Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Negotiation beats grandstanding

The prime minister continues to claim that he single-handedly cut the EU budget. My recollection is that at the time in 2012/2013 he gained headlines by charging in and put in jeopardy cuts which had already been negotiated in the European Parliament. Liberals in the EP had consistently argued for cuts or at worst a standstill, only to be blocked by socialists who wanted to increase the capacity of the gravy-boat. In early 2013, rationality prevailed only for David Cameron to claim the credit.
In 2012, Liberal Democrat Voice reported on the results of an independent opinion poll:

A new survey by European news portal Euractiv has ranked Sharon Bowles MEP as the most influential Brit in EU policy-making, eight places ahead of David Cameron and thirty-three above Nigel Farage. TheUK40survey also features Lib Dem MEPs Andrew Duff and Sir Graham Watson in the top sixteen. National politicians such as Cameron, William Hague and Nick Clegg make the top twenty, but often lose out in the ranking to less well known Brits in the EU institutions.


What has changed of late is the ability of the British government and national politicians to influence EU policy, one of the clearest conclusions in this ranking. David Cameron's grandstanding over the EU budget and Nigel Farage's phoney crusade to throw off an imaginary European yoke cut little ice in the real world of EU policy-making. Sir Stephen Wall, Britain's former ambassador to the EU, put it succinctly: "Carrying on about Europe is not the same as carrying influence in Europe."
The real way to influence the EU, from financial services to fisheries reform, is to engage constructively and work hard from within - something which most of our MEPs and officials quietly do day in, day out. 

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