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SHOULD WE RENEGOTIATE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EU? George Eustice MP and Wayne David MP clash at the border between euro-championism and euroscepticism
At times of crisis, the future belongs to those with both a plan and the political will to drive it through. The EU’s flagship policy, the euro, is currently in crisis and we need to ensure that it is a beneficial one.
Rewriting EU treaties to provide for the gradual breaking-up of the euro would require negotiations that could alter the very shape of the EU, and it is an opportunity for which we must plan. It should become a key objective of British foreign policy to break the power of centralised European institutions like the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and to streamline the EU so that it does less, but actually delivers in the areas where it is capable of adding value.
Many eurosceptics are weary of talk of reforming the EU, and who can blame them? There will be some political forces within the EU who will seek to exploit Europe’s latest crisis to make the case for deeper integration, as they have always done in the past. But what if this time it really is diﬀerent? The mood has changed, here and in many other EU countries where national parliaments are increasingly restless. The tide is against those who favour integration. One Brussels-based lobbyist recently told me that the whole place feels rudderless and stale.
For many years, there was a tension between the conflicting agendas of expanding the EU or delivering deeper cohesion between existing members. The more countries you have, the harder it is to get agreement and the fewer things the EU can do collectively. The expansion of the EU to 27 member states ought to have been a triumph for British foreign policy, but weakness and confusion in the Blair era prevented Britain from following this success through to re-order the EU in the way that was required. Instead, the jaded 1970s agenda of ‘ever closer union’ survived and, as a result, the EU is a failing institution with a questionable future.
We have an opportunity to get the EU back on track, but if it is to become fit for purpose in the 21st century, it needs to do less collectively. We need to replace ‘ever closer union’ with a new prominence for European localism. The concept of subsidiarity lost credibility in the 1990s because it was never followed through and because out-of-touch EU institutions saw it in terms of them delegating powers to EU regions rather than nation states demanding the repatriation of powers. What if the treaties were to make clear that subsidiarity to nation states took precedence? The ECJ would then be obliged to interpret case law accordingly, and the tide might turn.
But I wouldn’t hold your breath. No one would be happier than me if the EU grew up, learned from its
12 | November 2011 | Total Politics mistakes and started to yield actively to demands for the repatriation of powers to national governments, but that is not in the nature of the mediocre bureaucratic oﬃcials. Therefore, Britain must be willing to use its negotiating position to strike a new relationship with the EU. The crisis in the eurozone means that the whole situation has changed – this is a time for British leadership. If the eurozone countries decide to integrate politically and fiscally, then the relationship will have to be renegotiated, because some of the measures we are already signed up to will behave diﬀerently and against our national interest.
Some say that now is not the time to talk about renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU; the euro is feeble and the countries that use it are not capable of withstanding democratic process or discussion about the euro’s future. I say that now is not the time to put our heads in the sand and ignore the failure of the euro. Those who want to sweep discussion about the future of the EU under the carpet now are those who told us a decade ago to close our eyes and blindly join the crackpot euro project against all serious economic opinion. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. u George Eustice is the Conservative
MP for Camborne and Redruth
I am concerned about Britain’s national interest. As the eurozone crisis continues, there are increasing numbers of shrill voices from the eurosceptic right who are seeking to exploit the zone’s diﬃculties. To a empt to exploit this serious situation in such a way is, I believe, mistaken, and it threatens to undermine the objective interests of our country.
There are two reasons for this view. Firstly, as most people surely recognise, the prosperity of Britain is directly linked to the economies of countries which make up the European Union and the eurozone. Over half of the UK’s trade is with our EU partners, and about 40 per cent is with the 17 countries of the eurozone. Gloating at the current diﬃculties of the zone and threatening to hold its member countries to ransom is not a sound basis on which to develop our relationship with those countries that have such a big influence on our economic wellbeing. If Britain is to recover from its economic malaise, we need easy access to a successful eurozone for the goods we produce. TheEconomist magazine has argued that those who seek to exploit the current crisis – by arguing either for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU or for
All too often, when the government does engage over Europe, its messages are often vacuous and lacking in conviction and, on occasion, even contradictory a minimalist relationship that does not extend beyond the single market – risk taking Britain from its current position of irrelevance in these ma ers to absolute isolation. Britain is not, and never can be, a second Switzerland or Norway. We are a major trading nation and long may we remain so.
