Welcome support for the Reform Treaty
"Useful improvements to what we have now" was the general reaction of voluntary sector organisations to the EU Reform treaty at a meeting in London yesterday.
Europe Minister Jim Murphy, myself and Gary Titley met the NCVO to discuss the new treaty and their views on it. It was refreshing to have a discussion on what the treaty actually says, rather than on the red herring of whether we should have a referendum on it.
From a variety of perspectives (RSPB, NSPCC, sports organisations, development NGOs, civil liberty groups and so on) the voluntary organisations argued that the new treaty was helpful in providing for more efficient decision-taking in their field, better arrangements for their involvement, more democratic accountability and/or better defined objectives for EU action in the fields in which they are active.
The only misgiving expressed about the new treaty was about where it doesn't change the status quo - the subjects the new treaty does not affect one way or the other. There were also fears that Britain's special protocol on the Charter of Rights might lead to a lower level of protection for EU citizens resident in the UK. But all in all, the treaty is regarded as a welcome set of improvements.
Crucially, this is an opinion expressed by practioners, active but independent of government, who have actually looked at what the treaty says. A strikingly different tone from most press coverage and the views expressed by the Conservatives, UKIP, and BNP.