We all know UKIP wants to leave the European Union and David Cameron has begrudgingly promised the Conservatives will hold an In / Out Referendum on Britain’s EU membership. But aside from this, what are the EU policies of the other parties?
In the Conservatives’ manifesto they have set out their priorities for “renegotiating” the terms of EU membership ahead of their referendum – promised before the end of 2017. They have pledged to restrict tax credits, child benefits and council housing for migrants who have lived in Britain for less than 4 years and removing jobseekers’ allowance for all EU migrants.
They also want to prevent the free movement of people from new EU member states in the future until their economies have reached parity with the rest of Europe. Whilst the Conservatives are at last finally addressing the immigration issue, it is doubtful these attempts to reduce the “pull-factors” for migrants will achieve a reduction in migration figures.
The Tories also want a British Bill of Rights to replace the European Convention on Human Rights, to press for lower EU spending, reform of the hated Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and for a way for national parliaments to block EU legislation. They also want the principle of “ever closer union” to be removed from EU Treaties. These are all steps in the right direction, but fall woefully short of making our membership of the EU worthwhile, whilst at the same time they are clearly undeliverable.
In fact, this week EU President Jean-Claude Juncker himself said there will be no changes to EU Treaties before 2019 at the earliest.
As expected, the Labour manifesto is filled with everything from dubious statistics and half-truths to barefaced lies, and their EU section is no exception. Among their proposed EU reforms is “a ‘red-card mechanism’ for member states”, which would allow Britain to block EU policies we did not approve of. Sound familiar? Britain was able to veto EU decisions in most policy areas before the previous Labour government gave away most of our vetoes by signing the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007.
Moribund Miliband, like the Conservatives, also wants to reform the CAP. However, Blair traded away a third of Thatcher’s rebate to secure reform of the CAP in the last Labour government and achieved absolutely nothing in return. We can only wait with bated breath to see how much taxpayer money Labour decides to throw away in the pursuit of the same futile aims this time around.
The Liberal Democrats – unashamed Europhiles to the core as they are – have little to say on the crucial issue of our position in the EU. Their main proposed reform is an end to the EU’s wasteful “travelling circus”, whereby MEPs and their limousines traipse in convoy from Brussels to Strasbourg every month. Before you faint from the shock of the Libs Dems suggesting a policy which would benefit the British taxpayer, they admit their only reason for doing this is to cut CO2 emissions by around 19,000 tonnes a year!
In any case, we shouldn’t look too closely at Lib Dems’ policy suggestions. If history is anything to judge by, the policies in their manifesto will be dumped at the earliest opportunity, provided Nick Clegg gets to call himself Deputy Prime Minister!
If you are left as disheartened as I am by these three main Westminster parties’ utterly inconsequential EU reform proposals, we still have the Greens manifesto for a dose of much-needed comic levity. They describe their EU policy as “Yes to Europe, Yes to reform of the EU” and “Yes to a referendum”. ‘No to common sense’ might be more appropriate. Bizarrely the Greens manifesto condemns “the EU’s unsustainable economics of free trade and growth”, which is exactly what duped the Great British Public into joining the European project in 1973 – by the way, they even got the date wrong, stating it was in 1974!
Only UKIP is putting forward a clear and sensible policy on our EU membership. They want Britain to leave the EU and to negotiate a simple free trade agreement between our country and the remaining 27 EU Member States. Crucially though, UKIP wants to let the Great British Public decide the question of our EU membership in a referendum to be called as early as possible, preferably by the end of the year.
The leadership of both the Conservative and Labour Parties are letting the British people down with their determination to stay in the EU at all costs. However, there are parliamentary candidates from both parties want Out so do check the EU views of all the candidates standing in your constituency before casting your vote. It is vital we have as many MPs who want to Get Britain Out of the EU elected to the House of Commons in May, regardless of their political affiliation.
Luke Stanley is Research Executive at Get Britain Out