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Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne: Ministers are being refreshingly open about the problems being caused by the EU

In the court of British public opinion, there can be no case more guaranteed to lose than the European Commission’s attempt to force the UK government to make it easier for unemployed EU citizens to claim benefits in the UK. But the case will be heard not by the public, but by the judges of the European Court of Justice, and the government will have to abide by their decision. The timing is interesting – it can only make it more likely that the Europe issue raises its head at the Conservative conference. But the language that Iain Duncan Smith used in his complaint about it in the Daily Telegraph is also fascinating – it is far stronger and angrier than you would ever have heard from a Labour minister.  When I was Brussels correspondent of the Times, I found it frustrating that Labour ministers would be defeated behind closed doors on what they thought was a crucial issue, and then in public afterwards justify the EU policy, saying it was what they wanted all along. Labour ministers failed to be open with the British public about their frustration with being over-ruled by the EU, and this wasn’t just because they didn’t want to appear impotent. I suspect much more it was a worry about fuelling British euroscepticism; there was certainly among government officials a desire to hide anything that might help the Eurosceptic cause. With this government, it is clear that there will be far more openness and honesty about the real impact of the EU on British policies, which I suspect will only make us even more Eurosceptic as a nation.


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