Rupert Matthews: Report Back on “What should be in the Conservative Manifesto for the European Elections?”
Rupert Matthews is a freelance writer and is currently one of the MEP candidates for the Conservative Party in the East Midlands Region.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a Platform article posing the question “What should be in the Conservative Manifesto for the European Elections?” I put forward one of my ideas and flagged up the fact that a fringe meeting on the subject would be held during the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Since then the meeting has taken place – and it was gratifyingly well attended – so I thought that readers of ConservativeHome might like to know the outcome.
The suggestions made by the audience were (in no particular order) as follows.
1) If the Lisbon Treaty has not been ratifed when a Conservative government takes office, a referendum should be held on the Treaty immediately. The speaker said the referendum needed to be held immediately so as to give those cunning bureaucrats over in Brussels no chance to rush something through that would undermine the referendum.
2) If the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified then an incoming Conservative government should undertake a base review of Britain’s relationship with the EU and seek to renegotiate our terms of membership.
3) A Freedom of Information Act should be passed by the European Parliament to open up the notoriously secretive dealings of the EU Commission, Council of Ministers and other EU institutions.
4) The Common Fisheries Policy should be scapped. If necessary, Britain should withdraw unilaterally from this highly damaging programme.
5) The Common Agricultural Policy should be made more transparent so that we can actually understand what is going on.
6) All EU agricultural subsidies should be scrapped. The New Zealand model was held up as an ideal to be aimed at.
7) The monthly commute of the EU Parliament to Strasbourg and back should be scrapped
8) The EU Defence force should be abolished.
9) The EU should be more constructive in its roe lint eh WTO and GAP talks os that the latest round of talks could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
10) The various EU nations should increase their defence spending and commit themselves to supporting NATO and UN operations with troops on the ground.
11) There should be a new and stringent code of practice introduced for MEPs.
12) Coal fired power stations should be encouraged to be built to reduce our reliance on gas imports from dubious sources.
13) A cost-benefit audit of Britain’s membership of the EU should be carried out, probably in the form of a White Paper.
14) The Court of European Justice should be reformed to ensure that it actually applies the law instead of interpreting it in such a way as to favour Euro federalism.
15) An incoming Conservative government must draw up a list of desired EU reforms, together with a deadline of 2 years for them to be implemented of Britain would begin talks to secede from the EU.
As can be seen the proposals formed a very mixed bag – which was probably to be expected. Some of them would not be in the gift of the EU Parliament even if it were minded to grant them, but would be the preserve of a Conservative government at Westminster.
In conclusion, the meeting was very lively, verging on boisterous at times, though the chairmanship of Roger Helmer MEP kept it under control. My thanks to the Freedom Zone for allowing us to use their room, and to my fellow panellists for taking part and publicising the event: JP Floru, John Flack, Stuart Wheeler, Teresa Coffey and Zehra Zaidi.