My second reason relates to Britain’s economic future. If the economy is to recover, we need EU member countries to experience significant growth, not merely belt-tightening austerity. Rather than absenting itself from discussions about how Europe can revive its flagging economy, our government ought to be arguing the case for a coherent growth strategy. Such a strategy would be in Britain’s national interest and in the interest of the eurozone. A central part of that approach must be a deepening of the single European market, and we need to be there at the table, making sure that any proposals for eurozone governance does not impact negatively upon the UK. Simply keeping our fingers crossed is not good enough. If British business is excluded from any corner of the single market, the economic consequence for our country will be serious indeed.
Rather than being defensive, we need urgent proactivity to unleash and stimulate the potential for job creation across Europe. The single market needs to be completed. Digitalisation needs to be made a priority, and innovation must be our watchword. Europe – and we are Europeans – is well behind the US in the investment it provides for venture capital. We have to realise that an island nation stance, parochialism and insularity are inappropriate for the challenges we face.
In an increasingly competitive global economy, the skills of our people are vital. That is why we need to ensure that the training and lifelong education of our workforces is second to none. This is the kind of Europe we need in the 21st century.
Since its formation, the Con-led coalition has faced both ways on Europe. Chunks of pink, if not red, meat have been thrown to the Tory eurosceptics to try to placate them. Most notably, we have seen the hopelessly confused EU Bill, which provided for referenda on paper clips. More recently the foreign secretary, apparently recognising the need for a political gesture, has given the green light for ambitious Conservative backbenchers to put their heads above the eurosceptic parapet.
Yet pulling in the other direction are the Liberal Democrat coalition partners, traditionally the most pro-European of all the political parties. Nick Clegg, let it not be forgo en, is ‘communautaire’ from head to toe and will resist any a empt to weaken Britain’s relationship with the EU.
The result is that, all too o en, the government tries to do and say as li le as possible about Europe. When it does engage, its messages are o en vacuous and lacking in conviction and, on occasion, even contradictory. Such an incoherent approach to our relations with the EU does li le to advance our national interests or our standing within the international community. ■ u Wayne David is the Labour
MP for Caerphilly and former shadow Europe minister
George Pascoe-Watson tackles the government’s view on Europe p21
POINT OF ORDER
NIC DAKIN MP CONDEMNS THE GOVERNMENT’S THINKING ON EMAS I’ve spent my life working with 16–19-year-olds, and have always found them both frustrating and fantastic. The investment in young people under the last government was immense. As principal of John Leggott College in Scunthorpe, I saw students’ aspirations and ambitions rise. Staying-on rates increased, achievement grew and the numbers going on to higher education rocketed.
That, however, is not to say that the policies of the Labour government were perfect or could not have been improved.
The new government was well placed to build on the raft of youth support policies already in place, but, despite assurances given during the election campaign and the early days of government, it instead swung a wrecking ball at them. The educational maintenance allowance (EMA) was to be scrapped.
Of all initiatives I’d experienced in a lifetime in education, the EMA had been most transformational. Research I carried out at college showed that students on EMA had higher attendance rates than those not receiving it.
The relationship between attendance and achievement is well-documented, so here was a policy that directly impacted staying-on rates and achievement. It was helping us to drive up aspiration, providing a ladder to success for youngsters from less prosperous backgrounds.
Sadly, the government didn’t understand the impact of EMAs. It focused entirely on recruitment, relying heavily on an National Federation for Education Research report to insist that the impact was minimal.
