Owen Paterson gives a speech to Business for Britain this morning. He’ll call on David Cameron to get serious about renegotiating Britain’s relationship with Europe. He will call on Mr Cameron to promise to trigger the little known but potentially transformational Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – if the Conservatives win the next election. This effectively gives Brussels notice that Britain intends to leave the EU unless it delivers significant renegotiation. Rather than piggy backing on a wider renegotiation of the EU, following an Article 50 pathway would mean other EU states will have to decide whether to address Britain’s concerns or not. The British people would then approve or reject the new settlement in a referendum in 2017.
Mr Paterson’s preference is for Britain to leave all of the EU’s political structures and become part of a new and reformed European free trade area. He argues that most of the key banking and trading rules that govern UK companies aren’t decided at the European level but in international bodies. Outside of the EU Britain would have its own seat at the top table of all of these bodies – and not have to rely on EU bureaucrats to represent British interests. Matt Ridley identifies these global bodies sitting above the EU in his column for today’s Times.
Owen Paterson has particularly strong words for the CBI and other big business groups who, he believes, stand in the way of a reformed EU:
“They wanted us to join the Euro fifteen years ago. That would have been a disaster. Now they insist we stay in the EU. They say three million jobs are at risk if we were to leave the EU. That is misleading. They’re treating the British people as fools.”
A recent YouTube video reminds us of how so many big business groups and pro-EU politicians wanted the UK to join the Euro. They were wrong then, it thunders, and they are wrong now.
This is Paterson’s second big speech since exiting the Cabinet in July. He’s already laid into the Green Blob – the environmental groups that support “ruinously expensive” wind farms but oppose the potentially lucrative and emission-cutting energy source of fracking. He doesn’t deny that global warming is real but he doesn’t think it is happening as quickly as the doom mongers claim. “We have,” he says, “time to use new technologies to reduce emissions over a longer time frame.” China isn’t planning to start cutting emissions until much cheaper and more reliable forms of green energy have been developed. Neither should Britain.
In my interview with Paterson for today’s Times he says he has no regrets about opposing gay marriage. “I don’t regret my vote. It’s important to be consistent in politics.” He also insists he has zero ambition to become Tory leader. Instead he wants to use his new UK2020 think tank to set out “robust Conservative policies” to win back the voters who’ve given up on the Tories – especially those who’ve gone in UKIP’s direction.