How do you influence the EU?

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On New Year’s Day,  John Redwood MP wrote an entry in his Diary about wielding influence in Europe: what works and what doesn’t. 

“Whenever the UK disagrees with the EU we are told we are ” marginalised” and will lose influence. It is another case of EU double speak, because history shows it is only when we disagree strongly with the EU do we ever get anything we might want.

Margaret Thatcher’s most public disagreement with the EU was over the size of the UK financial contribution. She gained a new settlement which saved us substantial sums.

John Major disagreed over the Euro and gained us a valuable opt out which we still use to this day. It’s a pity he did not just veto the whole Maastricht Treaty, as David Cameron did with the recent Fiscal Treaty.

David Cameron is demanding changes over borders and benefits. Already we hear noises from the continent that some changes will be possible, though not yet enough to satisfy us. There would have been no offers on these topics at all without the UK expressing disagreement with the current position.

Labour’s approach of agreeing with anything the centralisers in the EU  bureaucracy wanted and then either telling the UK it was good for us, or playing it down as an insignificant or unimportant change was the opposite of having influence. There was  no strategic aim for the UK within the EU, and no successes of this craven policy.

Some in the UK establishment seem to be afraid of Germany, and think we need to be pliant supplicants at the court of Mrs Merkel. I see it as the other way round. The UK’s relationship with Germany should be based on the central proposition that we are a crucial customer for their industry, buying much larger volumes of goods from them than we sell to them. As customer we should be able to tell our supplier what we want and expect to have more of  our wishes met. Our bargaining position is much stronger than the pro EU sell out officials and politicians would have you believe.

John Redwood is Conservative MP for Wokingham. This piece was originally published in John Redwood’s Diary on 1 January 2015, click here to read it.

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