The failure of successive British governments to advance or defend British interests has been based on a false dichotomy between confrontation and supine acceptance of policies devised by more engaged EU governments, with the EU more often than not being made the whipping boy for administrative travesties in fact devised in Whitehall, gold-plating EU resolutions in order to advance the domestic agenda of the bureaucratic oligarchy.
In his first major speech since becoming Foreign Secretary, William Hague - whom nobody could accuse of being a Europhile - will outline measures to enable the UK, at last, to "punch its weight" in EU deliberations. I think it's a sort of Nixon to China moment: only someone clearly identified with advancing the national interest can hope to swing public perception behind the idea that it can be well served within the EU.
It is mystifying to us that the previous Government failed to give due weight to the exercise of British influence in the EU. They neglected to ensure that sufficient numbers of bright British officials entered EU institutions, and so we now face a generation gap developing in the British presence in parts of the EU where early decisions and early drafting take place. Since 2007, the number of British officials at Director level in the European Commission has fallen by a third and we have 205 fewer British officials in the Commission overall. The UK represents 12% of the EU population. Despite that, at entry-level policy grades in the Commission, the UK represents just 1.8% of the staff, well under the level of other major EU member states.
So the idea that the last government was serious about advancing Britain’s influence in Europe turns out to be an unsustainable fiction. Consoling themselves with the illusion that agreeing to institutional changes much desired by others gave an appearance of British centrality in the EU, they neglected to launch any new initiative to work with smaller nations and presided over a decline in the holding of key European positions by British personnel. As a new Government we are determined to put this right.Fine words; let's see if he can get the Foreign Office dweebs to give up their preferred butt-cheek spreading posture and actually stand up for British interests. Many have tried before to put some backbone into the FCO; all have failed.