Britain is part of Europe. And the single market brings substantial benefits to this country. But this does not mean that the European Union as it currently stands is perfect. Nor does it mean that federalism is the only way forward.
Quite the opposite. Long traditions of independent nationhood must be respected if the EU is to retain the allegiance of the peoples of Europe.
In order to cater for the different aspirations, economies and customs of the Member States, the EU must develop a more flexible approach, an approach which will allow each nation state to decide for itself those areas in which to co-operate. This concept, known as ‘variable geometry’, would allow every nation to find the degree of integration with which it feels comfortable.
Flexibility must also mean that countries should be allowed to repatriate control of wholly domestic matters. Instead of constant centralisation, powers should be allowed to pass up and down between Brussels and the national capitals as necessary; and the relationship between national and European law be re-examined.
Variable geometry is an ambitious goal. But it is, Michael Howard demonstrates, achieveable. Britain has a strong hand to play. And it must not be forgotten that variable geometry would benefit all Member States. It is a profoundly pro-European option whose time has come.