Roland Rudd is a respected enthusiast for the European project [The City of London needs a Europe strategy that does not lead to it being sidelined, Monday]. But he is mistaken in our relationship with Europe and it is time for fundamental review.
Rudd highlights Margaret Thatcher’s acceptance of qualified majority voting, driven by Leon Brittan, in the creation of the Single European Act, as proof that she would have accepted the loss of veto on financial regulation. But she was focused on the creation of a single market for goods and services – not the marginalising of the UK’s interests.
Rudd holds the European Commission to be our friend and ally and perhaps it is, but its agenda seems different to that of UK PLC.
Under Labour, the UK nominated Catherine Ashton to become High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security. She is our sole representative and is often travelling. Commissioners with little, hostile or no interest in the City of London’s success are driving policies of great concern to UK recovery.
Such policies include the new audit rules, which add to UK business costs and are promoted by European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier. He is also a vice president of the EPP political group within the European Parliament, comprising 264 MEPs. This is the most powerful voting bloc, and the EPP has control of all three EU institutions through Jose Manuel Barroso at the Commission – for whom Barnier was once a special adviser; Herman Van Rompuy as First Permanent President of the European Council; and Jerzy Buzek at the EU Parliament. In addition the EPP membership controls sixteen of the 27 places in the European Council.
David Cameron finally withdrew the UK from the EPP in 2009, apparently offending Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy of France in the process. The UK government has joined the ODS (European Conservatives and Reformists), but they have just 57 MEPs as members.
There is a massive democratic deficit evidenced by such structures, resulting in widespread EU voter apathy. In the UK, 2009 turnout was under 35 per cent. Yet we are one of just four net contributors.
According to Civitas, the EU budget for 2011 is €141.9bn [£118.6bn] in commitments (€126.5bn in actual payments) which is a 2.9 per cent increase on the 2010 EU budget. Allowing for our rebate of €2.7bn – down €1bn thanks to Tony Blair and itself threatened during last week’s treaty dispute – the UK will contribute €12.9bn to the 2011 budget. Perhaps it’s a bargain, but we should review the alternatives before we return to the room.
Rudd quoted Roosevelt, so I turn to his contemporary Winston Churchill and his 1948 summation of Europe’s future: “We are with you, but not of you.”
And this week, Cameron will be reflecting on £30bn more reasons to stay that way.
Chris McLaughlin vice president of external affairs, Inmarsat (writing in a personal capacity)
While I heartily support the assertion in the headline to Roland Rudd’s article [The City of London needs a Europe strategy that does not lead to it being sidelined, Monday], I fear that his argumentation only demonstrates how out of touch with what goes on in Europe too many people in the City and in Whitehall still are. Over a 10-year period from 2000 as chairman of first Euroclear and then LCH Clearnet, I had a front row seat at policy-making for financial services in Brussels and the efforts from Paris and Frankfurt to whittle away at London-based businesses. There is very little understanding in London of the level of resentment in Brussels to politicians, bureaucrats, regulators and lobbyists from the UK all making the case both that London knows best and that any proposals should reflect what was being done in London.
Rudd points to 75 per cent of euro derivative trading taking place in London but gives no evidence of understanding that this is a constant thorn in the eye of the ECB, which is the only important central bank in the world whose currency and bonds and interest rate derivatives denominated in that currency are to a very large extent traded and cleared outside of its jurisdiction. The Treasury, FSA, and Bank of England have all been guilty of too-little, too-late interaction with Brussels, whereas the City’s banks have only woken up to prioritise interaction with legislators and regulators in Brussels and Washington in the post-Lehman rush to right the financial world. David Cameron’s lonely veto was symptomatic of decades of half-hearted involvement in Europe leading to a lack of understanding of the European process in London and a lack of sympathy for London in Europe’s other capitals. At the summit there was little evidence of the partnerships and alliances of which Rudd boasts. Successive Prime Ministers have said they wanted to play an important role in the building of Europe but one by one they failed to prioritise Europe and commit the required policy resources to it. Until that changes, there will be no consistent Whitehall backing for a City Europe strategy, and it will founder.
We really must kill the absurd lie that 3m jobs depend on the United Kingdom being at the “heart of Europe,” whatever that may mean. There has been a massive trade imbalance in Europe’s favour for nearly 30 years: our percentage of GDP related to EU trade is about 11 per cent, swamped by the cost of complying with EU regulations for the other 89 per cent of the economy.
The argument that political union is necessary to trade is economically illiterate. The business signatories to yesterday’s Daily Telegraph letter should know better.
Godfrey Bloom, UKIP MEP and member of the EU Parliament’s Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee.
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