EU in its present form is “unsustainable”
The European Union needs to be more “flexible” and allow for various levels of integration to succeed, William Hague has said.
Speaking in Berlin, the UK Foreign Secretary warned that the British public is disillusioned with the EU and their scepticism about the 27-member bloc is at “the deepest it has ever been”.
"This coalition government is committed to Britain playing a leading role in the EU but I must also be frank - public disillusionment with the EU in Britain is the deepest it has ever been,” Hague said in a speech at Berlin’s Kober Foundation. "People feel that in too many ways the EU is something that is done to them, not something over which they have a say."
Hague, however, did not blame the EU or Brussels alone for the disillusionment of the British public. He claimed the previous Labour government had to bear responsibility for part of it due to the way the Lisbon Treaty was ratified without any consultation with the British electorate.
"People feel that the EU is a one-way process, a great machine that sucks up decision-making from national parliaments to the European level until everything is decided by the EU. That needs to change,” the Foreign Secretary warned. “If we cannot show that decision-making can flow back to national parliaments then the system will become democratically unsustainable.”
He went on to argue that while Eurozone countries might need to integrate more to resolve the on-going economic crisis, more “centralisation” is not the way forward for the wider EU. The European Union must be more flexible and it should be a structure that “allows differing degrees of integration in different areas, done in ways that do not disadvantage those that do not wish to participate in everything, and preserves the things we all value."
The Foreign Secretary’s comments come at a backdrop of a budget battle that the Prime Minister David Cameron is fighting with the European Parliament, as well as his fellow leaders. At the same time, there are growing calls for a different kind of UK-EU relationship, especially as the Eurozone becomes more and more integrated fiscally as well as politically.
The European Commission and the European Parliament insist on a 6.8% increase next year for the EU budget and a 5% annual increase thereafter until 2020. However, David Cameron has made it clear that he would veto any budget increases over the “rate of inflation”.