What is Britain's New European Policy?


Lord Howell.

The British Prime Minster has called for policies which ,while realizing Brexit, will bring us actually closer to our European neighbours. In short she is calling for a new and more active European policy for Britain.

I would like to see London ,instead of being a drag and dampener on European aspirations and togetherness, becoming the centre of the revival and the reinvigoration of the European project in a suitable 21st century garb.

If we want to be rid of ever closer union then we should replace it with something positive, not something negative – in this instance with a drive towards ever more modern union – designed for the 21st century digital world, not for yesterday’s problems and not via the methods and theories of the 20th century.

That is that the vast majority of the peoples of Europe plainly want and that is what we should be striving to give them.

But to do so requires an entirely different mindset in policy circles – different from the ill-starred Remain strategy and maybe different from some aspects of the new post-Brext strategy as well .

Instead of being nervous about touching the basic ideas, the so-called fundamentals ,of EU thinking, policy-makers should be going to the roots of some of Europe’s redundant philosophies. We should certainly not for a moment be phased by a polarised presentation of these basic ‘principles’ as though they were carved in stone .

The Remainers’ mistake was to take these asserted principles as unalterable. They were advised instead, quite wrongly, that Britain should stick to a mere shopping list of British demands. Thus they fatally reduced their whole campaign from being a major reform of the EU into a narrow catalogue of British needs – which few people respected , or even remembered.

Integration, centralisation and standardisation all belong to the past. The information age challenges them all. The ever-swelling pile of central competences , the so-called acquis communitaire, is completely out of kilter with the enabling powers of the digital age to disperse functions and empower localism.

The four ‘fundamental freedoms ‘ of the old European Community – freedom of movement of labour, of goods, of capital, of services, all within a large protected or single market – have become freedoms no more. We can see before our eyes how they have become bonds and restraints, defying the new realities and forces of the modern age.

With the globalisation not just of trade but of actual production processes, with entirely new supply and value-added chains winding across the world, does the old concept of a European single market really exist any more?

With mega-migration sweeping from Africa and the Middle East through Europe, does rigid adherence to the principle of free movement make the slightest sense? Does the Schengen ideal of a frontierless Europe come anywhere near fitting modern conditions? And one hardly needs to ask millions of anguished southern Europeans whether a single currency, and a one-size-fits-all monetary regime , begins to accommodate their needs , and the variety and diversity of economic and social development, in the modern age.

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Kate Bain

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