The View from Europe by Peter Skinner MEP: A hand to play in Europe

LAST Tuesday Labour leader Ed Miliband made an impassioned speech calling for Britain to be more grounded in its approach to Europe. Having recently seen a rising tide of eurosceptiscim the leader of the opposition thought it a good time to reaffirm the case for continuing with the European project.

Ed highlighted global problems such as tackling climate change and organised crime as examples of international issues that Britain would have to deal with as a part of the EU. As he put it, “There are problems in the world today that are simply too large, too complex, too international in scope for any nation state standing alone to deal with.”

One of the unusual aspects of this week was that those who cheered Cameron’s ‘veto’ twelve months ago now seem to have a touch of the heebie-jeebies over where the UK is going in Europe. From surprisingly sceptical articles in the Telegraph and the Financial Times to the notable front cover of this week’s Spectator, the normally Conservative supporting press has been critical of the Conservative-led Government’s current position, or lack of it, on Europe.

The Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), an organisation more often associated with support for the Conservatives was unambiguous in their position, calling on big business to lead the charge to stay-in the EU: “Europe is the bedrock of our international trade. It should be viewed as the launch-pad from which our global trade can expand – not the landmass from which we retreat.”

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for reform. EU budget negotiations are on-going and Labour MEPs in Brussels are supporting the efforts of Ed Miliband and the Prime Minister to bring down spending. As spending is cut in the UK so must it be cut in the EU.

Negotiations broke down on Friday but I want Cameron to get back to the negotiating table. If no deal is brokered it could result in last year’s budget being ’rolled-over’ - meaning a 2% increase! Hardly the desired outcome.

The EU has its problems but we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Ed Miliband put it aptly this week when he said that Britain didn’t want to be in some outside room while other countries “eat our lunch”. It is easy to see why the Labour leader and even those who have been outspoken critics of the EU are getting ever more vocal over the threat of isolation of the UK in Europe. Mr Cameron is playing a difficult hand in Brussels. Played well it could help secure the kind of prosperity the CBI and others seek, but played poorly (like last year) and we could end up bust.