David Cameron’s relentless tour of European capitals continues in a desperate attempt to rally allies for his EU negotiations. The fact that he has to expend so much time and energy on changes to the EU Regime which are so astonishingly minor ( a 4 year moratorium on benefits to migrants aged 18/24, so long as they are compensated in some other way, for example) speaks for itself. Mr Cameron is asking for almost nothing, and seems to be having trouble achieving it. I wanted to see a fundamental renegotiation of the entire architecture of the EU - returning it to the trading agreement we all signed up to in the first place – rather than this tinkering around the extremities.
The catastrophic migrant crisis – 1 million people flooding into Germany alone; mass sexual assault in Cologne and elsewhere; filth and squalor in the Jungle Camp at Calais, the tragedy of 40 migrants – many of them women and children – drowning off Greece last weekend thanks to the heartless thugs of people traffickers; these are but symptoms of the mad rush towards a United States of Europe. The Schengen Treaty allows free movement of everyone from the Urals to the Atlantic, no matter who they may be, no matter how they may have got into Europe. That is an open invitation to the poor and dispossessed of the entire world to find their way to what they perceive to be the golden-paved streets of Europe. I met some Norwegian MPs last week, who tell me that thousands of them are flooding across their tiny Arctic border with Russia. They travel by bicycle, many suffering from exposure and frost-bite. It’s a modern Dick Whittington tragedy on a massive scale. And the EU are wholly to blame for it.
I went to see a farmer near Malmesbury on Friday. He has a huge Bovine TB problem. But in general conversation, I found it especially hard that I could really offer very little help, because nearly all agricultural decision making is done at an EU level. He was mildly in favour of leaving the EU, were it not for his concerns that the Westminster Parliament might be less generous with subsidies than the Brussels Commission is. I tried to point out that that may be the case, although by no means necessarily; but that at least it would be his MPs, his Government making those decisions – and answerable for them at the Ballot Box - rather than nameless and faceless EU Bureaucrats, over whom he can have no influence of any kind.
I look forward to the EU In/Out Referendum Campaign, which looks as if it may preoccupy our Spring, and to explaining to my constituents why I believe that we in Westminster are better placed to take decisions on their behalf than the flawed EU Commission. I suspect that a huge majority of people locally will wholly agree with me.