(Including the comments I received – below the piece)
It’s very difficult to love the EU. It does, after all, largely consist of foreigners.
(I of course jest)
And whilst the Lisbon Treaty gave the European Parliament many more powers, to act like the US Congress, the general perception amongst those Europeans that the EU governs is that the central institutions are run by yet more foreigners, this time with higher level degrees, who have probably never stood for election, and who don’t much care for what the ordinary citizen thinks or wants.
I mean, imagine it. A leadership totally disconnected from the ordinary needs and wants of the citizens who, by dint of education or money have no understanding of being part of the wage earning masses, and who weren’t even elected by significant numbers of them… what a shower of poo that would be…
But whilst the EU project, and the golden handcuffs it has provided in the post-war period have contributed to the Germans no longer wanting to highlighting the weaknesses in other nations military defences, various previously uppity nations having a go at democracy, and the unprecedented free movement of peoples, goods and services and – even with the current omnishambles of an economic crisis – prosperity.. Euromania has hit the UK again.
And we just can’t help ourselves.
You, see if I was Prime Minister, facing the significant local difficulties of the Leveson inquiry (which I have LOL’d at.. or did I love it, I can never remember which is which), and a proportion of my donor base have the sort of tax arrangements that transformed Jimmy Carr from smug faceddeliverer of caustic one liners, to smug faced deliverer of not-so-cheap-gags, as it turned out, my own class background, and how that was funded keeps being poked at in the press, and my Chancellor doing so many policy u-turns, he needed to drop the tax increase on petrol (gas) to be able to afford to keep u-turning so we didn’t have to… I’d probably press the Euro-nutter button too. It’s the easiest button in the political lexicon to press. Right after, the ‘sponging-undeserving-poor’ button. Nothing like responding to stories in the press about multi-millionaires only paying the equivalent of 1% income tax with a policy initiatives aimed at taking a few quid off some poor people. And before there are howls, those who are healthy, and yet make a living sitting at home soaking up my taxes for no readily good reason get on my thru’penny bits too.
But more digressions.
We probably shouldn’t mention that it was a Tory Prime Minister who campaigned so hard to get the UK into the EU (EEC) in the first place (Heath), nor one who oversaw and signed up to the largest extension of its powers in the 1980s (Thatcher). This only upsets people. Thatcher saw the light. When she was about to leave office. But the important point is that these people, and the bulk of right thinking centrists, and centre-right folk supported entry into and continued membership of the union because of the following inalienable truths:
The EU isn’t just a useful addition for British business, it is British business. 70% of exports, in fact.
The European trading area makes Britain more prosperous. It delays the nasty day when we’re no longer Great Britain, are just Britain instead..
The European trading area has made every man, woman and child in Britain more prosperous than they otherwise would be.
It has made every working man and woman, safer in the workplace, and less overworked too.
It has systematically raised the safety standards of consumer goods, and other consumables.
It has provided a fairer trading platform for British businesses to compete in.
For those who are interested enough, it has provided unparalleled and funded opportunities for students to spend time in universities and schools across Europe, and made it possible to create a European community of peoples unkeen to start killing each other again.
The success of the EU also reflected another truth. One not keenly understood here, for historic reasons, which is that there are very, very few countries on the planet able to make a successful, secure and prosperous go of being unitary actors. All countries below the superpower threshold are better in clubs of like-minded, or like-attributed other nations. Britain retains its place in the world because it’s a member of the EU (and a big player) not despite of it.
So, when I read in my e-version of the current bun that the Prime Minister is thinking of tying in the EU referendum with the General Election, my heart sank at the potential political opportunism. A government in crisis, and one which is unlikely to secure a second term, has unlocked the safe, got out the code book and is considering pressing the Euronutter button properly. A government which hasn’t effectively replaced the EU with another equally prosperous trading relationship, will be sailing the country down the river named decline.
So, whether you think the EU project is a bad one, or a doomed one, or one that just isn’t elected enough.. even if you think all of those things, the question is not about the EU. It’s about Britain, and whether Britain wants to retain the opportunity to be prosperous or not. We cannot leave the EU and become a grand-scale version of Jersey.. by some estimates over half the indigenous population there are on benefits, and the gap between rich and poor is beyond yawning. And for me, as someone who studies and lectures on security, we – the plucky British – are beyond independent solutions now, we rely on intergovernmental solutions like NATO. The same is true in trading and business, even if we don’t yet fully realise it. When we do, we’ll stop mucking about with Euro-referendums and instead engage properly and run the place.
Now, that would be worth voting for.