Lets be honest, the current hysteria about the UK’s EU membership is not about Europe, it is about an embattled Prime Minster trying to appease the right-wing of his party because he cannot control them. It is also about a Government who are decimating the Welfare State on the altar of capitalism, and rather than take responsibility need someone other than themselves to blame as Bevan said nearly 50 years ago the Tories:
The Tories, every election, must have a bogey man. If you haven’t got a programme, a bogy man will do.
Saying that we must sacrifice the rights and protection afforded to the British public from Health & Safety Legislation to make us more efficient ignores the fact that Germany – who is bound by these conditions – are in growth whilst the UK under the Tories bounce along to a triple dip recession. To impeded the free flow of goods and ideas that the EU affords will just make the situation worse, and even worse makes us a less attractive proposition for investment because, simply, no-one knows if we will be in EU or not after 2017. The argument that referenda creates uncertainty will be the same int his case.
To create a crisis in midst of the biggest economic to hit Europe since the end of the Second World War is just irresponsible.
There was no more acute analogy to the position of the United Kingdom than on my recent trip to Germany by train.
The outward bound journey was straight forward, I was cutting the ‘check in’ fine, I sailed through, on the train, a change of train in Brussels and Amsterdam (perfect connections) and then onto Lower Saxony.
This is how Europe should work, a free flow of ideas, people and goods unhindered by other than security checks, creation a dynamic that fosters prosperity and growing together. Moving from France, to Belgium and the Netherlands and then to Germany was seamless, with no hindrance (thanks to the Schengen Agreement that formalised the free flow of people across borders).
Heading back to the UK was a nightmare, well it wasn’t until I got to Brussels Midi – a queue for Belgium Passport Control, to join another queue for UK Immigration, and another queue for the – very necessary – security checks. My progress, like trade outside the EU, was hindered, no way to become productive.
David Cameron today launched his bid to remain Prime Minister, against the advice of President Obama, he is seeking a referendum on EU membership, the French have pointed out that:
you can’t do Europe à la carte. I’ll take an example which our British friends will understand. Let’s imagine Europe is a football club and you join, but once you’re in it you can’t say: ‘Let’s play rugby’
the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle
Not everything has to be decided in Brussels and by Brussels, but a politics of cherry-picking will simply not work. Europe is not a sum of national interests but a community of fate in difficult times.
The United Kingdom has been a member of the EEC and latterly the EU for 40 years, in that time it has had the ability to shape the EU for the supra-national benefit of all, it as stomped like a little child for its ‘ops out’ its rebates, and it opposition to anything like progress.. In December 2011 we exercised our veto on matters that do not affect us and caused the members of the Euro extra work and effort when it did not need the hassle.
Fundamental questions about democracy will have to be answered soon by UK, basically can we act in a rational way to make a decision that will affect the future of this country – I don’t think we can. The referendum argument will not be about Europe, it will not be about operating a global economy, it will be about nationalism and our glorious past.
It will be a vote to either return to an imperial consciousness that we cannot never recapture, or vote to leave our, oft-times, inglorious past behind and move to a new future with the family of European States taking its place in the global community. I do not believe the majority voters in this country have the political maturity to address, rationally, the questions of globalisation, and European integration, it will be about the British pint.
We are already operating a multi-speed Europe,but the model is straining and it will soon deform into a variable geometry Europe, which neither can be sustained as Cameron’s temper tantrum showed in 2011. A Europe running at a multi-speed will produce too great an internal stress point that will, inevitably, create rifts. The danger, already realised, is that the peripheral states will be excluded from the meeting of the core states, unable to influence decisions that will ultimately affect them,
The US has practically said we are ‘punching above our weight’ on the world stage solely because we have leverage in Europe, we will not have that if we leave.
Another question, will the referendum really be a ‘once and for all’ – or will we be still be sniping at the sidelines until the politicians need another distraction from domestic failure.