European integration has led to the current financial crisis and proposed solutions, such as strengthened eurozone economic governance, are likely to lead to excessive German influence and further constraints on businesses, British MP Bill Cash said in an interview with EURACTIV. He argues that the only way to restore democracy and competitiveness in the United Kingdom is to withdraw from the EU through a referendum and revert to a looser European free-trade area.
Bill Cash is a well-known eurosceptic politician and has been a member of the British Parliament since 1984. He is the author of a pamphlet, "It's the EU, stupid," arguing for Britain's withdrawal from the EU. He spoke to EURACTIV Germany's Jana Nikolin.
Many British politicians openly criticise European integration and oppose the membership of their country in the EU. Why?
It is not just the politicians, it's the people. We have had a democracy, which has been developed over many, many centuries and we have been around a long time. We have been engaged in two world wars since 1914, we have fought for freedom and for democracy and we do know what democracy looks like.
My father was killed in the last world war, fighting for freedom. I don't believe that what I see across the whole face of Europe is democratic in the same sense that I understand it. It wouldn't be a bad thing to remember that democracy actually depends on the voters; it does not depend on the members of parliament, who are appointed or elected within the party list, which is appointed by the individual party leaders.
Politicians in other European countries also remember the suffering during the World Wars and their countries have a long tradition of democracy as well. That’s why they are pro-European.
These politicians seem to me to be part of an elite, which believes in an ideology that has now failed. But listening to what people say is more important than listening to these elites. When the referenda took place in France, in Holland, in Ireland and in Denmark, in every case the people spoke.
But they were kicked in the face and told: No, you are not right, we have another referendum. Then the politicians threw huge sums of money at it and they got the result they wanted. And I actually think that this is disgraceful.
When people speak in a referendum, their views should be respected, but this did not happen in any of those cases. This is the reason why many of the people of Europe take a different view than the politicians. They are the electors, they are the real people, not the elite, who gravitate around this ideology.
You are one of the main supporters of holding a referendum on EU membership in the UK. The British foreign minister, William Hague, who is a well-known eurosceptic, said this proposition was the wrong question and at the wrong time.
I disagree with him. Nothing could be more obvious from the summit last Wednesday [26 October] and the conclusions they published last week to demonstrate the fact that this is the right time. The other members of the eurozone, with Germany and France leading the arguments, said: We are going our way and you can do whatever is left. So the argument that this is the not the right time is wrong.
Holding a referendum in the current crises could ruin the long-term goal of a united Europe. Don't you fear the consequences?
The long-term goal of a united Europe is gazing into a black hole. It doesn't work. Otherwise we would not be in a financial crisis. It has been created; it is the result of these policies.
There is no growth in Europe, except in Germany. There is massive youth unemployment; over 40% in Greece and in Spain and it's rising very rapidly in Italy.
And the problem we've got is that the policies, the economic policies, which have been followed, are based very largely on social and employment laws. They are an extravagance, like paternity pay and other policies, which do not help small businesses to grow, but in fact strangle small businesses, which represent after all about 85% of all the businesses in Europe. It has created a stagnant economy with some countries being bankrupt.
Prime Minister Cameron refuses to hold a referendum. Most realistically, Britain will remain in the EU, without any changes in its status for now. Why do you push to change this?
We are in the position, in which we are locked into a policy in Europe, which is failing and undermining not only our economy but also our democracy. The proposal for European economic governance will create a two-tier Europe, largely dominated by Germany. This is actually completely undermining the whole concept of the European Union.
It creates two Europes, both built on sand. Germany will be laying down rules in respect to the eurozone, which will affect the United Kingdom and the single market as a whole. We can be outvoted on important decisions, although there should be a level playing field in relations to the single market.
And what the European governments have done is create a situation in which they are claiming that they want to protect the single market, but by giving in to the idea of a fiscal union, they have actually surrendered the position which they want to protect.
And then there is the whole question of the small and medium-sized businesses and providing employment. Unemployment in the United Kingdom is going up because there is no growth in the European economy. We can't grow from the European economy.
In 2009, there was a deficit in respect to our trade with the other 26 member states of minus 14 billion [pounds]. By 2010, that deficit has gone up from minus 14 billion, which is bad enough, to minus 53 billion. In other words, in one year it went up by 40 billion pounds. So we have 40% of our trade with Europe, as William Hague keeps on saying, but the reality is that it is not doing us any good.
In your pamphlet "It's the EU, stupid", you propose letting people choose in a referendum between leaving the Union and renegotiating the British position in the EU.
That's right. And that was the proposition that was put through the House of Commons. The House of Commons rejected the motion. However 83 Conservatives, who are backbenchers, and are hence independent and do not depend on anybody, agreed with the proposition, that we have to renegotiate these treaties.
In the first scenario, which you propose, Britain would leave the EU. What kind of relationship should Britain have with the EU?
We should basically go back to an EFTA-type [European Free Trade Area] arrangement, which is that we would have very good working trade relations. We should also have political cooperation, which was not included at the time of the EFTA arrangements. The political cooperation can still be improved.
For example, Germany did not support Europe, or indeed the United Kingdom and France, over Libya. There are several examples in regard to the original Gulf War, where political cooperation did not work. So the idea of foreign policy working harmoniously is already been demonstrated as a failure. However, political corporation is a good idea and we can build up alliances, but as individual nation states, working together within NATO or alternatively bilaterally.
In the second scenario, which you propose, Britain would renegotiate its position within the EU. Where would you like to opt out, how would you like to renegotiate the British position?
It's not the British position exclusively, although this is our first priority. It applies to Europe as a whole. We need growth; we have massive deficits and debts. They have to be addressed. There is not one penny of public expenditure, which is not paid for by the profits that come from private enterprise.
Therefore, you have to create a situation in which the public sector recognises that they are dependent on the private enterprise. I can think of many, many, areas where I would want to restructure the treaties: Common agricultural policy, common fisheries policy, etc. The list is very long, but the social and employment laws would be a good starting point, indeed. We can't grow as long as we are strangled by European employment laws.