As a European citizen, I read your open letter to Donald Tusk with great interest. Here’s some initial reaction to some of your broad points.
1) Economic governance and the euro.
I’m with you here Dave. The governance of the single currency is a mess and needs reform. You mentioned that you would like it acknowledged that the Union has multiple currencies – and I don’t think anyone is seriously disputing that – but it should be acknowledged that the euro, being the currency of 340 out of 500 million Europeans is, at the very least, “primus inter pares” and as you said yourself “it matters to all of us that the eurozone succeeds”. You mention that it’s important that funds from non-euro countries not be handed over for eurozone bailouts. I would argue that bailouts should be avoided as a matter of course and that this should be a good starting point for any negotiations on this first point.
I could not agree more with you and will not contradict a syllable of your argument here. The Juncker Commission as well as the current European Parliament are fully behind programmes such as completion of the digital single market. I’m happy to see you also note that negotiations on trade deals with partners ranging from the United States to China are on going and are dependant on continued British participation. You are pushing an open door here.
3) An opt out from “Ever closer Union”
This again? Do you not remember that your predecessor John Major effectively neutralised this in the Maastricht treaty negotiations? Did you hear Jean-Claude Piris, a former chief legal adviser to the European council, say that the phrase is too vague to have any legal force? You didn’t? Fair enough. We can add a protocol to the treaties emphasising this point and perhaps adding more definition to the principle of subsidiarity that you also mention- that decisions be taken “as closely as possible to the citizen” or as one Dutchman once put it “nations where possible, Europe where necessary”. This has been embedded in the treaty for sometime. But some extra emphasis won’t do any harm, I suppose.
Your mention the role of national Parliaments is very interesting and there is indeed scope to develop this via a beefing up of the Orange/Yellow card system as introduced by the Lisbon treaty that you were so scathing of some years back.
Now here’s the toughy. Freedom of movement is not up for debate. It just isn’t. And I don’t just say this as just a concerned European citizen but also as a concerned citizen of the Common Travel Area which confirms the free movement in the British isles that has been in effect for centuries.
Freedom of movement, however, does not mean freedom for welfare tourism. There are several examples of EU member states that restrict access to their social systems on the basis of contribution. This is a matter for the UK domestically.
You mention that your country welcomes 300,000 in net migration annually. You fail to acknowledge that the majority of these coming from the EU, be they Irish nurses or Polish plumbers, are highly skilled professionals who contribute greatly to the UK economy and society and this should never be forgotten when discussing free movement in our Union.
You go on to mention sham marriages as a means to EU citizenship. As you are well aware from the passage of equal marriage in the last Parliament, marriage is a domestic issue for the UK government.
My main point here is that this point can be resolved by your government domestically and, given, the fundamental and immutable nature of freedom of movement to the European ideal, it will have to be.
All in all, I have to say I welcome a solid and substantive debate on the future of our continent and our islands’ place in it. I wish you well in your quest for an agreeable settlement and the very best of luck in the forthcoming campaign for that settlement at the ballot box via referendum.