Comment: Cameron is fighting for the wrong things in Europe

Commitment to the European project means putting people before corporations


There is an uncomfortable tone to the communications from No.10 about our European partners. As Cameron dangles Brexit in front of his fellow European leaders, he seems to be reducing our key strategic link to the level of a dysfunctional relationship.

In the world of diplomacy, not to mention in personal relationships, threatening to leave an alliance is unlikely to be the route to improved communication and is the most desperate form of leverage.

As Greens, we believe we should indicate our clear commitment to the European project first and only then move on to argue how we can make the Union work better for all its members.

The demands that the prime minister has made of Council President Tusk also leave a sour taste in the mouth. Writing competitiveness ‘into the DNA of the whole European Union by cutting the burden on business’ is not a proposal that will create the kind of Europe that would improve the quality of life for the majority of its citizens.

And not surprisingly, our ‘green crap’ prime minister fails to recognise the pressing issues facing our environment in his letter to Tusk. 

A vision for Europe that puts people and the environment first would include a challenge to the politics of endless austerity that is defacing European societies, working to reduce inequalities and developing a shared and lasting prosperity within environmental limits.

This is so very different from Cameron’s desire for a more competitive, regulation-lite Europe, where corporations rather than elected members hold the reins of power. Creating a ‘People’s Europe’ will need EU action against the dominance of powerful corporations.

Given the trans-national nature of these corporations, the EU is the right place to challenge and regulate such power. Some key changes of policy direction are essential to democratise the EU.

We must terminate negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which is nothing but a corporate charter. A trade deal, negotiated in secret, and whose central aim is to enhance the corporations’ power to challenge the policies of democratic governments in private courts, has no place in a democratic EU.

We need to tackle corporate lobbying, whose prevalence and ubiquity has long been a target of Green ire. To challenge the power of private vested interests at EU level we urgently need a compulsory and legally-binding EU lobby register, requiring lobbyists to be fully open and honest about all their lobbying activities, something called for by over 100 European NGOs. 

We also need an end to the ‘revolving door’. A recent report by the Corporate Europe Observatory revealed that 9 out of 26 outgoing commissioners who left office in 2014 have moved effortlessly into roles in corporations or other organisations with links to big business.

When it comes to the environment we need stronger, not weaker, EU protection and regulation. We need EU climate, energy and environment policy to be more, not less, ambitious; we need to set a goal of delivering 100 per cent renewable energy in the EU by 2050.

To bring about these changes within the EU, we need to see a stronger, more effective European Parliament, with greater decision-making powers, enhanced powers of scrutiny over the European Commission and Council, and the ability to initiate legislation.

None of these things, of course, is on Cameron’s list of desired reforms. Indeed, in so many ways he has worked against these and other reforms that would be for the common good. We are almost at the point where some EU leaders are turning the tables and tearfully asking us to leave for the sake of the children.

The UK government has opposed action to strengthen banking regulation and cap bankers’ bonuses, an agenda led by the Greens in parliament. The Tories have consistently sought to block an EU-wide financial transaction tax to curb speculation and raise revenue from the financial sector.

When it comes to tax, Cameron proclaimed tax transparency as one of his key priorities, yet the UK has denied the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Tax access to important documents they requested in order to carry out its mandate to investigate tax evasion and dumping in Europe.

When it comes to the environment, the Tories have unleashed a catalogue of attacks on the UK’s renewables sector, flouting their legal commitments to achieve 15 per cent of renewable energy by 2020.

The growth of Eurosceptic parties across our continent suggests that many European citizens have fallen out of love with their Union. If Cameron thinks the way to win back their affection is to produce a parade of men in suits to tell us that business thinks membership is good for us we fear he is on entirely the wrong track.

