not right for the United Kingdom
Our country should pay the debts that we are legally obligated to pay. We should happily cover our payments we previously said we would make until the end of the current EU budget period. We should also be willing to consider paying for continued access to the single market, in order to contribute to the costs of supporting the bureaucracy required to ensure the harmonisation of regulation that is needed for such a market to exist. We should also be willing to contribute to the costs of organisations that we wish to remain part of or collaborate with after leaving, whether that is European space programmes, ERASMUS, Horizon 2020, Europol or the European Medicines Agency. In addition, we should make clear that we will stand squarely behind our European allies’ security with our military and intelligence assets.
Juncker has given the Prime Minister the perfect context to explain why we wish to politely leave. Theresa May now has to make clear that we plan to leave in an orderly way that will be beneficial for everyone, while committing to continuing our partnerships in the future.