Our vision of Europe is one of an open, flexible and free association of states working together to achieve shared goals and to promote liberal democratic values. We believe that this should be based upon the ‘four freedoms’: the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. We refer to this vision as 'Open Europe'.
It is widely accepted that the European Union (EU) has fallen short of this vision. The EU’s social and economic model, with its excessive regulation, is in need of substantial reform; its institutional framework manages to stifle democratic accountability at the national level without putting in place any viable alternative; and its interventions in the wider world, in trade and foreign affairs, are often clumsy or counter-productive.
Despite these facts, we recognise that the EU has been a positive force in helping many countries in the transition to democracy and the free market, and that some sort of political and economic structure in Europe is preferable to isolationism, protectionism and narrow nationalism. In short, we need to rethink what Europe is about and seek the sorts of changes in the EU that will deliver what we need.
Our immediate priorities
In the short-term, we will work for changes in the EU to promote trade liberalisation rather than excessive regulation, for political pluralism rather than a bureaucratic straitjacket, and for a freedom-based agenda internationally.
We support the liberalisation of trade in services and agriculture, two sectors in which the EU has been a failure. We will promote less onerous regulation and market-based reforms wherever practicable. However, we would reverse any constitutional measures that have removed essential UK control or reduced democratic scrutiny.
Internationally, we believe that the EU should work to lower trade barriers and transform its trading position from a customs union to a free trade area, a task that would be greatly facilitated by the dismantling of the Common Agricultural Policy. There would be great benefits in securing free trade agreements with some of our major trading partners, including free trade between the EU and NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Associations). We would also seek to promote close co-operation with the United States on security and other matters.
Our long-term goals
We believe that the goal of an open Europe can be achieved but it will require a strong coalition of Member States to initiate change. We will work for a new structure in the EU that allows the United Kingdom and other Member States to continue within the EU’s core trading area but opt in or opt out of specific EU programmes. This would need to be accompanied by changes to the EU’s financial arrangements, but it would enable all Member States to participate flexibly in a way that meets their particular needs.
Such an arrangement would allow us to withdraw from programmes that damage our economy whilst maintaining a positive trading relationship and a co-operative political relationship. Thus we would wish to withdraw from the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy and a whole raft of unwarranted, damaging and counter-productive social and labour regulations.
The potential for reform
We seek a new relationship with the EU based upon free trade, open borders and national sovereignty. We are optimistic that major reforms can now be achieved as other EU nations start to realise the necessity of preserving that which is good about the EU by reforming that which is bad.
- Articles: Open Europe