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Britain has the power to shape the EU

January 31, 2014 8:13 AM
By Ming Campbell MP in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

A report on the successes and failures in Britain's Europe policy, published today by British Influence shows that we have the power to shape the EU, if we wield it correctly. The report, by a cross-party panel of EU experts on which I served, shows that Britain has either achieved its objectives or is on track to achieve them in nine out of ten of the policy areas, but it makes clear that we will only be able to achieve more if we lead in a cooperative manner.

There are parts of the EU which need to be reformed. There is a need to reinforce the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, and the single market can be expanded and deepened to the benefit of British businesses and the British people. To do this we must identify our allies and work in cooperation to change Europe, not use the threat of exit to demand that we be treated as an exception.

One of our key allies is the Netherlands, who often share our view about the direction of the EU. They are concerned by the perception that powers are sometimes unnecessarily taken to Brussels and that this goes against the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity to which both our governments are committed. They are natural partners in making sure these principles are respected by the EU institutions.

As is Germany, whose Government is concerned that too much involvement from Brussels may inhibit the growth of the single market. It is vital that we approach them with a co-operative frame of mind because the Germans will not bend to threats of exit.

Furthermore, the Central and Eastern European countries who joined over the last decade place great value on EU membership. Allies, like Britain, who speak from a liberal perspective are hugely important to them.

So the opportunities for Britain to work in cooperation with other member states to shape Europe are there. We can present a vision of greater subsidiarity and proportionality combined with further action on market liberalisation, on tackling climate change and on promoting the values we all share throughout the wider world. We have a much better chance of changing things than saying, "do this or we'll walk out".

By co-operating with other EU countries we empower ourselves to further Britain's interests in Europe. By taking the wrong tone, we isolate ourselves and put those goals out of reach.

* Sir Menzies (Ming) Campbell is the MP for North East Fife, and a former leader of the Liberal Democrats

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