President Jean-Claude Juncker today gave his first “State of the European Union” speech since the UK voted to leave. Here is the response I gave moments later in the European Parliament in my role as Chairman of the ECR group :-
In June this year, the British people voted to leave the EU but the voices of discontent reach far beyond the English Channel.
In many other EU countries, the warning signals are there. And if they continue to be ignored
Don’t be surprised if others ask to follow.
The ECR Group that I lead has MEPs from 18 Member States who want an EU that works better for their voters and for their countries.
Our fear is that project Europe has been set to cruise control and its drivers are unwilling to apply the brakes whilst they ignore the warning lights.
Today was billed as a relaunch. But sadly it’s fundamentally the same mantra we’ve heard year after year.
More military integration
More requests for money from member states
More debt for children to keep socialists happy
MORE, MORE, MORE.
But the MORE Europe you build, the MORE detached our citizens feel.
The MORE you propagate EU supranationalism, the MORE nationalism has risen in our Member States.
The MORE you condemn or ignore scepticism, the MORE likely the prospect of a President Le Pen or Prime Minister Wilders
AND I KNOW THAT SCARES MOST OF US BUT DISMISSING PEOPLE’S LEGITIMATE CONCERNS WILL SIMPLY DRIVE VOTERS INTO THEIR ARMS
This debate doesn’t have to be about left versus right, or about euro sceptics versus integrationists. This debate should be about
delivering jobs and
delivering opportunities for our constituents.
The ECR group believes we can have greater cooperation where it counts without greater centralisation.
We believe the EU can do less, but do it better. The next EU treaty needs to strip back, and simplify what the EU does. An EU which gives the flexibility of a network, rather than the rigidity of a bloc. Because diversity is one of the European Union’s greatest strengths.
Yet diversity and mutual recognition are being challenged by the mantra of harmonisation
– A common Eurozone budget
– EU-wide unemployment insurance
– And tax harmonisation.
Diversity should also mean treating all countries equally, but today some countries are being treated as more equal than others;
We see France getting away with flouting EU budget rules – and I quote – “because it’s France”,
We see Mrs Merkel’s Germany breaking every immigration rule in the book.
We see Old Europe getting away with it, while countries in Central and Eastern Europe are actively targeted by the Commission.
So, instead of more rules that are broken? How about fewer rules? That everyone signs up to in good faith. And we also need democracy and openness to be re-invigorated within this Chamber, and within our institutions.
We need to see an end to the so called grand coalition, where decisions are taken by only 5 men, from only 4 countries, in only 2 political groups.
So let me remind these 5 gentlemen
This European Parliament has 751 MEPs from 8 political groups. And it’s time you started to respect all of them.
My Group – and the people who elected them in 18 countries – want the EU to respond to the warning signals and go in a new direction. To deliver meaningful reform:
REFORM that doesn’t think the EU has all the answers
REFORM which unleashes the spirit of enterprise which once made Europe great
And REFORM that helps us compete and provide opportunity for our citizens in a globalised world.