I have just watched the second half of the Prime Minister’s appearance in front of the EU Scrutiny Committee, and you will not be surprised to learn that I was deeply, deeply disappointed. Cameron had a full 90 minutes in which to misrepresent his “new settlement” as presaging a “reformed EU” with a “special status” for Britain. Not once was he challenged on the issue of the text’s “legally binding” character.
Parliament is supposed to hold the executive to account, not meekly accept the Prime Minister’s misrepresentations and dissembling. For the sake of brevity, I shall alight on just one of the points that Cameron made:
If we want, as I want, a big bold Britain getting out there… being in the European Union doesn’t restrain our ability to get things done, it increases it.
This struck a cord with me in light on the posts I have composed and published over recent days. EU membership undoubtedly restricts Britain’s freedom of action—globally and domestically.
Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union binds the UK to the EU’s “common position” on the global standards-setting bodies where a very large proportion of Single Market regulations originate.
The Common Commercial Policy doesn’t only restrict but eliminates Britain’s freedom of action in the area of trade with what the EU calls third-countries. Trade is an exclusive EU competency.
Britain has also surrendered control over what were some of the most productive fishing grounds on the planet under the auspices of the environmentally and ecologically ruinous Common Fisheries Policy, another exclusive EU competency.
The Common Agricultural Policy likewise restrains Britain’s ability to pursue autonomous goals in the area of food production and rural development. Are you starting to see the picture here?
The EU Birds and Habitats Directives provide the framework for Britain’s environmental policy. The EU also has a Common Energy Policy, as well as competency in the areas of foreign aid, foreign affairs and defence policy, as determined by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affair’s and as administrated by the EU External Action Service.
EU membership makes policy-making more remote and less accountable to national electorates. That might suit David Cameron and the rest of the political class, but it does not serve us. Taking that confident step out of the smoke and mirrors of the supranational EU into the bracing light of independent self-government and full global engagement is the responsible and empowering choice.