Tobias Ellwood is the Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Europe Minister and author of the Open Europe publication Upgrading UK Influence in the European Union. Follow Tobias on Twitter.
So no EU budget deal in Brussels last month – but one significant positive did emerge: British leadership and determination kept together a coalition of countries that stood up for European taxpayers and forced high spenders to recognise that when national governments are taking tough decisions about their finances Brussels must too. It illustrates what British influence and diplomacy in Europe can achieve. What a contrast to the profligate EU budget left to us thanks to the last Labour Government’s lack of such determination.
Yet the traditional mindset (encouraged by much of the British media) is to keep Brussels at arm’s length. And it is easy to see why. Visit the city, and you step into a European political bubble that seems curious, complex, seemingly unstoppable, unaccountable, bureaucratic and remote. For many, this simply confirms their suspicions, and the city is never visited again.
Dig a little deeper and you will find a myriad of issues being discussed and debated by those involved in the peculiar intricacies of the EU. When Britain engages we get results. For example, two of the EU’s landmark achievements (the single market and enlargement) were British-led initiatives. But in general, rather than leading from the front, we have treated European evolution as a damage limitation exercise.