Britain and Europe: Winning the Policy, Losing the Politics

03/02/2015 17:10 GMT | Updated 05/04/2015 10:59 BST

Last week, British Influence launched its second annual Scorecard with the former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt. The aim of the report is simple.

To answer the question at the heart of the In/Out debate: does Britain get her way in Europe? This is important because for those who want Britain to leave the EU, their tactic is to make the public feel the UK always loses against Brussels. They want to stir a public despair which asks: what's the point of staying in if we are ganged up on, our demands ignored, our sovereignty outvoted and the Germans and French run the show anyway? Bent banana gags with the UK defying all Europe's insanities sell papers but, regrettably, also pollute minds. Twenty years of Daily Mail-style gleeful defeatism has by now so riled the public that two thirds think we have zero influence in Europe.

Annoyingly, nothing could be further from the truth. As Bildt said in his keynote speech "Europe is moving in a British direction." He reminded the audience that the Brussels to-do list "could have been written in London." British Influence has argued for months now that the British reform agenda is not just that of the Prime Minister. It is the agenda of all three main parties and now the agenda of all 28 member states.

The Scorecard proved as much. For the second year, the UK has won a majority of its policy aims. When the UK fails, political posturing is usually to blame. As Bildt said: "Britain has been doing much better than most people recognise. The British Influence scorecard is an effort to try to see if the UK agenda of change having any sort of traction in Europe? And I think it has. The UK has been doing amazingly well in driving the reforms process."

Which is why the public want a better, more unified European policy. Only 8% believed that a confrontational, transactional and visionless approach to European negotiations would work. Nearly half urged a positive engagement based on a clear agenda backed by allies.

This attitude is reflected in the Chatham House annual survey of how Brits felt about their country's place in the world. Overall, there is support for an ambitious British foreign policy and leadership role. 63% of the public and 61% of opinion-formers said that the UK should aspire to be a 'great power' rather than accept that it is in decline. The public seems open to a more vigorous approach toward international security, including providing troops for peacekeeping missions and helping lead the global response to climate change. Support for remaining in the EU has grown among opinion-formers and is now at 72%. Among the public, narrowly more would vote to remain in the EU (40%) than to leave it (39%). Interestingly, the survey revealed that the public now thinks that the UK's closest ties should be to the EU (30%) rather than to the US (25%).

So it is infuriating that a forward policy towards Europe, though favoured by the public and silently shared by the leaderships of the three main parties, gets shredded by media and political expediency. This leaves the country in the invidious position where two thirds of the country wants Britain to step up in Europe but the same two thirds think we are powerless to do so. This is a crisis of leadership and it has got to stop. The Scorecard proves that Britain is winning on the policy but losing on politics.