The Right Honourable Peter Hain MP, Minister of State for Europe, was the recent guest of ACI UK at its first Speakers Event of 2002.
Hain, who referred to himself as, “a practical European, neither zealot nor sceptic”, spoke of the need to break down “the wall of ignorance within the UK over the European Union”.
In an interesting, but uncontroversial speech, the minister congratulated the City for its role in Europe, and suggested it was setting an example to the rest of the UK’s business community. He spoke of, “getting rid of the Euro-sceptic fantasy that the UK can ignore the EU,” but also noted the need for continued reform within the Eurozone, specifically to lighten regulation and to make the single market “less sporadic”.
The Minister suggested a more active role for ACI in the move towards deregulation, stating that associations can have an effect at both national and political levels. ACI is an important and influential body, he continued, which can be mobilised to pressure governments to accelerate the process of reform. Paraphrasing a well-known beer commercial in the UK, Hain stated that, “ACI UK can reach the parts [of the EU] that the government cannot reach.”
He added that ACI could help deliver, and provide the impetus for, an efficient and effective single capital market. He also stated that the financial markets provided an excellent model for the mobility of labour, the creation of which, in the European Union, he thought to be a key plank going forward.
The minister adhered to the UK government’s party line on prospective UK membership of the EU, stating that whilst nothing was inevitable in politics, especially when a referendum is required, the UK should have the courage to ask the nation once the government’s five economic tests had been met.
After his speech, the Minister took questions from the floor.