I came of political age as the ERM debacle and Maastricht ratification process corroded the Tory party. Saving the pound against its “inevitable” inclusion in the Euro project made me a Eurosceptic. The Queen on the money, the ability of the state to finance itself *is* sovereignty, and the ability to generate our own finance has been the United Kingdom’s saviour in three world wars, and it would be a profound piece of treason to give up a world reserve currency.
Next to currency, any other pooling of sovereignty is trivial and easily unwound. NATO which extends from the Arctic to Asia Minor, the area to which the UK MUST respond to any attack is arguably a far greater pooling of sovereignty than what remains of the EU. I will NEVER accept the United Kingdom adopting the Euro and I’d take to the rooftops if necessary to prevent it. I am deeply hostile to the idea of ever closer union, and any conversation with one enthusiastic about a federal Europe often has me reaching for a cudgel. I am a Eurosceptic.
Too many people like me, blooded in politics in those bitter divisive battles which pitched Tory business-toadying against Tory patriotism in a civil war whose skirmishes continue to this day, want to restart the war. For many, trust in the EU forever lost, they have spent 20 years believing every anti-EU pitch from the UK press (however untrue), and simply not considering any benefits of being in the club, hiding in an intellectual jungle pretending like Hiroo Onoda that the war wasn’t over. So satisfying, so heady was the victory over the Euro, they now yearn to defeat the EU itself, and so they have worked themselves into a hysteria where the EU is a silent enemy poisoning everything.
All this willful cognitive bias by the ‘leave’ camp means going into their campaign that they have so long demanded, with some truly dreadful arguments, based on exaggerations, lies and wishful thinking. You can almost hear in their words a background by Elgar, the sound of a merlin engine, the image of a lone Tommy in battledress standing on the white cliffs of dover, fist raised to Europe as the Supermarine Spitfire roars overhead he yells “Very Well, ALONE!”
I shouldn’t need to say this. The European Union isn’t Hitler’s Germany, nor is it the USSR. It is a collection of some of the most successful, happy, free, prosperous nations on earth who seek to do business together, and yes, club together to solve problems (environmental, political and financial) that face us all. Shielded from many of the worst problems by our Island fortress, the British experience is different. And our unique experience is reflected and recognised. No-one serious now expects the UK to join the Euro, or Schengen. The UK’s implacable hostility to a “Euro-Army” has prevented one being formed. Without the UK, an EU defence policy would be worthless.
For all the grunting about immigrants’ benefits about which I simply don’t care, what Cameron has achieved is a recognition, even from the likes of Guy Verhofstadt that the UK’s status is special, and that should be reflected in the treaties. An opt-out from “ever closer union” was in-effect achieved in Maastricht with our Opt-Outs from the Euro (with Denmark) and Schengen (with Ireland), and this development achieved by Cameron is symbolic, but not meaningless: future treaties will be easier to negotiate because a UK opt-out is already considered a possibility from the outset.
A UK vote to leave the European Union wouldn’t be a disaster for the UK. The UK is a big, powerful, influential country with nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers (soon…) and a permanent seat on the UN security council. To imagine we need the EU in any serious, existential way for our prosperity or security is laughable. 3,000,000 jobs “depend” upon the EU? These kind of nonsense numbers discredit the people that make them, no less than the ‘KIPpers wanting to pull up the drawbridge. But it would be a disaster for the EU, and that would harm our interests in the long run, to very, very little benefit.
To What Problem is ‘Leave the European Union’ a Solution?
The most likely ‘Brexit’ scenario would be to leave the European Union but remain in the European Economic Area, so we’d still have access to the single market, have to take on board a lot of the trade legislation and still pay dues at much the same rate. Not sure what this achieves except getting out of the decision-making process which at the very least allows us to keep an eye on the French.
Without us in the EU, the EU will run off and integrate. Great, you may say, good luck to them, but that would betray 500 years of British foreign policy. They will become more protectionist, and that won’t help us, not at all. A messy European collapse after Franco-German mismanagement will inevitably need the Anglosphere grown-ups to pick up the pieces. Again. Better to prevent that happening. The Zero-sum thinking by many on the ‘Leave’ camp – believing what’s bad for Europe is good for us – is particularly toxic and idiotic.
From 1975, when the UK was “the sick man of Europe” to now, when we’re seriously expecting to overtake Germany (and even Japan’s) GDP, it’s simply not evident that the EU has held the UK back. I don’t credit the EU with all, or even much of this turnaround in the UK’s fortunes. But the idea we’re “shackled to a corpse” is absurd. The EU isn’t preventing the UK being the USA’s 2nd largest investor, after Japan for example.
In 40-odd years of EU membership, the UK’s economy hasn’t aligned at all to that of Europe. We are still the home-ownership obsessed mid-atlantic economy, hypersensitive to interest rates that we were. This gives the lie to the “inevitable” integration to which we’re allegedly subject.
We do get outvoted more than any other nation. That is why we’re negotiating a special status and all our opt-outs. This isn’t evidence that the UK is put upon or suffers under the Euro-yoke, more that the EU, but that the UK is a steering and restraining influence. We cannot always have our way, but being outvoted on lots of trivialities, it does seem we have set the EU agenda on enlargement and free trade.