However, the academic who lead that piece of work told the education select committee that the government’s use of his report was flawed. Indeed, he emphasised that he found it “very worrying” that 12 per cent of young people in receipt of EMA had said they wouldn’t stay in education if it were withdrawn. ■ u Nic Dakin is the Labour
MP for Scunthorpe
Total Politics | November 2011 | 13
Ben Duckworth catches up with the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, who has been tipped as a possible future leader
34 | November 2011 | Total Politics
There is normally a strut, an air of self-confidence, and a hint of ruthlessness around a politician going places. You don’t sense that with Rachel Reeves. She looks and acts, instead, quite normally. Except that she’s not normal, she’s a politician. And she’s not a normal politician because she’s an exceptional hard-worker who has made it to her party’s frontbench 18 months after becoming an MP. But to be promoted so quickly, there must be something special about her. “It’s a huge responsibility” says Reeves about her new role as shadow chief secretary.
Reeves lacks the flashy style or naked ambition of some of her 2010 intake contemporaries in the party. She is better for it – there are few catty criticisms behind her back, unlike some of her ambitious colleagues who are already suffering that common fate.
The shadow chief secretary holds several advantages for advancement. Most importantly, she has economic credibility. Her experience at the Bank of England, working alongside Conservative rising star Matthew Hancock, was followed by a period working for HBOS in Yorkshire. She knows her onions. Reeves describes the Ed Balls plan – to use the sale of government shares in banks to pay down national debt – as “a coherent and sensible economic policy”.
This is Reeves’ style – few wasted words and a clear message. She quickly gained the trust of Ed Miliband, becoming shadow pensions minister in October 2010, just months after being elected. While working on that brief, she represented the party in the media on wider issues, particularly the economy.
She will be a key figure in Labour’s move to becoming credible as a future government. Reeves highlights Labour’s line that:“It’s also important that we put forward to the electorate how we ensure that we get value for money for every pound of taxpayers’ money spent”.
Does she believe that Labour will soon regain voters’ trust on the economy? Reeves replies: “You don’t hear politicians saying sorry very much, and people do respect that Ed and Ed have done challenges that people are talking to him about, but then also to map out a different kind of economy that could work better for those people. That’s what I most respect and admire about him, and that’s how authentic Ed is. He listens and wants to understand, and then he wants to make sure that his policies reflect people’s real concerns, rather than saying, ‘this is my view of the world’ and then trying to convince people of that. Ed has a very strong set of values – you saw it over the Rupert Murdoch scandal. He’s not willing just to bend to fit with the consensus.”
A party member since she was 17, I ask if Reeves has ever doubted that Labour is the party for her. No, is the answer. “I’ve never been inside the Conservative Party and asked what the values are that motivate them to do what they do. But I think if I were 17 now I’d be asking the same questions as 15 years ago.” She adds: “When I look at decisions like cancelling the school buildings programme, when I look at youth unemployment, it reminds me of what was happening when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Reeves’ work on pensions means she has followed that. Ed Balls’ conference speech set out Labour’s vision on the economy. What people want is not just a mea culpa; they want to know that the political parties have some answers to the challenges that people face in their everyday lives.”
She says it doesn’t feel like there is an economic recovery taking place in her Leeds West constituency and paints a depressing picture of life under the coalition government. “Many people have lost their jobs. Many small businesses – and small businesses are the backbone of our economy; they certainly are in my constituency – have struggled. Some have failed. And families, whether they work in the public or private sector, are feeling a real squeeze on their living standards. Household incomes fell by 3.8 per cent last year, and the bad news is that the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that it thinks this is going to carry on for another ten years. Whenever you’re out and about in the constituency, families are really struggling to make ends meet, struggling with school dinner money, the cost of school uniforms, the cost of childcare, the cost of energy bills…”
It’s not just the British government who are failing to get to grips with economic problems, Reeves believes. European politicians are struggling too, in her eyes, and she believes there is a leadership deficit. “We had leadership under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. It comes back to the vision thing. Their leadership in 2009 at the G20 summit resulted in the £1 trillion stimulus and global quantitative easing. What you’re lacking obviously at home is a strategy for jobs and growth, but internationally there doesn’t seem to be any global leadership on what we need to do both to bring down debt and deficits, and to get the jobs and growth to ensure that the economy gets moving again. You need jobs and growth to get the debt and deficit down. One of the worries about all the international and European meetings is that, now Gordon and Alistair aren’t there, you’re just not really getting that vision.”
