Transcript of David Cameron's Speech on European Union Membership

By David Cameron

This morning I want to talk about the future of Europe.

But first, let us remember the past.

Seventy years ago, Europe was being torn apart by its second catastrophic conflict in a generation. A war which saw the streets of European cities strewn with rubble. The skies of London lit by flames night after night. And millions dead across the world in the battle for peace and liberty.

As we remember their sacrifice, so we should also remember how the shift in Europe from war to sustained peace came about. It did not happen like a change in the weather. It happened because of determined work over generations. A commitment to friendship and a resolve never to re-visit that dark past - a commitment epitomised by the Elysee Treaty signed 50 years ago this week.

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After the Berlin Wall came down I visited that city and I will never forget it.

The abandoned checkpoints. The sense of excitement about the future. The knowledge that a great continent was coming together. Healing those wounds of our history is the central story of the European Union.

What Churchill described as the twin marauders of war and tyranny have been almost entirely banished from our continent. Today, hundreds of millions dwell in freedom, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, from the Western Approaches to the Aegean.

And while we must never take this for granted, the first purpose of the European Union - to secure peace - has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside NATO, who made that happen.

But today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is different: not to win peace, but to secure prosperity.

The challenges come not from within this continent but outside it. From the surging economies in the East and South. Of course a growing world economy benefits us all, but we should be in no doubt that a new global race of nations is underway today.

A race for the wealth and jobs of the future.

The map of global influence is changing before our eyes. And these changes are already being felt by the entrepreneur in the Netherlands, the worker in Germany, the family in Britain.

So I want to speak to you today with urgency and frankness about the European Union and how it must change - both to deliver prosperity and to retain the support of its peoples.

But first, I want to set out the spirit in which I approach these issues.

I know that the United Kingdom is sometimes seen as an argumentative and rather strong-minded member of the family of European nations.

And it's true that our geography has shaped our psychology.

We have the character of an island nation - independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty.

We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel.

And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.

For us, the European Union is a means to an end - prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores - not an end in itself.

We insistently ask: How? Why? To what end?

But all this doesn't make us somehow un-European.
The fact is that ours is not just an island story - it is also a continental story.

For all our connections to the rest of the world - of which we are rightly proud - we have always been a European power - and we always will be.

From Caesar's legions to the Napoleonic Wars. From the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution to the defeat of Nazism. We have helped to write European history, and Europe has helped write ours.

Over the years, Britain has made her own, unique contribution to Europe. We have provided a haven to those fleeing tyranny and persecution. And in Europe's darkest hour, we helped keep the flame of liberty alight. Across the continent, in silent cemeteries, lie the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who gave their lives for Europe's freedom.

In more recent decades, we have played our part in tearing down the Iron Curtain and championing the entry into the EU of those countries that lost so many years to Communism. And contained in this history is the crucial point about Britain, our national character, our attitude to Europe.

Britain is characterised not just by its independence but, above all, by its openness.

We have always been a country that reaches out. That turns its face to the world...
That leads the charge in the fight for global trade and against protectionism.

This is Britain today, as it's always been:Independent, yes - but open, too.

I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat from the world.

I am not a British isolationist.

I don't just want a better deal for Britain. I want a better deal for Europe too.

So I speak as British Prime Minister with a positive vision for the future of the European Union. A future in which Britain wants, and should want, to play a committed and active part.

Some might then ask: why raise fundamental questions about the future of Europe when Europe is already in the midst of a deep crisis?

Why raise questions about Britain's role when support in Britain is already so thin.

There are always voices saying "don't ask the difficult questions."

But it's essential for Europe - and for Britain - that we do because there are three major challenges confronting us today.

First, the problems in the Eurozone are driving fundamental change in Europe.
Second, there is a crisis of European competitiveness, as other nations across the world soar ahead. And third, there is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years. And which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is - yes - felt particularly acutely in Britain.

If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit.

I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success. And I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it.

That is why I am here today: To acknowledge the nature of the challenges we face. To set out how I believe the European Union should respond to them. And to explain what I want to achieve for Britain and its place within the European Union.

Let me start with the nature of the challenges we face.

First, the Eurozone.

The future shape of Europe is being forged. There are some serious questions that will define the future of the European Union - and the future of every country within it.

The Union is changing to help fix the currency - and that has profound implications for all of us, whether we are in the single currency or not.

Britain is not in the single currency, and we're not going to be. But we all need the Eurozone to have the right governance and structures to secure a successful currency for the long term.

And those of us outside the Eurozone also need certain safeguards to ensure, for example, that our access to the Single Market is not in any way compromised.

 

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David Cameron is prime minister of the United Kingdom.

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