Nick Clegg is right to say that the British economy is entering a ‘dangerous phase’ and that we ought to think seriously about the necessary means to steer us through. Conservatives in government are coming to the same conclusion. Extra spending, the left’s solution, is a horribly blunt tool. Far better is radical reform of government and massive deregulation — which is prohibited by Brussels. The only remaining options are to renegotiate our membership of the European Union, or pull out entirely.
This is not an ideological position. There are some, certainly, who were against the European project from the start and have spent two decades being portrayed as swivel-eyed lunatics. But ministers who have shied away from the debate have now realised why so many of their colleagues were always ‘banging on about Europe’, as the Prime Minister once put it. As ministers now see, British self-government is a myth — sold to voters at election time. The EU is the third member of the coalition, and it has become the most intransigent obstacle to reform.
At every level, ministers are told they cannot govern Britain in the way they told voters they would because of Strasbourg or Brussels. Danny Alexander, who wants to cut VAT on fuel for his Highland constituents, has been told he needs the approval of all EU member states. David Cameron’s much-vaunted ‘one in, one out’ approach to policy regulation has proved unworkable because of the sheer weight of new rules flooding in from Brussels. Cutting regulations to help entrepreneurs is impossible, due to EU directives.
Last Monday a group of 120 Tory MPs got together in the House of Commons to discuss a strategy for overcoming EU obstruction. If there is a eurozone crunch coming in Europe, then Britain will be asked to vote on a new treaty.