By Tim Montgomerie
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At last night's Lord Mayor's Banquet David Cameron made the most Eurosceptic speech of his time as Tory leader. The 81 rebels can be very proud of what they've achieved. They'll need to keep the pressure up, however. Most of David Cameron's words represented bold ambitions but didn't add up to any specifics. The PM's full speech can be read on the Number 10 website, and extracts watched here but I summarise it below.
Britain must remain part of the EU: "We are a member of the European Union. The strength of our own economy is closely linked to the rest of Europe. So we have a profound national interest in ensuring the swift resolution of the crisis in the Eurozone and a return to growth. What was the European Community, now the EU, has been an effective anchor for democracy and prosperity. It has helped transform Eastern Europe, build alliances, boost trade, knock down old obstacles to freedom and success… European countries account for 50 per cent of our trade and much of our inward investment. Leaving the EU is not in our national interest. Outside, we would end up like Norway, subject to every rule for the Single Market made in Brussels but unable to shape those rules. And believe me: if we weren’t in there helping write the rules they would be written without us – the biggest supporter of open markets and free trade – and we wouldn’t like the outcome."
The EU's problems currently overshadow its achievements: "Today – to the outside world and to the citizens of its own countries – the EU’s achievements are dramatically overshadowed by its problems. It’s not just the crisis in the Eurozone – urgent and all consuming though that is. It’s how out of touch the EU has become when its institutions are demanding budget increases while Europe’s citizens tighten their belts. It’s the pointless interference, rules and regulations that stifle growth not unleash it. The sense that the EU is somehow an abstract end in itself, immune from developments in the real world, rather than a means of helping to deliver better living standards for the people of its Nations."
Now is a time for EU reform: "Out of crisis can come opportunity for the European Union, if its Member States are ready to grasp it. Now is the chance to ask: what kind of Europe do we actually want? For me, the answer is clear. One that is outward-looking – with its eyes to the world not gazing inwards. One with the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc – whose institutions help by connecting and strengthening its members to thrive in a vibrant world, rather than holding them back. One that understands and values national identity and sees the diversity of Europe’s nations as source of strength.
EU reform must focus on economic dynamism: "Britain’s EU growth plan is focused – together with other allies – on promoting open markets, flexible economies and enterprise. And it’s why we must continue to work with the European Commission for the completion of the single market in services. The opening up of our energy markets and the scrapping of the bureaucracy that makes it so hard to start a new business."
Reform must be "fundamental": "Change brings opportunities. An opportunity to begin to refashion the EU so it better serves this nation’s interests and the interests of its other 26 nations too. An opportunity, in Britain’s case, for powers to ebb back instead of flow away and for the European Union to focus on what really matters. To underpin prosperity, stability and growth. That is kind of fundamental reform I yearn for. And I am determined to do everything possible to deliver it."
The Prime Minister also used his speech to address other issues. Key extracts are published below:
The Libyan intervention helped keep the Arab Spring alive: "In Libya, it’s true, we didn’t have to get involved. Some told us we shouldn’t because they said it would only end in failure. Some said we couldn’t because they said Britain didn’t have the military might any more. Well, to those who predicted failure, look at what we have achieved. We saved civilian lives as Gaddafi’s tanks bore down on Bengahzi. We helped the Libyan people to liberate themselves. And we now have… the prospect of a new partner in the Southern Mediterranean… stronger alliances with our friends in the Gulf… and a refreshed defence relationship with France. I would argue that our action helped keep the Arab Spring alive. And it’s also worth noting that although Gaddafi agreed to declare and dismantle all his weapons of mass destruction… and although we made real progress diminishing the threat he posed… in the last few days we have learnt that the new Libyan authorities have found chemical weapons that were kept hidden from the world."
Libya worked because the intervention was humble and focused: "Look at the reasons for the success of the Libya campaign. We set limited goals and stuck to them. We worked with allies. We went through the United Nations. We had the support of the people. We didn’t presume to tell people what sort of government they should have. But we held our nerve when critics here said we should give up. We should be grateful for the incredible skill of British and other coalition pilots who ensured that the number of civilian casualties of the air attacks was so low."
Libya proved Britain still has adequate defence capacities: "To those who said Britain didn’t have the resources to intervene in Libya, let me just say this. We deployed 8 Typhoons in Libya. We’ve got 72, with more on the way. We deployed 16 of 136 Tornadoes and 5 of our 67 attack helicopters. This operation was well within our capabilities and will remain so… Libya underlined the need for us to reshape our armed forces as rapidly as possible. Fewer main battle tanks, more drones, more helicopters, more transport aircraft. We are going to need a different kind of military to meet different kinds of threat."
There will be no UK combat troops in Afghanistan by 2014: "Why are we still in Afghanistan? And for how much longer? Let me answer. We are there to prevent Afghanistan from ever being used again as a base from which to launch attacks on this country or our allies. We are now reaching the point when the Afghans can secure their country for themselves. That is why I have been very clear – and I repeat here tonight – by the end of 2014 there will be no British troops serving in Afghanistan in a combat role."
The enormous reach of the UK aid budget: "The answer to the legitimate concern that too much aid money gets wasted – isn’t to walk away. It’s to change the way we do development. By 2015 UK aid will secure schooling for more children than we educate in the UK but at one-fortieth of the cost. And we will help vaccinate more children against preventable diseases than there are people in the whole of England. That’s the kind of aid I believe in."