David Cameron now carries less influence in Europe, not more

27th May, 2014 7:00 am

Today David Cameron travels to Brussels for talks with other European leaders on the future of Europe, following this weekend’s European Parliament elections.

But the result of these elections for David Cameron is that he now carries less influence in Europe, not more.


Because having lost so many of his MEPs – including the leader of the Tories fringe ECR Group, Martin Callanan – David Cameron will now find it harder to seek credible partners to help deliver the reform in Europe that Britain needs.

In recent months David Cameron has already missed opportunities to use Britain’s influence to try and push forward a serious reform agenda in Europe.

The coming weeks will be a further critical moment, as a new Commission and Parliament are confirmed, to win allies for a sensible set of reforms that are both in Britain’s interest and will make the EU work better for the people of Europe.

Right across the EU, frustration with the way Europe works is palpable. The message from last week’s European election results is clear: people do want to see changes in Europe, but we must use this window of opportunity to shape that change in a positive way.

Labour has long been making the case for EU reform with a renewed focus on jobs and growth. But in order to try and avoid further divisions in the Tory Party the Prime Minister has put off making a clear case for reform until after next years General Election.

By putting Party before country, focusing only on trying to keep his Eurosceptic backbenchers content; the Prime Minister has missed key opportunities to champion the reforms Europe needs.

So after these elections, the focus across Europe now clearly needs to be on generating economic growth.

Labour has said that key to this would be the introduction of a Commissioner for Growth; a senior Commissioner with a clear responsibility for championing policies that promote economic growth across every part of the Commission’s work.

Such a proposal – long advocated by Labour – is just one of the ideas David Cameron could be championing at today’s meeting. Along with an independent audit of the impact of any new piece of EU legislation on growth and a new drive to complete the digital, energy and services single market.

Next on the Prime Minister’s reform list should be urgent changes to the EU’s budget.

EU institutions must become more efficient, which is why Labour have called for a zero based review of expenditure by EU agencies to help ensure that any overlap, duplication or waste is addressed and tackled.

Labour have also led calls for reform of the CAP, a reduction in the EU’s budget and the scrapping the unnecessary Strasbourg Parliament which alone would save taxpayers over €100 million a year.

Changes to the relationship between our Parliament and the work of the EU are also urgently needed: that is why Labout has called for a consultation on a dedicated EU Select Committee; for national parliaments to have a greater role in EU decision making by being able to come together to ‘red-card’ new EU legislation before it comes into force and a radical change to the process of appointing the UK’s EU Commissioner – giving our Parliament more of a say.

At today’s meeting the Prime Minister should also be advocating for the reforms set out by Labour which would help to ensure that EU citizens seeking work here are expected to contribute to our economy and to our society.

These include an extension of the period of time that people from new member states have to wait before being able to come to the UK to look for work; the stopping of benefit payments to those not resident in this country and the doubling of the time that EU migrants have to wait before being able to claim the basic Job Seekers Allowance.

David Cameron needs to seize the opportunity today to seek agreement with other European leaders on a series of key reforms in Brussels. Instead of putting the needs of his own Party first, he should be persuading EU leaders to introduce a new jobs and growth agenda, more accountability of EU institutions to our Parliament and better scrutiny of European affairs within our own country.

This week’s election results give a clear impetus for real change across the EU. The tragedy for Britain will be if David Cameron wastes this opportunity because he is more afraid of the changes afoot within his own party.

Gareth Thomas is the Shadow Europe Minister

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