Bill Cash, the preeminent Tory Eurosceptic MP for Stone, has an article published on ConservativeHome that places the centenary of the creation of the Conservative and Unionist Party within the context of the Liberal-Conservative coalition of 2012. Coincidentally, today is also Europe Day.
Unsurprisingly for the backbencher who likes to see everything to do with Europe in apocalyptic terms, he contends that the pro-growth policies needed in Britain and the EU cannot be achieved without putting an end to legislative burdens and “generating policies that the integrationists in Europe – including the Liberal Democrats – simply refuse to allow.” He concludes by affirming that the British government “cannot achieve growth because the Liberal Democrats, as part of those arrangements, have silenced the Prime Minister’s promise to repatriate, among other policies, burdens on business. It is called 57 votes and the keys to No. 10.”
Now I’m sure Mr Cash is a committed subscriber to the Daily Telegraph so I am surprised that he overlooked the wise words of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills a few days ago. The majority of EU states, clubbed together in the Like Minded Group, want to see more deregulation, less red tape and an expanded Single Market (the latter of which was happily signed up to by Margaret Thatcher). For the benefit of those with their fingers in their ears and to separate reality from Mr Cash’s caricature, here’s a snippet of what Vince Cable wrote,
On the Working Time Directive: “I have continued to fight a rearguard action, so far successfully”
On our flexible labour market: “the last thing we need is the imposition of a new set of regulations potentially costing the economy billions a year”
On the ECJ: “I am not just fighting to keep the opt-out. There is also a battle to fend off damaging rulings by the European Court of Justice…I have instructed my officials to roll back these damaging rulings wherever possible…”
On fighting our corner in Europe: “We achieved agreement in Brussels to exempt around 1.4 million UK small businesses from burdensome EU accounting rules. When foolish and costly initiatives come out of Brussels, it is tempting to wave the Union flag and plead British exceptionalism.”
We need to put an end to Cash’s false dichotomy: you can be pro-market and pro-EU. One doesn’t need to unflinchingly subscribe to everything the EU does in order to support our continuing membership. There is, as Vince Cable said, a progressive majority in the EU replacing the dinosaurs of the past – it’s just a shame that some Tory Jurassic Park politicians cannot recognise the facts.