Guy Verhofstadt’s federalist vision of his beloved EU will undermine its very future

Guy Verhofstadt’s federalist vision of his beloved EU will undermine its very future

The UK has chosen to leave the EU and once we have done so, we want to be a close partner and a reliable friend. As the EU looks forward, we want to offer it friendly advice; it is in our interests for the EU to succeed.

A report on the future of Europe is being voted on today (Thursday) in the European Parliament. The report recognises that not all countries can, or want, to join the EU and that it would be in the EU’s interests to develop a partnership with them. This echoes the words of the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech in which she called for “a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union”.

This suggestion is one which could work in the mutual interests of the UK and EU. However, the UK can only benefit from this partnership if the EU is strong and has democratic legitimacy. The author of this report, Guy Verhofstadt, (who is also the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator) seeks to undermine this with his federalist vision of Europe.

There can be no doubt that the European Union is facing deep and multiple crises, including losing one of its biggest member states. However, there are many in the European Parliament who are still not listening to the alarm bells.

The EU is in desperate need of reform. It has become too centralised and is increasingly out of touch with its citizens. It does too much and does it badly.

The referendum result in the UK is not the only evidence of this. In 2016 alone, two other referendums held by member states resulted in rejections of EU policies: the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement referendum in the Netherlands and the EU migrant quota referendum in Hungary. These are clear signs that there is a disconnect between the EU and its citizens. People are questioning what the EU does and whether it should be doing it at all.

This has regrettably fallen on deaf ears as a core of European politicians seem to think that the answer to Europe’s problems and waning popularity is to have ‘more Europe’. Leading the charge in the Parliament is Mr Verhofstadt. He wants the Commission to become Europe’s government, a new EU Finance Minister to head a new EU Treasury and for the European Parliament to have the power to levy taxes. He wants more decisions taken out of member states’ hands and instead decided by the EU. This would mean that a member state could have its taxes set, its money spent and its armed forces deployed, all without its consent.

The European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, to which British Conservatives belong, fundamentally disagrees with this view. Our group consists of parties from eighteen countries who believe that member states should maintain their powers on these issues.

Mr Verhofstadt’s vision for the future of the EU is flawed and not representative of the citizens of Europe. It is a shame that the only hint of understanding of what is needed is the call for this Parliament to have a single seat. The 110 million euros saved every year by not travelling from Brussels to Strasbourg each month would be a step in the right direction and the kind of reform people want to see. The Strasbourg circus has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the EU; it is matters such as this that the report should have addressed.

Britain did not vote to leave the EU because there was not enough Europe. We voted to leave because the EU does too much. It has already taken too much power from the member states. It must not take any more.