Transcript of David Cameron's Speech on European Union Membership

By David Cameron
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And it's right we begin to address these issues now.

Second, while there are some countries within the EU which are doing pretty well. Taken as a whole, Europe's share of world output is projected to fall by almost a third in the next two decades. This is the competitiveness challenge - and much of our weakness in meeting it is self-inflicted.

Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that's been visited on our businesses.

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These problems have been around too long. And the progress in dealing with them, far too slow.

As Chancellor Merkel has said - if Europe today accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world's population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, then it's obvious that it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life.

Third, there is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems.

People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent.

We are starting to see this in the demonstrations on the streets of Athens, Madrid and Rome. We are seeing it in the parliaments of Berlin, Helsinki and the Hague.

And yes, of course, we are seeing this frustration with the EU very dramatically in Britain.

Europe's leaders have a duty to hear these concerns. Indeed, we have a duty to act on them. And not just to fix the problems in the Eurozone.

For just as in any emergency you should plan for the aftermath as well as dealing with the present crisis so too in the midst of the present challenges we should plan for the future, and what the world will look like when the difficulties in the Eurozone have been overcome.

The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy. In its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point.

And my point is this. More of the same will not secure a long-term future for the Eurozone. More of the same will not see the European Union keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same - less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs.

And that will make our countries weaker not stronger.

That is why we need fundamental, far-reaching change.

So let me set out my vision for a new European Union, fit for the 21st Century.

It is built on five principles.

The first: competitiveness. At the core of the European Union must be, as it is now, the single market. Britain is at the heart of that Single Market, and must remain so.

But when the Single Market remains incomplete in services, energy and digital - the very sectors that are the engines of a modern economy - it is only half the success it could be.

It is nonsense that people shopping online in some parts of Europe are unable to access the best deals because of where they live. I want completing the single market to be our driving mission.

I want us to be at the forefront of transformative trade deals with the US, Japan and India as part of the drive towards global free trade. And I want us to be pushing to exempt Europe's smallest entrepreneurial companies from more EU Directives.

These should be the tasks that get European officials up in the morning - and keep them working late into the night. And so we urgently need to address the sclerotic, ineffective decision making that is holding us back.

That means creating a leaner, less bureaucratic Union, relentlessly focused on helping its member countries to compete.

In a global race, can we really justify the huge number of expensive peripheral European institutions?

Can we justify a Commission that gets ever larger?

Can we carry on with an organisation that has a multi-billion pound budget but not enough focus on controlling spending and shutting down programmes that haven't worked?

And I would ask: when the competitiveness of the Single Market is so important, why is there an environment council, a transport council, an education council but not a single market council?

The second principle should be flexibility.

We need a structure that can accommodate the diversity of its members - North, South, East, West, large, small, old and new. Some of whom are contemplating much closer economic and political integration. And many others, including Britain, who would never embrace that goal.

I accept, of course, that for the single market to function we need a common set of rules and a way of enforcing them. But we also need to be able to respond quickly to the latest developments and trends.

Competitiveness demands flexibility, choice and openness - or Europe will fetch up in a no-man's land between the rising economies of Asia and market-driven North America.

The EU must be able to act with the speed and flexibility of a network, not the cumbersome rigidity of a bloc.

We must not be weighed down by an insistence on a one size fits all approach which implies that all countries want the same level of integration. The fact is that they don't and we shouldn't assert that they do.

Some will claim that this offends a central tenet of the EU's founding philosophy. I say it merely reflects the reality of the European Union today. 17 members are part of the Eurozone. 10 are not.

26 European countries are members of Schengen - including four outside the European Union - Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. 2 EU countries - Britain and Ireland - have retained their border controls.


Some members, like Britain and France, are ready, willing and able to take action in Libya or Mali. Others are uncomfortable with the use of military force.

Let's welcome that diversity, instead of trying to snuff it out.

Let's stop all this talk of two-speed Europe, of fast lanes and slow lanes, of countries missing trains and buses, and consign the whole weary caravan of metaphors to a permanent siding.

Instead, let's start from this proposition: we are a family of democratic nations, all members of one European Union, whose essential foundation is the single market rather than the single currency. Those of us outside the euro recognise that those in it are likely to need to make some big institutional changes.

By the same token, the members of the Eurozone should accept that we, and indeed all Member States, will have changes that we need to safeguard our interests and strengthen democratic legitimacy. And we should be able to make these changes too.

Some say this will unravel the principle of the EU - and that you can't pick and choose on the basis of what your nation needs.

But far from unravelling the EU, this will in fact bind its Members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre.

Let me make a further heretical proposition.

The European Treaty commits the Member States to "lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe".

This has been consistently interpreted as applying not to the peoples but rather to the states and institutions compounded by a European Court of Justice that has consistently supported greater centralisation.

We understand and respect the right of others to maintain their commitment to this goal. But for Britain - and perhaps for others - it is not the objective.

 

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David Cameron is prime minister of the United Kingdom.

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