Commitment to the European project means making it ours, building a People’s Europe not a corporate Europe. That is what Greens are working for every day in the European institution, and it is what we will fight for once the referendum campaign begins in earnest.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England, and sits on the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee in the European Parliament 

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11 Responses to “Comment: Cameron is fighting for the wrong things in Europe”

  1. adam smith

    David Cameron’s ‘reforms’ are a total farce, the reforms he wants will change nothing & other EU nations have already said they won’t agree to stopping benefits for immigrants. He isn’t even asking for full border control/controlled immigration system, lower EU budget, control of UK fishing waters, exit from the CAP or a UK veto. He will get a couple of minor changes and then spin for his life.

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  2. john ingamells

    As always with the U.K. we have a prime minister who refers to the provision of benefits to other EU citizens in this country, while neglecting to deal with the reality of British citizens who, like the Poles, French or Hungarians, could be in need of benefits as occupants of other EU member countries. We always adopt an approach of believing the lies perpetuated by our government and media, that Britain is somehow a lesser member in these respects. I fancy it is the legacy of the false superiority of empire days when we run roughshod over the people and riches found in places we occupied and ravaged. Sadly we have a government endeavouring to demolish our welfare state for the weak vulnerable and unfortunates like steelworkers and other unemployed who just became skivers from strivers overnight!

  3. steroflex

    “We need to tackle corporate lobbying, whose prevalence and ubiquity has long been a target of Green ire. ”
    You must know yourself as an MEP that some of the biggest lobbyists are Greenpeace, NSPCC, Christian Aid and other charities. Many of these agencies, supported often by very doubtful charity status and supporting a lot of very highly paid people, are green.
    And many are not. As you so rightly say the EU is hand-in-hand with globalised giants.
    We are not going to change that.
    Allow me to quote your namesake: Mea sententia est: EU delenda est. (I got that from your colleague Dan Hannan by the way.)

  4. Rupert Read

    Great article, Molly, as ever.
    I agree with your diagnosis and criticisms.
    But.. what if Cameron _achieves_ some of his goals, of making the EU worse (more corporate-friendly, less environmental, etc.); what then? Will we still definitely put the EU project first? Or should we Greens too have some red lines (‘green lines’?), that, if they are crossed, mean that we can no longer be counted on to troop into the ‘Remain’ lobby, when the referendum happens?…

  5. David Mortimer

    The EU parliament can’t be held to account by UK citizen’s.

    Please sign this petition to leave the EU

  6. Esmee Phillips

    ‘Our European project’ sounds rather like that favourite of 1930s progressives, ‘the Soviet experiment’.

    Trouble is, both are supposed to be irreversible.

    After the way Greece has been put on the rack (not to mention Italy, Spain and Portugal) telling anyone under 30 or with a pension that the EU can be made cuddly by those titans of probity and popularity, MEPs, is a hard sell.


    John, you are a sad moaner with no constructive policy ideas, try one idea.


    We need to get out of this EU farce preferably yesterday. It is a corrupt lawyer and judge ridden farce raking in taxpayers money for their benefit. All we need is fair trade.

  9. Sid

    Left Foot Forward arguing the case for the EU capitalist club. LOL !!!

  10. Nick

    Most people will be better served from the EU then from an elitist group of conservatives that’s for certain

    Without EU protection this country would end up like china. all of the benefits that this country have are all down to being members of the EU
    Yes there are some that need improving on like immigration control and that needs to align itself to what the majority of the countries already have in place worldwide and have always had

    i myself would never trust a British politician to look after my interests as i know first hand in that over the past 50 years they’ve achieved nothing of any note and all they have done is to blame others in society for all of ills we see today when they have at every turn done that damage themselves

    they say they go into politics to make the life of the public better ? complete garbage they only went into politics to make there own lives better and to protect there own family and friends

  11. alan rayner

    However things may ultimately turn out, it seems to me that our best strategy in GB is to work with every Green and Democratic movement in Europe, starting by voting not to leave the EU, but finding out what DiEM25 is working towards and together to transform it into a meaningfully worthwhile alternative to the ineffectual bureaucracy the EU has always been.

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