By Owen Paterson
WITH a referendum promised by the end of 2017, people are rightly asking whether Britain can thrive outside the EU.
Well, we managed pretty well for hundreds of years before we joined the EU so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
We led the Industrial Revolution that transformed our economy and, eventually, much of the world.
We brought democracy and the rule of law to countless countries through our Empire, which once covered a quarter of the Earth’s surface.
We crushed Napoleon’s attempt to impose his version of European unity and won a war against fascism.
Countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia run their own affairs without interference from abroad. They trade freely across the globe and cooperate with their allies.
Britain can do the same, just as we did before 1973 — but first we have to quit the EU and take back control of our destiny.
Resentment towards the EU is growing rapidly following the crippling failure of the euro and now the escalating migrant crisis.
In France today, widespread disillusionment with the EU will deliver Marine le Pen’s far-right Front National a record number of votes in regional elections.
Our Prime Minister has been travelling around Europe pleading with EU leaders prior to this week’s summit in Brussels.
He is pursuing four headline changes: Protecting non-euro countries from the job-destroying euro; less red tape; an end to the obligation of “ever closer union”; and benefit restrictions.
As always, the Prime Minister will face resistance from some EU leaders, particularly over the issue of benefit restrictions on migrants.
But the reality is that behind the scenes, hidden by what officials are calling “chaff”, fundamental changes to the EU are being considered.
These changes will be dressed up to give the impression the EU is doing us a great favour. Don’t be fooled.
They are intended only to make the EU work better for the core eurozone countries. They do not address ANY of the fundamental issues that make British membership intolerable.
When all this is over we still won’t be able to control our borders and set our own immigration policy; we still won’t be able to make our own trade deals; it will still be costing us £173million net a week; we will still be bound by thousands of Brussels rules and regulations.
We will still be under the thumb of Europe’s courts, which stop us deporting terrorists and criminals; we will still be bound by barmy green policies that push up our energy costs; and we will still be under pressure to agree to projects such as a European army.
The Prime Minister has requested non-euro countries be protected from having to bail out euro countries.
This will be achieved by splitting the eurozone from other member states to create a two-tier Europe, which will release the outer ring from the obligation of forging an “ever closer union”.
The Prime Minister may claim leadership of this “outer group”. But nothing will really have changed.
The Prime Minister has requested that national parliaments get more of a say. That is not going to happen.
He has also asked for the single market to be extended and excessive Brussels bureaucracy to be cut. Some of that is achievable, but mostly because the march of globalisation has changed the way laws are made.
Finally, the Prime Minister has made a reasonable, albeit minor, request for migrants to live in the UK for four years before they are entitled to in-work benefits or social housing and that child benefit should no longer be sent overseas.
But on the four-year cap on benefits, Mr Cameron has been told there was “no consensus”.
This row is pre-cooked and I am pretty sure the Prime Minister will get some concessions he can bring home and call a “victory”.
But crucially, at no point in the negotiation will he be demanding that Britain has the right to set its own migration policy.
Therefore, at least 300,000-plus migrants will continue to flock to our shores year on year, which he himself has said is unsustainable — because we have no control.
The renegotiation process is a good example of how our relationship with Brussels works. Mr Cameron, elected in a free and fair election, has to ask an unelected Polish bureaucrat who presides over the European Council whether Britain can stop giving Bulgarians benefits.
The Prime Minister will make another push at the summit this week to secure headline demands. But he is focused on the wrong things.
His efforts will do nothing to make any positive change to our relationship with the EU.
The project has failed. It is an unfixable, unworkable monstrosity and the only way Britain can reassert itself on the world stage once again is by voting to leave — and putting our past membership down as a blip in our otherwise magnificent history.