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Bushill-Matthews: The EU is supposed to be about people, not politicians

Speech by Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, during the Debate on the Irish Referendum: Strasbourg, 18 June 2008

The EU is based on four fundamental freedoms: the freedom of movement of people, goods, capital and services.

The first freedom is about people.

When Jean Monnet shared his vision of Europe, he said:

"nous ne coalisons pas les Etats: nous unissons les hommes."

The EU is supposed to be about people, not politicians; so it needs not only to be driven by the people - but seen and believed by the people that it is driven by the people. Last Thursday we heard the people speak,

and their verdict was clear. The answer was a very simple No.

I recall the background to the first Constitution Treaty. There was a recognition that the EU was becoming more remote from the people,

and there was a need to do something about it.

The declared solution was to prepare a Treaty which would make the EU more simple, more transparent, and closer to the people.

But by the time politicians had finished with it, they had produced a Treaty

which was more complicated, more opaque, and even further away from the people. Certainly that is what the people of Ireland believe about this latest version of this Treaty.

Our response cannot be to carry on as if nothing has happened.

If the people perceive that the EU is moving further away from them,

for the politicians to carry on moving will simply make the problem worse.

Our response must not be to discuss the speed at which the EU should now move. It should be to discuss its direction. Listen to the people, and they will tell you.

If the ratification process continues anyway, It will show that EU leaders have learnt nothing, that politicians still believe they know best and that it is the people who are wrong.

By definition, the people are always right. It is called democracy.

We want an EU which is people-centred, and which delivers that democracy.

Don't ignore the Irish vote: build upon it. The ratification process should stop. The listening to the people should begin.

Martin Schulz said in his powerful speech that the EU faced a crisis of confidence. I agree. The crisis is that the people have lost confidence in the politicians. But this crisis is also an opportunity, an opportunity to rebuild that trust. The opportunity is for us to show that we are not just great speakers. It is time we became great listeners too.

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