While Reeves has acumen, there remains an
She describes the Ed Balls plan as ‘a coherent and sensible economic policy’. This is Reeves’ style – few wasted words and a clear message initial shyness about her. Party colleagues note her “thoughtfulness”, and believe she will be a “calm presence” in the shadow Treasury team. She should be a good foil for the attacking instincts of Ed Balls. A variation on good cop/bad cop interrogating a coalition Treasury team that has yet to prove it has the growth strategy to get Britain’s economy moving in a positive direction.
While the CV has yet to include any blemishes or failures, it is her considerable drive that has enabled Reeves to get where she is. Attending a Bromley comprehensive that lacked “enough text books to go round”, she benefited from her parents' endless encouragement and brilliant teachers “who always were willing to go the extra mile – not just for me, but for everybody, to help us get on”. She got into Oxford to study politics, philosophy and economics, and the upward climb has continued from there. She appears to take a simple joy from having “always enjoyed what I’ve done”. And does she have that considerable drive in her political career? “I work hard, yeah.”
The shadow cabinet reshuffle prompted the game – beloved in Westminster when it comes to Labour – of ‘faction spotting’. Reeves was an early supporter of Ed Miliband during his leadership campaign because he is “someone who really listens to people”, she says. “He offers authenticity.” She depicts the leader as a man wanting to learn about voters’ concerns before setting out his own path.
“Ed has used this year really to understand the behavioural traits closely. During her time as shadow pensions minister she explored how people came to their decisions on retirement. This has led to her making a distinctive point about 'nudge behaviour' in her chapter for ThePurpleBook, the collection of essays by various Labour thinkers examining where Labour should go for its ‘progressive future’. The theory is best known from the book Nudgeby Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which influenced key figures in the government. Rather than seeing it as Conservative territory, Reeves would like to reclaim nudge theory for Labour.
“We’ve got every right to [own it],” she says. “It was Labour who introduced automatic enrolment, which will be rolled out next year and is likely to get seven million people saving. Automatic enrolment has many different aspects to it, but the key thing is it builds on inertia. So we all know that if you’ve got to make a decision about something complicated, it often sits at the bottom of the pile. If you’re automatically enrolled into a pension you don’t have to make a decision; it automatically happens. Yes, you can opt out, and it’s right that people have that option, but all the evidence shows that people will stay opted in. So that's all about 'nudge'.”
Reeves believes other areas of Labour policy also used nudging to improve and change behaviour. “The ban on smoking in public places – that, in some ways, is a nudge idea. You’re not banning smoking – people are still free to smoke. Also, successful campaigns like the five-a-day campaign on fruit and veg: no one’s legislating that you have to eat five fruit and vegetables a day, but… I was with some kids from a primary school in Leeds West just last week, and we were talking about healthy eating. And they all say, ‘Yeah, this is part of our five-a-day.’
Total Politics | November 2011 | 35
IAIN DAle IN CONVERSATION...
