Over the past two decades, it has become de rigueur for British Prime Ministers to deliver speeches about the importance of European reform. Such speeches have been packed with buzzwords such as “flexibility”, “accountability” and “subsidiary”, yet utterly devoid of specific policies or proposals.
John Major's government made much of their defence of the British national interest in securing an opt-out from the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, yet ultimately threw Britain's weight behind the creation of the Euro and a pathway to the introduction of the very cross-border justice policies which the Home Secretary is now seeking Britain’s withdrawal from.
Many market-oriented Eurosceptics were delighted by Tony Blair’s speech to the European Parliament in 2005 when he called for an EU designed to “enhance our ability to compete, to help our people cope with globalisation, to let them embrace its opportunities and avoid its dangers”. Of course, as was so often with Tony Blair, his rhetoric did not match the reality of his deeds.
Finally, while he should be commended for resisting Mandelsonian demands for Britain to join the Euro, it is Gordon Brown’s signature that brought the wretched Lisbon Treaty into force – and with it the surrender of the British veto in more than forty policy areas.
Talk, however, is cheap. Actions are what matter.