Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Cameron belittles EU institutions

  • 'I’m only interested in two things: Britain’s prosperity and Britain’s influence' (Photo: Consillium)

David Cameron bashed the EU for being “too bossy” in a speech on Wednesday (7 October), but gave few details on his plan for European reform.

He told the Tory Party conference in Manchester: “I have no romantic attachment to the European Union and its institutions. I’m only interested in two things: Britain’s prosperity and Britain’s influence”.

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“We all know what’s wrong with the EU - it’s got too big, too bossy, too interfering”, he added, in rhetoric likely to jarr in Brussels and other EU capitals.

He pledged to get the phrase “ever closer union” excised from the EU treaty as part of wider EU reforms before British people vote in the upcoming in/out referendum.

“Let me put this very clearly: Britain is not interested in ‘ever closer union’ - and I will put that right”.

He also said he values Britain’s membership in “the biggest single market in the world”, however.

He said the EU needs the UK for the sake of better US relations and more influence on world affairs.

Aside from “closer union”, Cameron’s EU reform proposals are expected to cover curbs on EU migrant welfare rights, EU powers for national MPs, and safeguards for the City of London.

His speech touched on immigration. But he didn’t mention the other issues.

Noting that the EU is facing hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, he said: “If we opened the door to every refugee, our country would be overwhelmed”.

He criticised the EU for “acting in a way that encourages more [people] to make that dangerous journey” from Syria to Europe, by reference to open EU borders and confusion on asylum law.

But with the UK to take in 20,000 refugees over the next four years, Cameron also attacked Islamophobia in British society.

“Opportunity doesn’t mean much to a British Muslim if he walks down the street and is abused for his faith”, he said.

The speech was big on national security.

Cameron defended his use of drones for targeted assassinations in Syria and his bombing of Islamic State. He also promised to shut down radical Islamic schools in the UK and to buy four nuclear submarines.

He ridiculed Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Labour, the left-wing opposition party, as “security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising”.

He also pledged more housing, more rights for workers, to fight poverty, and to reform prisons.

Migrants

His speech comes one day after Theresa May, the home secretary, said the UK economy doesn’t need migrants and that they take British people’s jobs.

Nigel Farage, the head of the British eurosceptic party, Ukip, noted Cameron’s softer tone.

“This is the prime minister who knows membership of the EU means an open door to 500 million people … [but] he has no clear strategy, he can make no sincere promise”, Farage said in a note on his website.

The Liberal Democrat party said: “If he [Cameron] was really concerned about racial discrimination, he would publicly denounce his home secretary’s shameful attack on immigrants yesterday”.

Labour criticised his “personal attack” on Corbyn.

Climate

Unite, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, said: “Cameron’s legacy will be all too visible to those on low wages or who are bracing themselves for the next swing of the Conservative cuts axe”.

With the climate change summit in Paris around the corner, John Sauven, a director at environmental NGO Greenpeace noted: “Cameron mentioned the words ‘security’ and ‘safe’ 14 times in his speech, yet climate change, one of the biggest threats humanity is facing, got just one timid nod”.

“This silence speaks volumes about a government that has no energy plan”.

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