09:24 Wednesday 3rd February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: We’re off to Europe. We’re in. We’re out. We’re shaking it all about. After months of waiting and negotiating David Cameron has returned from Brussels with a draft deal on Britain’s future in Europe. It will allow Britain to immediately impose what’s called an emergency brake on the payment of in-work benefits to EU migrants, if of course you, me and everybody else votes to stay in, whenever the referendum may be. It also includes plans for a red card system allowing national parliaments to collectively block EU proposals for new legislation. Mr Cameron described it as a ‘substantial change’.
DAVID CAMERON: I think that is a very strong and powerful package. As I’ve said, none of this is agreed yet. None of the detail is fixed. There’s more work to be done. This European Council doesn’t meet and discuss and debate all this for a couple of weeks. But I think we have secured some very important changes which go directly to the issues that we raised as a Member of the European Union.
PAUL STAINTON: However the proposals have been criticised for not going far enough. David Cameron wanted to deny benefits to EU migrants for four years, but the proposals stop short of that. Instead benefits will be withheld to start with, then gradually restored over the four years. It’s also not clear how easy it will be to pull the so-called emergency brake, or how long that might last. The Conservatives also pledged in their manifesto to stop EU migrants sending their child benefit back home. Under the new proposals the payments will continue, but they’ll be linked to local prices in the child’s country. Richard Tice is the founder of Leave.EU. Not impressed I think it’s fair to say.
RICHARD TICE: There’s absolutely nothing in this document. The Prime Minister is trying to deceive the British people by saying that there’s substantial change. There is nothing except a restatement of the existing status quo. We’ve already got a veto with other parliaments, with other nations, through the Council of Ministers, so the red card system is a complete red herring.
PAUL STAINTON: So what do you make of it? Has he got the deal that you wanted him to get? Is it enough to make you vote to stay in the Union if we get a referendum say June or July? Or has it all been a complete waste of time? We’d like to hear what you think this morning. 03459 252000. 81333 on text. Let’s get the reaction from some of our local MPs. Stewart Jackson is the MP for Peterborough. Very critical of David Cameron’s stance on Europe before. Has he brought home the bacon Stewart?
STEWART JACKSON: No he hasn’t, and this feels unfortunately Paul like crumbs from the table, and a series of what I think are trivial gimmicks, which is a shame, because like a lot of Conservatives over the last two or three years, I’ve given the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. I strongly supported him. Given the Euro crisis and the migration crisis, the European Union was at a point where you could put forward some fundamental reform and renegotiation around things like parliamentary sovereignty, immigration, the capacity to make our own laws here in the UK, and actually repatriating powers, which is what I think he said a couple of years ago. None of that has come to pass, and I’m extremely disappointed. This is a missed opportunity.
PAUL STAINTON: He has got them to move though hasn’t he? He’s actually moved them down the road. He’s got his emergency brake. He’s gone some part of the way when others said he’d get nothing, he’d be laughed out of Brussels.
STEWART JACKSON: Well I’m not sure I agree with that, because essentially the way the European Union works is that if you haven’t got a veto or a treaty in place to give effect to what you want to happen, it’s not going to happen. And therefore we’ve already effectively got a red card system with qualified majority voting. The emergency brake effectively is meaningless. And in terms of benefits ..
PAUL STAINTON: What do you mean, meaningless? It won’t be meaningless will it, because we’ll stop it for a while. It will deter people. That’s one of the biggest criticisms that people throw on this show willy-nilly. People come here, getting all the benefits. This will stop that, deter them.
STEWART JACKSON: There was a clear manifesto commitment to prevent child benefit being remitted and to control benefits, and that hasn’t been met I’m afraid. We haven’t kept faith on that issue. And many of these quite arcane governmental decisions will be taken by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. And I just find it very depressing that we’re the fifth biggest economy in the world, we’re a proud independent sovereign nation, and yet we have to go cap in hand to lots of clapped-out politicians, bureaucrats and functionaries in Europe, to ask their permission to for instance control our own borders. It’s extremely disappointing to have the position of being a supplicant, rather than being in the driving seat. And I think that’s where, with all due respect to him, David Cameron has missed the boat. If you start from the basis that you’re going to campaign whatever to remain in the European Union, then you’ve not exactly got a great hand of poker, when you’re trying to get these deals done in Europe.
PAUL STAINTON: What would have placated you? What realistically could David Cameron have got that would have placated you, and placated the British people to stay in the European Union?
STEWART JACKSON: Well look, I’m not anti-European. I love Europe. I love to travel to Europe. I like European people. I think we are better off working with our partners in Europe. I accept all that. I just don’t think that we want to continue the ratcheting of giving up our powers. We are a sovereign country. And for me it was all about seeing through the prism of my own constituency. Mass migration in some respects has been good, but in many respects has been terribly difficult for Peterborough in terms of the delivery of public services. And so for me it was all about immigration, and to a certain extent parliamentary sovereignty. And I think on that basis, the Prime Minister has just not delivered the goods, and he’s missed an opportunity for the UK to set the agenda with a radical reforming renegotiation. And I think that’s pretty sad.
PAUL STAINTON: This deal that he’s got, will it encourage people, more people, to stay in, to vote to stay in? Or do you think this is the beginning of the end now, because there’s no way back here? Do you think this is the beginning of the end of our relationship with the European Union as we know it?
STEWART JACKSON: We will remain with a trading relationship with the European Union whatever happens. Even if we leave, we have a massive trade deficit with the European Union, and a huge trade surplus with the rest of the world. There’s no way the Germans are going to stop selling us washing machines, engineering parts, cars. The French, the Italians ..
PAUL STAINTON: A bit more difficult though, won’t it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I don’t know if it will be more difficult. We’re a big market. We’ve got links with the rest of the world for instance. I think it’s certainly the case that if the European Union loses the UK after our referendum, whenever it comes, it may very well be the end of the European Union. And it might fall like the Soviet empire in a couple of years. Who knows in a globalised world what is going to happen? But for me, my priority is now to take the case for Britain’s exit from the European Union out to my constituents, argue the case, be respectful and civilised with my colleagues who are decent and honorable on the other side in their own way. But I believe the British people are not stupid. They’re looking at the newspapers. They’re going to read a lot about it, and I think it will be a close result. And I actually believe the British people will eventually vote to leave the European Union.
PAUL STAINTON: Will you?
STEWART JACKSON: Absolutely. I’m committed to it. As I say, there’s no animus between the Prime Minister and myself on this. I have given him the benefit of the doubt. He has done his best against very difficult odds. But I don’t think he’s convinced me, and on that basis I will be voting to leave the European Union.
PAUL STAINTON: Are we not, if we vote, if we vote to pull out, are we not going to miss out on all the good things that the EU has done for this country? Are we not going to miss out on the laws that they passed, the places they’ve taken us? I’m thinking equality laws ..
STEWART JACKSON: Like the solicitors who are acting for the Taliban commander who is suing the British Government because he was detained too long and wasn’t able to be released to kill British troops, as a result of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights? Is that an example Paul? If that’s an example ..
PAUL STAINTON: Thinking gay marriage and things like that. All that sort of thing.
STEWART JACKSON: Well gay marriage was enacted by the UK parliament. What we have had is peace and security, but that’s been delivered for over 50 years by NATO, not by the European Union. The European Union is a backward looking ..
PAUL STAINTON: So they’ve done nothing good for us.
STEWART JACKSON: Well it has done a few things of good. We need to work together on things like the environment and trade. Of course that’s important. But the idea we’re not going to trade with other countries and that we can’t have bilateral agreements with big powers, which we can’t at the moment with the European Union, like the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, is just not the case.