Friday, 8 June 2012

An In/Out EU referendum... Not Now.

According to the Tory/UKIP narrative, the only reason that David Cameron isn't offering an EU referendum is that he's a closet (or not so closet) europhile. As part of the new elite, he's bitten completely into the grand European project, hook, line and sinker. His aim is therefore to deny, like those European politicians, his people a say in the project. This makes him (and I'm quoting from various tweets from EU nutters) a Quisling, a traitor, only pretending to be a Tory, not a real conservative and so on.

If only, so the narrative goes, Cameron offered a referendum, people would dance in the streets. We would pull out, and without our Euro-dues flooding to the continent, we would be able to spend the money, invigorating our own economy. India, Australia and Canada would welcome us back with open arms. UKIP would pack up and go home, and the Tories would romp to victory at the next General election.

This is bollocks.

The electorate is broadly hostile to the EU. But they only express that feeling when asked. Even with the Euro-crisis on the nightly news, few venture this as one of their top priorities. If anything the evidence appears to be however much the electorate agree with the Tories, there is a stronger feeling that they wish the Tories would just shut up about Europe.

The straight in/out question lacks the subtlety of both the Electorate's (and the official Tory) position. That is most people, when given the option, express an opinion supporting a middle way. Not out of the EU entirely, but certainly not part of the core federal project. If the electorate could have the free market at lower cost, and without all the Euro-laws interfering with the extradition of bearded ne'er do wells like Abu Quatada, we'd be OK. The fact that these rulings come down from the ECHR, not the EU is lost on the electorate.

So, are we "better off out"? Possibly, right now. The EU is an unattractive bureaucratic project which has got far, far too big and intrusive for the UK's comfort. It suffers an absolutely obscene democratic deficit at its core. But, and this is crucial, leaving would be disruptive and not at all helpful to the short-term pressing problems of a flat economy, which should occupy politician's minds. Asking the Question in 2014, risks the electorate asking back "why now, when you've more important things to do?". Worse, from a Tory perspective, this could re-open the running sore of "splits". Certainly the other parties will be opening up this old wound.

Leaving the EU is not without cost. The Free market is a benefit, an enormous one, of EU membership. As is often pointed out, the European nation with the most rigorous implementation of EU diktats is Norway, which isn't a member of the EU, but instead suffers from "government by fax" where it is forced to adopt the measures of the free market, while having no input into their creation. Unpicking the constitutional, legal and economic effects of EU membership is a much bigger question, and will come at much greater cost than the simplistic Eurosceptics would have you believe. The UK, as a vastly more powerful nation than Norway will certainly be able to negotiate better terms than Norway, but I would vote against any "out" proposition which lost the UK free access to the EU's single market. Leaving is a project for a stable Government with a clear mandate to do so, in good times. Ie. NOT NOW.

The UK has pursued the same foreign policy in respect to the continent since the Plantagenets abandoned the idea of an Anglo-Norman continental empire: If England (later Britain) cannot be the Hegemonic power in Europe, no one shall be. Withdrawal from the EU will cede that hegemonic power to Germany, something nearly two million Britons died in the twentieth century to prevent.

The EU is about to split into a federal core of Eurozone countries while a rump of independent countries, some of whom still say they want to adopt the Euro (but probably won't) remain in the Free market. Britain can lead this group, ensure the reformed Holy Roman Empire can't grow too big. With Britain in the Single Market, Poland and the rest of Central Europe may have the confidence to retain their currencies and act as a counterweight to an over mighty Teutonic empire.

Instead the Eurosceptics would rather stand on the white-cliffs of Dover in a Union-Jack tie shaking their fist at the dastardly foreigners over the Channel. We can look back on the summer of 1940, when Britain stood alone with pride. It does not mean we should try to recreate the feeling, especially when we're about to get what we always wanted from the project. By staying in the EU and undermining its ridiculous march towards "ever closer union" from the inside, The United Kingdom is staying true to nearly a thousand years of consistent foreign policy.

Let's not abandon that which has served us well for so long.



8 comments:

Shineymart said...

Hmmmmm

I see your point.... up to a point.

But until we leave we can't abolish [VAT]* - so I would vote to leave!

Shiney

*name any one of a thousand other stupid things the EU mandates and insert as appropriate.

Tarka the Rotter said...

There's a neo-soviet style agenda to the EU which is hard to stomach...a mania for standardisation and centralisation which is detestable and hard to swallow for a freeborn Englishman...not convinced by your argument I'm afraid.

Simon Jester said...

"most people, when given the option, express an opinion supporting a middle way."

Unfortunately, this has never been on offer. Until it is, wishing for it is similar to Bozzer's position on cake: pro-having it and pro-eating it.

Oh, and comparing modern-day Germany to that of Hitler and the Kaiser puts you in the company of the frothing-mouthest extremes of swivel-eyed lunacy.

