Today’s EU summit meeting may well be remembered as being the moment when the UK Prime Minister accidentally pressed the self-destruct button on the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe. Such a move would be to Scotland’s huge detriment.
I can confidently predict that there will be no agreement over the proposals for the upcoming EU budget period from 2014-20 – the so-called multi-annual financial framework.
The disagreement comes down to disputes over whether the EU should be immune to the budget cuts that its member states are currently suffering.
Certainly, there are ample opportunities to remove inefficiencies within Europe – my monthly trek from Brussels to Strasbourg, for example – while at the same time protecting vital areas such as agriculture, energy and research spending.
No one would argue that Europe does not need reform.
However, I fear that this chance to refresh and renew the EU will be missed simply because British bombast, bluster and bluff will so offend our EU friends and allies that Mr Cameron will find himself out on his ear – and Scotland along with him.
It is all the sadder because it does not need to be this way. There are other member states which would be allies in reforming the EU – the Swedes, the Danes and the Dutch, to name just a few.
But that is not what Mr Cameron is proposing. Rather, he is fixated upon the British rebate to appease his own party’s eurosceptic wing, and so risks passing up a golden opportunity to change the EU. Instead, the rest of the member states will close ranks against him.
With independence, Scotland would adopt a more positive and consensual approach.
These are serious times, a lot is at stake and business as usual is not an option. The EU has changed massively since its early days and could benefit from some hard questions about what it is there to achieve.
The only constant in EU affairs is change, and while this period of reform is more acute than most, we should be seizing the opportunity. We would be all the better for it.
Sadly, we can very much expect business as usual from the Tories today: empty rhetoric about “standing up to Europe” while our friends and colleagues look at us with bemused exasperation.
An independent Scotland could do so much better.
Alyn Smith MEP (SNP)
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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