I first met Patrick Mcloughlin more than 20 years ago. He was a transport minister, I was a lobbyist. Neither of us imagined he would end up as chief whip and become the first holder of the post to give an interview. In a coalition, there’s no manual for a chief whip to learn the job from. He’s writing it himself. Photo by Oli Scarff
ID: Your background isn’t conventional. Everyone thinks of Eric Pickles as David Cameron’s bit of northern rough – are you number two in the pecking order, then? PM: I’m not sure I’m in any pecking order. My father was a miner. He died when I was seven. I never knew him at all really. My mother worked in a factory and brought the family up after my dad died. So it was a fairly tough upbringing. You’ve never made a lot of that publicly. Some politicians do, particularly when they had an upbringing that was a bit different from the norm. If people ask me about it, it’s not something
I’ve hidden. The role of chief whip is not necessarily high profile. But my 1983 general election poster [on p41], which I’m very proud of, doesn’t hide what I was. Far from it. How long were you a miner? About six years in total, five underground. I started in February 1979, and I worked at Littleton Colliery until September 1985. Then I went to work for the marking section, and then, of course, I fought the by-election in 1986, which got me elected. It was the same pit that my Dad worked at when he was alive. It was quite interesting because some of the older guys knew him, and they’d say, “God, your Dad would be turning in his grave.” The interesting thing about being a mine worker was that the attitude changed – I didn’t hide my politics. I was a district councillor, and then became a county councillor, so everybody knew I was a Tory. But once I’d stood for Parliament after 1983 – though the seat I stood for, Wolverhampton South East, was a very safe Labour seat – people took me a lot more seriously. There are so many people that come into politics nowadays having done nothing outside the political world. What different perspective does that background give you? You’ve always got where you came from, but I was a miner for six years and I’ve been a member of Parliament for 25 years. The idea that it somehow still colours what I do – it is part of how I developed. I know about the miners’ strike because I was part of it, but it’s not something that changes you every day. When I first knew you, you were transport minister. How many years did you do that for? Three years. 1989–92. What did you do then? I moved to the Department of Employment, and then went to Trade and Industry. Then I was sort
38 | November 2011 | Total Politics
Total Politics | November 2011 | 39
Regulars Letters 5 Diary 6 Chris Ship of ITV News Polling 8 Andrew Hawkins of ComRes debates whether we’re ready for elected police commissioners Blogger writes 9 Alasdair Thompson on the golden age for Labour that never was The idea 10 Graeme Cooke from IPPR believes the welfare state should offer more protection to those in work Data 11 Debate 12 Should we renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU? George Eustice thinks so, while Wayne David disagrees Point of order 13 Nic Dakin MP Events 14 Ministerial profile 16 Charles Hendry MP MP of the month 18 Andrew Bingham MP
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Total Campaigns People’s pledge 20 Chris Lowe explains how we can turn the power of interest groups into effective action George Pascoe-Watson on... 21 Why the Conservative leadership will remain committed to Europe Campaign doctor 22 Drinks with... 24 Email isn’t dead and Twitter isn’t everything – Shane Greer talks to Blue State Digital’s Gregor Poynton
Features Backbenchers & foreign policy 28 Why the important role MPs can play in influencing foreign policy should be discounted John Whittingdale 32 The Conservative MP tells Amber Elliott why he still admires Rupert Murdoch, despite chairing the culture, media and sport committee
Cover Story LIam Fox page 44
It was the worst month of Liam Fox’s career. The former defence secretary gave his last interview in the post to Amber Elliott
Rachel Reeves 34 Rising star of the Labour Party and new chief secretary to the Treasury – we get to know Rachel Reeves In conversation with Patrick McLoughlin 38 The Conservative chief whip talks to Iain Dale about reshuffles, John Bercow and the awkward squad Conference debrief 52 Total Politics was on the front line at Conservative Party conference – here are two highlights
Total History Suez revisited 58 Michael Thornhill on the impact of the Suez crisis The history of one object 61 Memorabilia 61 Simon Danczuk MP They were also MPs 62 John Stuart Mill
Total Life Book review 64 David Ruffley MP reviews Alistair Darling’s Back from the Brink Brought to book 65 Jean Lambert MEP Ides of March film interview 66 Ben Duckworth interviews scriptwriter Beau Willimon Working abroad 68 Richard Bacon MP and wife Victoria on their charity work in Tanzania Researchers’ stories 71 Top 10 double-barrelled MPs 73 Lunch with... 74 Duncan Hames MP
Total Politics | November 2011 | 3