Finally it arrived. The British Prime Minister’s big speech about Great
Britain and the European Union. As we expected, it contained a frontal
showdown with European cooperation as we know it, but only feeble hints of
what Cameron would replace it with.
We are to understand that he sees the Single Market as the core of the
European Union, and he sees a Europe of many speeds. He wants to create a
more democratic EU and he wants to move areas of competence from Brussels
back to member states.
At the same time, the speech contained a catalogue of popular accusations
against the EU – for being too bureaucratic, too centralist, too distant and
too unfocused on the problems that European countries have with failing
But the speech fails to address the core issues in the discussion of Europe’s
future. All 27 countries would agree that the Single Market should be
developed further and enhanced. But that entails more, and not less Europe
Cameron vaguely suggests that British interests would be served by a treaty
review. A review of the EU’s treaty is not in the making, and Cameron’s
colleagues – even with the best will in the world – can hardly give him
anything other than cosmetic concessions.
The democratic control of the European Union resides with the individual
member parliaments. That is something that we have decided. What we can
require of Brussels is transparency and the efficient administration of
A multi-speed EU is a reality that need not scare people. But if one rejects
parts of the cooperation – influence suffers the same fate – something that
Denmark is fully aware of in connection with its own opt-outs.
Cameron’s speech has taken his country’s EU future hostage for hazy demands
that are lost in a fog of rhetoric. Nonetheless, if we can help Britain
ashore, we should do so. Britain belongs in Europe – and the EU is best
served with Britain as a constructive member.
But at the end of the day, there is nothing we can do if the British decide
that they are only prepared to be members of a Europe that is different from
the one in place on the Continent.
There is, of course, much that the EU can and should do better. There is also
much in the way that the cooperation functions that we would like to be
different. But the Union is both a success and a necessity.
Cameron’s vision for Europe simply does not work. Not for Britain. Not for the
European Union – and certainly not for us. He is demanding the impossible,
and he cannot have it.
Not from the EU and not from Denmark.
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