And so, the letter of which much has been said finally came. In his letter to the European Council President Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron highlights the issues of concern that the British government wishes to change, in order to recommend its citizens to vote to stay within the EU.
Like many times before, the demands for political change in the EU are valid, but at the same time, the demands in the letter, in spite of their importance, are still small compared to what really is at stake. Most of what David Cameron writes about, save the migration question, is a political agenda for the reformation of the EU that gathers vast support, and that in no sense pertains to the UK alone. These are demands that David Cameron, and indeed all heads of government, should put on the politics of every country.
But in the narrative of these calls for more competitiveness, better economic governance and for less and more effective regulation, other still more important issues are lost.
This is about how we together make sure to safeguard democracy and freedom in Europe. Being one of the most stable democracies of Europe, Britain has a responsibility for the world that we live in, the cohesion around democracy and rule of law that we alone must shape, and the openness that must characterise civilised societies.
It is also about how we meet the Russian aggression against the European order of peace and how we support different Member States’ rights and possibilities to uphold democracy and open societies. These are things that once made Britain go to war to ensure a European order for peace and liberty. When Poland, like the Baltic States and Ukraine, in different ways are threatened by Russian influences – and in Ukraine’s case, by warfare within the country’s own borders – issues of peace and security evolve to become issues about our collective security that we need to face together.
Should Britain leave the EU, it will not only make the EU, but indeed all of Europe, weaker when we attempt to stand up towards against the forces of evil. Britain will be weaker in its aspirations to do so. Putin would become more aggressive, something that will be felt especially in Northern Europe and in the end threaten the interests of the United Kingdom.
The sanctions that have been put in place by the EU against Russia are being felt there, and we are able to do this because Britain has a strong voice in our common foreign policy. The latter is not only true for the developed cooperation with countries in our neighbourhood, which otherwise are at risk of coming under Moscow’s control, but also in the enlargement process.
Should Britain leave the EU, the refugee question would be equally insistent tomorrow as it is today. However, we would lack the possibility to formulate a European burden sharing of which Britain would be part. The climate question would be nearly impossible to affect without European cooperation. The free trade agreement with the US would be of less value to all involved, and maybe even less possible for all of us, and the country would lose a great deal of its present trade agreements. Britain’s important calls for less regulation and better competitiveness on the internal market would not be heard in the legislative process. However, the regulations that will be put in place would still go for Britain.
These issues, that demand that we hold our Union together, weigh a lot heavier than our shared political convictions about competitiveness and bureaucracy. And these are the questions that are in focus for many countries and politicians across Europe; however, pushing for such reforms without Britain is a daunting task.
Economies that thrive do so because these questions are in focus. In the Nordic-Baltic region we have one of the world’s most competitive clusters of economies, largely due to the integration and closeness of the countries in that region. This integration should be the way towards increased competitiveness for Nordics as well as for Britt’s and for all Europeans. This integration is an enabling factor even more crucial than the right approach on regulation, which always will be a matter for discussion and democratic decisions.
Concerning the economic governance, most of the all, the Euro, it is easy to agree with the Brits. The EU has, in fact, many currencies and it will remain so for many years. The common economic policies and financial markets as well as decisions on the internal market, or the development within the EU must not be a question for a few, but indeed a question for us all, independent of currency. That is the truly European approach. When the Eurozone wants to develop its governance, it should concern that area, not the internal market as such. The interests of one currency must not be allowed to take over against the others.
No one questions the need for increased competitiveness; there are only different opinions on what kind of reform should guide us there. The digital single market can give us great opportunities, but it must be brought to life by a political majority that realises that the market should be in focus, not the laws per se. The vastness of the bureaucracy must be decreased, as must the will to micro manage. That is an issue not only in Britain but also in Sweden and any other state.
The day that Jeremy Corbyn, may it never happen, succeeds David Cameron, it would be clear that it is a matter of choosing the best kind of politics, also in UK, not choosing whether to be a member of the EU or not. The socialist government in Sweden is proof of the fact that the wrong politics is what undermines competitiveness, not the membership in EU. But the EU needs to deepen the internal market to include the service sector, welfare services, the knowledge economy and the digital economy in order to strengthen competitiveness.
The free movement must be protected, essentially by the EU controlling its external borders. But the EU must also be open to receive people fleeing for their lives. This is a question for the EU as a whole because it is a challenge to us all, and also means that there must be a sharing of responsibility. That discussion must be based on reality: both the dark reality of people fleeing, but also on the economic reality that has shown that countries that have been part of the free movement and that have received refugees actually have developed their economies thanks to the free movement of people.
The reform agenda is something to be shared. Demands for fewer regulations must permeate the legislation but also puts demands on independent countries. The balance and equality between countries with different currencies is an important demand about democracy and Member States’ rights. With regards to the slightly symbolic question of ”the ever closer union”, the Brits might very well get their way. It is a declamatory question of us getting closer together – that we shall become better friends and be more open and understanding towards each other. If Britain sees this as Brussels trying to control everything, they are free to stick to that definition. One must not forget, however, that the internal market, which the Brits hold dear, is about just that – getting closer together despite borders.
Hopefully, David Cameron’s letter will be part of a discussion on how we best develop EU policies and secure the Member States’ rights. Hopefully, it is not the beginning of the end of the role that Britain plays within Europe by being a member of the EU. This is a matter of far greater values than the ones David Cameron writes about. Such a narrative could form new beginning for us all.