Coffee House readers know well that democratic consent for the UK’s membership of the EU has reached rock bottom.
In parallel, the people of Europe are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with EU. This is manifesting itself politically and socially all over the continent. On top of that, the EU is currently the slowest growing economic region in the world – as in the final years of the Roman Empire, the EU has grown complacent and over-regulation is stifling our competitiveness.
This tale of democratic and economic woe demonstrates vividly the urgent need for reform of the EU. After decades of what Brussels would claim is well-intentioned regulation, and the rest of us see as interference by unelected Eurocrats, the EU has reached a crunch-point of sink or swim.
The people of Europe clearly cannot go on doing what they have always done and expect a different outcome – that, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, is the definition of insanity. The only realistic option is far-reaching reform.
David Cameron’s promise of a renegotiation followed by a referendum offers the prospect of far-reaching reform, and a new settlement that the British people can be comfortable with at last. Chances of success are improved by changing attitudes to the EU in other member states—most notably Germany and the Netherlands—and the personal relationships being by built by the PM with other leaders.
But, for the negotiation to produce the right terms for the UK and to equip the EU to compete in a globalised world, we must have absolute clarity over the reforms that the UK wants to achieve. This must be coupled with a comprehensive understanding of where the other negotiators stand issue-by-issue, and a single-minded determination to make no concessions on what we regard as non-negotiable national interests.