Speeches recovered from the Conservative party‚Äôs online archive More…

Heathcoat-Amory: The present EU is widely regarded as remote, unaccountable and wasteful

Speech to the European Convention

Our prime task is to create a Europe on the firm foundations of democratic involvement and consent. If we don't get this right everything else will fail. To do this we must be honest with ourselves: the present EU is widely regarded as remote, unaccountable and wasteful. The gap between the political class in Europe and the public has never been wider. Our task this year is to close it. This will not be done by juggling with the existing EU institutions, each seeking more powers. That would intensify the problem, not solve it. Instead we must ask a very basic question: How do people feel themselves to be democratically represented? The answer is overwhelmingly at the level of the nation state. There is no European demos which compares with this. It follows that the only solution is to transfer back to national level a substantial number of powers exercised at EU level.

Second, the acquis commounitaire must not be exempt from our scrutiny. It runs to 5,000 pages, the supreme expression of bureaucratic man. It is also an unfair burden on the applicant countries which struggle to implement and enforce it. The acquis must be radically pruned back. The EU must find a reverse gear to match its forward gears.

Third, we must find new decision-making mechanisms for those matters which we agree should be decided supranationally. Again there is an inescapable role here for national parliaments. To do this we must be bold and creative. It is a strength of this Convention that we can step outside the confines of the traditional debate and look for new solutions.

Does this mean a retreat for Europe? Possibly, for some vested interests and established conventions. But for Europe as a whole it would be an advance, and an advance on secure foundations.

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