Mr. John Brunskill,
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
I have a copy of what appears to be a standard letter from you to a member of public concerned about European issues, and I have to say that I am extremely disappointed that a letter written by a great department of state during a Conservative-led administration should be so biased in favour of the EU, and so out-of-touch with public opinion.
You were responding to a letter which asked specifically why British Conservative MEPs had been whipped to vote in support of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Strasbourg in July. You made no attempt to answer this point at all. I appreciate that it is not your job to take a political position, but the original enquiry was addressed to William Hague (to whom we might expect to look for a political response), and his office referred it to you for a reply. Instead, the enquirer got an anodyne standard letter which might well have been — probably was — drafted under the previous Labour administration.
May I respond to a number of your points.
“The Government believes that membership of the EU is in the national interest”. Why? And why then will the Government not commission a cost/benefit analysis of EU membership which would settle this question once and for all? You will be aware that when Switzerland did such an analysis, the answer was resoundingly negative.
“The Government .. is confident of the UK’s ability to move the EU in the right direction”. Surely the triumph of hope over experience. The UK has now been a member of the EU for nearly forty years, and has failed under either Labour or Conservative administrations to change its direction. Moves to “ever closer union” continue apace.
“The Government has agreed that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty during the life of this parliament”. But it has been transferring sovereignty rapidly in its first few months. It has supported the EEAS (the subject of the original enquiry to which your letter fails to respond); it has accepted the European Investigation Order, without the safeguards that other member-states have insisted on; it has rolled over without a fight on EU financial regulation.
“Any future Treaty … will be subject to a Referendum Lock”. But the Lisbon Treaty contains passerelle clauses which obviate the need for any new treaty. The EU can pursue further integration measures without any new treaty. The “Referendum Lock” shuts the stable door after the horse has bolted.
In response to a query on the costs of EU membership, you simply quote the Treasury figures for net budget contributions. Why net? On that basis you could say that taxation in the UK is negative, on the grounds that the government spends more than it collects. But the direct budget contributions, as you well know (or ought to know) are only a fraction of the total cost of membership, estimated by commentators like the Tax Payers’ Alliance at £120 billion a year, when you include regulatory and other costs. I hesitate to use the term “deceitful”, but it is at least deeply misleading to quote only net EU budget contributions.
“In return … we get better access for British companies to EU markets …. 3.5 million jobs are linked … to trade with the EU”. It is not clear that we get better market access than would be available with a simple Free Trade Agreement (such as many other countries have with the EU), and such an agreement would avoid the crippling costs of membership (both the money costs and the costs in terms of democratic accountability). The National Institute for Economic & Social Research, which originated your 3.5 million jobs figure, has been appalled by the way it has been misinterpreted. It may be that those jobs depend on the trade, but they do not depend on the EU membership. If it is true that 3.5 million UK jobs depend on trade with the EU, it is certainly true that many more EU jobs depend on trade with the UK. There is no reason to believe that there would be fewer jobs under a simple FTA.
You insist that (the British) Parliament is sovereign — yet it dare not exercise that sovereignty, and meantime probably three-quarters of our new laws come from unaccountable foreign institutions in Brussels, with no more than the most derisory scrutiny in Westminster.
It is time for the establishment — and the FCO — to wake up to what the British public understand: that EU membership is making us poorer, and less democratic, and less free. Your letter is profoundly misleading and complacent, and it is time for a wake-up call.
ROGER HELMER MEP