The EU Solidarity Fund was established in 2002 specifically to support member countries hit by natural disasters. Yet despite months of flooding and growing pressure from MEPs, the British Government is only now, after weeks of stonewalling, considering making an application.
Why the delay? Perhaps because the Treasury looked askance at the cost, given that a proportion of any claim would be deducted from next year’s rebate. More likely, however, is that a Government led by the Conservative Party – many of whose members vehemently dislike Europe and all its works – was loath to act in any way that suggested Britain either needed, or benefited from, its EU membership.
If only it were difficult to believe that policymakers would allow their own political agenda to stand in the way of the best interests of Britain. Sad to say, it is not – particularly where Europe is concerned. And if the EU Solidarity Fund creates a presentation problem for a Government desperate not to upset its Eurosceptic element, how much more so does yesterday’s publication of the results of the review into the balance of powers between Westminster and Brussels?
The “balance of competences” investigation was launched in 2010 to bolster David Cameron’s arguments for a large-scale renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe. Instead, as the eight reports released on the sly yesterday – of course – make plain, the case is anything but clear-cut. Not only is there at least as much evidence of the UK profiting from its position in Europe as there is of our being constrained by it. More telling still, there is not a single proposal to repatriate a particular power.
No wonder that – like the Solidarity Fund – Downing Street wanted to keep the review’s conclusions out of the spotlight. Indeed, on this, even pro-Europeans might agree: after all, without a high-profile reset, moderate Tories (including Mr Cameron) will struggle to argue that Britain should remain in the EU, even though they know an exit would be catastrophic.
All of which only illuminates once again how far the debate about Europe has come untethered from reality. As ever, Britain is the loser.