THE BLOG

David Cameron Is Panicking on Europe

19/03/2014 17:28 GMT | Updated 19/05/2014 10:59 BST

Last week Ed Miliband made clear that Labour will be as bold in defending membership of the EU as we are in pushing for real change in Europe.

In a typically panicked response, David Cameron rushed to publish an article on Europe, that over-claimed, and woefully under delivered.

It left the British public none the wiser about what reforms he actually wants in Europe, instead offering only vague assertions and empty promises.

Because in truth, David Cameron's article was written for rebellious Tory backbenchers, not sceptical British voters, and exposed that he is still trying to achieve party unity through the device of policy obscurity.

Even after his latest article, when it comes to his approach on Europe, it is clear that David Cameron's backbenchers have lost faith and the public have lost trust.

We all know that the EU needs to change, and we must not be complacent about the challenges that Europe faces today.

That is why Ed Miliband set out last week a set of sensible and serious reforms that would work to make the EU work better for Britain.

Labour's agenda for Europe will prioritise economic growth, including proposals for an EU Commissioner for Growth and an independent audit of the impact of any new piece of legislation on growth.

We have also now begun detailed work with Confederation of British Industry to ensure that British business benefit from the completion of the Single Market in areas such as digital and services.

On immigration Ed Miliband set out reforms to help do more to ensure that people coming to the UK from other EU countries will contribute to our economy, and to our society.

We believe the period of time that people have to wait before being able to come to the UK to look for work should be extended.

But migration within the EU is not just about who should be able to come to the UK, it is also about what those already here should be entitled to.

That is why Ed Miliband announced that Labour will address the payment of benefits to those not resident in this country, and will double the time that people coming to the UK from other EU countries seeking work have to wait before being able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance.

So Labour are clear that the priority is reform in Europe, not exit from Europe.

In contrast, David Cameron can't even explain what kind of Europe he wants to see, let alone how he would vote in an in/out referendum.

Today you have the odd reality of Labour in opposition offering more detail on a real reform agenda than the party actually in government.

Indeed, the Prime Minister is playing catch-up with Labour when it comes to reform.

So when David Cameron suggested this week that there should be "a new power for groups of national parliaments to work together to block unwanted European legislation", he should remember that such proposals were set out by Labour over a year ago.

After Ed Miliband's speech, the public are ever more alert to the fact that David Cameron's approach depends on him getting unanimous EU support from 27 member states in just 24 months - the truth is that today he has none.

The real tragedy for Britain today is that the serious groundwork required to deliver change is simply not being done by David Cameron.

Sadly, the Prime Minister has wasted the fourteen months since his Bloomberg speech spending more time negotiating with his backbenchers on Europe, instead of actually setting out his vision for reform of the EU.

And by having to fire-fight rebellions within his own party, he is running out of steam in negotiating for Britain in Europe.

We have been here before - under John Major Britain suffered from a weak Tory leader with a rebellious eurosceptic party that we know can cause real damage to Britain's national interest.

In contrast, the Labour Party has been clear that we will be as bold in defending membership of the EU as we are in pushing for real change in Europe.

With a clear set of proposals, Labour in government will work for a reformed the EU that works better for Britain.