“But they make all our laws” I hear you say! So what? Really, who cares where the law comes from, and the idea much of this would change were we out is absurd. Most of what the EU sends is intragovernmental negotiated directive on international things the EU is supposed to be for like climate change, or high-volume, low-impact trade law. As EU referendum points out all the time, most of the trade regulations come from world bodies anyway. I just can’t see why he thinks this a compelling argument for ‘leave’. The fears of EU law being “supreme” that the “roman system” will replace common law and that we’ll all inevitably be dragged into a superstate are just paranoid fantasy. We’ve secured the opt-outs to remain a free, independent nation. The Eurozone will integrate, and we will lead the ‘outs’ who won’t.
What about immigration? Well if you want access to the free market, you have to accept free movement of people. Free movement of people is a good thing. What about the Syrians, I hear some of you grunt? Well, Didn’t Cameron play a blinder there? Most of the refugees will not become EU citizens so there’s no “danger” even if “they” are all itching to cross the channel as soon as they’ve got their German passport. Our biggest source of immigration is India, which, last time I checked, isn’t in the EU.
It’s simply difficult to see what benefit leaving the EU for the EEA has for the UK, over what we’ve already achieved, and so many of the other arguments sound like paranoid fantasies of people who’re desperate to justify an emotional loathing of the EU.
And now the case for ‘Remain’.
First, let’s get “project fear” out the way. Businesses hate uncertainty. From the ‘Leave’ vote to any certainty as to the business environment post withdrawal, there will be investments put on hold, weakening of Sterling, projects delayed as decision-makers wait and see. This will probably cause a recession. People who advocate for out must persuade me the benefits outweigh the damage of an unnecessary recession. Thus far, they haven’t.
Where many see “the EU” as a disaster, I see “the Euro” as the disaster in much the same way ERM was a debacle for an otherwise excellent government. The Euro is not the same thing as the EU.
The European Union – it’s extension to the East and the very Free Market we all hope to keep were british-driven projects. While it’s true NATO has delivered peace, the EU has done a good job in institution-building in post-fascist Greece and Spain (sadly, much good undone by the Euro-catastrophe).
When the Berlin Wall came down, Ukrainians and Poles had the same living standards. Poles who were able to orient west, were able to enjoy significant benefits and investment from the EU. Democratic institutions (admittedly currently being tested by ‘Law and Justice’) have been built and corruption squeezed. There is still much work to do, but former-soviet eastern and central Europe has done well out of the EU, and we have benefitted from their growth. Ukrainians want some of that – an association agreement due to be signed in 2013 is not an “act of aggression” by an “expansionist” EU to appease “fascists” in Kiev, it’s part of making the world a better place through trade and investment. Putin, however threw his teddies out of the pram, and thousands of people have died.
Putin hates the EU, and fears it. He fears it, because it offers the people of former soviet satellites evidence that the Russian embrace is not warm or friendly. It is paranoid, and parasitic. The EU gives hope to the people who want these places to become as free and prosperous as Tallinn or Warsaw. The EU offer a way to quietly destroy enemies by making their people rich. The only world leader itching for a ‘Leave’ vote is Vladimir Putin, because he knows the UK is important to the European union, and now is not the time to be having an almighty row with our allies.
You may say “our interests are not served by Europe” and in narrow, financial terms you may be right (though I’m not convinced by that, and there’s plenty of evidence the EU makes us richer). But in the broader interests of a free, confident, rich and united west who can look the totalitarian masters of Russia or China in the Eye and say “do your worst” the EU is part of that process. Because standing together, the West, in its clubs: NATO, the EU can still set the agenda. The USA wants the UK to remain in the EU for the same reason it wants Scotland to remain in the UK. The USA is a hegemon, but one that desires its friends to be as united, strong and free as it is. While Russia, by way of comparison wants its satellites, poor and dependent. The EU is a bulwark against totalitarianism. Perhaps the Carrot to NATO’s stick. The UK’s role is to be a leader in all major clubs of the west NATO, 5-eyes and the EU as such we are the hinge on which the unity of the Atlantic west rotates. The UK leaving leaves us, and our allies weaker and more divided, just as we need to be unified in the face of a newly dangerous world.
Now is not the time
It is possible sense could prevail, and a post-EU UK could be a free, open, prosperous and happy place. But I suspect any leave vote would be driven not by the open-minded, but by the dull-witted sour old gits who want to pull up the drawbridge and return to 1956. It’s possible a ‘Leave’ vote could have ‘Falklands effect’ in restoring the national mojo, a return to national self-confidence. But it could also trigger a recession, Scottish independence and the collapse of everything I hold dear.
Now, with the SNP in Holyrood, Putin in the Kremlin and the world recovering from the biggest financial crisis in a century, there is no need to roll the dice. The ephemeral benefits simply aren’t worth the risks, and there’s no evidence the EU is doing us harm beyond losing a few votes in the Council of Ministers over things that don’t really matter.
All the Brexiteers needed to do was wait until the next treaty and turn that into an in/out thing. But they were too stupid to see even that. When perhaps, the threat of Scottish independence will have receded, and Putin’s safely swinging from a gibbet, and then I might say “very well, alone”. But now is not that time. They wanted the battle too much, the ‘KIPpers; they hated the wrong enemy with an intensity and passion that has completely blinded them to new threats. And that, ultimately is why they will lose; their foul chauvinist miserablism looks worse even than turgid bureaucracy of the EU.
https://bracken.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Blog-Sunday-7feb10-290.jpg12141394Malcolm Brackenhttp://bracken.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo-2.pngMalcolm Bracken2016-02-23 11:43:002017-07-21 01:43:01The Eurosceptic case for voting 'Remain'.