Belfast Telegraph

Reform of EU totally necessary

By Jim Nicholson

The European Union must be reformed. That is my message to the new European Commission, recently endorsed by MEPs.

The public do not want a relentless march towards a European super-state, but the outgoing commission has failed to address concerns.

The new commission provides reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the future - there are some competent nominees for certain policy portfolios and a new president that espouses, at least in rhetoric, the need for change.

Jean-Claude Juncker has made a number of pledges, including reducing bureaucracy, cutting red tape, returning some decision-making to member states and a more transparent approach towards EU-US trade negotiations.

Reform is necessary - that is clear, now more than ever, following the latest developments that risk pushing the UK over the edge of the Eurosceptic cliff.

It is staggering that the European Commission is demanding an extra £1.7bn contribution from the UK, because our economy has grown beyond expectations.

The UK should not be penalised for economic recovery, while other countries with stagnating economies are rewarded with rebates.

In addition to this, outgoing president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, recently derided the UK's ability to renegotiate its relationship with the EU.

His comments may just have been a last parting shot aimed at the prime minister, but these sort of remarks only increase anti-European feelings.

If the new commission is serious about having a constructive working relationship with the UK, they should start by addressing recent events and rolling back on the ridiculous demand for more money.

The recent European elections show the public demands change. Juncker's commission must deliver on its commitments, because ultimately it will be judged on its deeds, not its words.

There are interesting times ahead, with the ability to change the face of Europe as well as the UK's relationship with Europe.

I believe the European Union needs the UK more than the other way round and I look for a positive outcome.

Jim Nicholson is Ulster Unionist MEP for Northern Ireland

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