Anonymous said...

Yes I know that Britains foreign policy in Europe has always been divisional.
However the question is how much trade do we actually do with Europe?
I suspect the Rotterdam effect is larger than we are led to believe.
Also how less competitive is our industry due to over regulation ?
I know first hand the effect of the so called free trade zone for example the German TUV standard is in fact a protectionist measure to make it difficult to import in Germany.
Why?
A German company can apply for pending status whereas a foreign company may not.
I took me one month of plowing through useless paperwork to get the product in.
Then, even though it had the TUV mark German products were on display that had the "pending status.
One rule for one ,one for for others.
Free trade my ......

c777

cuffleyburgers said...

Jackart - I think this time you've got it about right. The time for a referendum was Lisbon, Cameron fluffed that.

However events are now moving far faster than the ploitical classes can and by the time any referendum could be organised Europe will likely have changed significantly.

Clearly access to the single market is important, but considering that the UK is a large net importer frm the EU that seems unlikely to be a problem.

I think we are very far away from a situation in which a German hegemon starts throwing her weight around militarily, and a German domintaed Europe is likely to be a more amenable place to us than a French one.

Could it be that Cameron's inactivity which most of us have taken for spineless incompetence has in fact been instead "masterly"?

SadButMadLad said...

To a certain degree I could agree with you. That's why I didn't put pulling out of the EU as my choice for Douglas Carswell's open source bill. It just didn't feel quite as important amongst friends and family who were more worried about jobs and the economy. If we had been part of the Euro, then the whole pulling out of the EU might have been more important.

However, on the issue of trade is where I disagree. Being outside of the EU and not that affected by EU rules won't stop us selling to the EU. China, Asia, the rest of the world sell to the EU. Yes, they do have to get things like CE marks but they don't have to follow all the other rules and regulations about how a product should be made. In other words, they don't have to ensure that their workers have a duvet wrapped around them as they work and so can be more efficient.

Umbongo said...

"By staying in the EU and undermining its ridiculous march towards "ever closer union" from the inside,"

Oh yes: and who of our negotiators/representatives is going to do this? The mandarins at the FCO? Our MEPs? The leaders of the "Conservative" Party? Even Mrs T, not a noted europhile, was unable to stop the inexorable metamorphosis of the EEC into the EU. There is nobody and no group in the political class who is prepared, let alone capable, of achieving such an objective. Your argument is the "top table" fallacy in all its glory: "in it to win it" nonsense. As Simon Jester commented, a "middle way" is very nice but it's not on offer: and, I would add, it's never going to be on offer (not that would stop Osborne & Co lying to us that it might be on offer).

Given that, in reality, we have little influence once the Germans and the French agree on a policy, why would remaining in achieve the "balance of power" sought for the last thousand years? Isn't it just as likely that our leaving the EU would lead to its collapse? I don't know who likened the European Project to a bicycle, but it's an apt analogy: if the project doesn't advance it falls over. If we leave, maybe the bicycle stops: if we remain there's little chance (again, in reality) of our being able to stop its progress.

I'm surprised you didn't include in your post the "danger" that if we leave the EU 3+ million jobs (or whatever number is plucked out of Roland Rudd's backside) "dependent on the EU" will be lost. Since we import more from the EU than we export to it and consequently it's probable that far more EU jobs depend on us than the reverse I don't think the EU is going to hobble trade with the UK under any circumstances. OTOH, I admit the EU is not above inflicting massive damage on itself (cf the euro) so one can't be sure that a trade embargo could never occur.

As to the Norwegian analogy: let me give you another one. We trade with the US. We have no input into the various regulations which the US imposes on goods and services being sold into the US: simply put, we suck it up and export all the same. For some reason you consider that because Norway - a small, weak country with a lot of oil 'n' gas (which, as it happens, we ceded to them in a badly botched negotiation by the same crowd you claim would be able to stop the USE juggernaut) - has been unable to play its hand as well as the Swiss, we're buggered. I admit we could be buggered if those in charge of our relationship with the EU are the same before and after a referendum. However, although there's no simple solution to that one, I reckon we would have a stronger negotiating hand as an outsider than the one we play now.

Unknown said...

As much as I hate the EU the thought of Britain's eternal and continual role in Europe as a type of blood-sucking medler doesn't impress me.
Come to think of it, I would rather have the Boche run Britain than the present tosspots by a long shot.

The comment on the 'two million dead' made me pull up. Do you ever wonder, considering your comments (which I think accurate,) who is ultimately responsible? A cigar for you if you find some way to evade the logical answer.

Perhaps it's time Britain finds some other role than that as spoiler. At some point our tricks cease to be much of a mystery to others, and the long delayed comeuppance may just be final.

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