Tuesday, October 25, 2011


EU Debacle For Tories But Anti EU Sentiment Worrying

It's so heart warming to see the Tories back in the EU toilet again with party split virtually down the middle. So ironic too to see William Hague, as sheepdog for a motion to deny a referendum on membership of the EU. All those familiar arguments which sound so reasonable but really boil down to glorified Little Englanderism. I once heard a discussion among Conservative women on the EU on a telly programme and they spoke of Brussells as if it were the Moscow or Berlin, the centre of an oppressive dictatorship. It's so irrational it really is quite amusing.

But what worries me is that now the Tories are clearly now working with the grain of public opinion. We Brits have always been a bit xenophobic- the legacy, perhaps of an empire which made us feel so superior to the rest of the world. But now the figures are on a different level. According to the ICM poll for the Guardian, 70% think a referendum should be held on membership of the EU. And if there were one tomorrow an astonishing 49% would vote to leave the organisation.

I'm very aware of the shortcomings of the EU, its bureaucracy, its corruption in parts and its woefully weak leadership. But I am an unashamed internationalist. It seems to me the world is faced by a huge agenda of unsolvable problems which would be immensely alleviated by closer international cooperation. I include, the appalling poverty in the Third World when there is relative plenty in the first; the problem of climate change which could make the planet impossible for our descendants to live in; international terrorism which constantly threatens to break out yet again; and international crime which now ranks as one of the world's premier economic activities, on a par with trading in the major commodities.

If the EU has managed to be so successful economically and to a degree, politically, it would seem mad for us to take a step back into history and snuff it out when it represents so much hope. I see it as a guarantee that the part of the planet which cost the world countless millions of lives in two world wars, will never again host such a conflict. Our public opinion might well be lurching to wards xenophobia because of anger at all the things that have gone wrong and the EU seems a convenient external whipping boy. Whatever the reason, I regret it deeply and wish the old ideal of cooperation and peaceful economic activity could be revived rather than swamped by reactionary sentiments.

Hi Skipper

Some good points, but I think it's worth pointing out that what is spooking me at least is not that the EU has problems and shortcomings, but that the solutions proposed for them seem almost designed to make the problems worse rather than better.

So, the accounts can't be signed off because they are insufficiently transparent? Change the accounting rules so they are even more opaque and therefore auditors cannot understand them at all. There is too much regulation imposed by diktat by a weak and error-prone bureaucracy? Make the bureaucracy stronger. (Incidentally, that's one of the Eurosceptic myths - a large problem with EU regulation is the way the British structures impose it, not with the regulation per se. But I digress.) There is too little leadership and democratic accountability? Set up a post of president, elected via an old boy network, and put a nonentity in it. The countries on the periphery have over-borrowed? Lend them more money at higher interest rates. A country has rejected a treaty in a legally binding referendum? Rename the treaty, keeping more or less the same wording, and hold the referendum again.

The EU could have been a great institution, a force for democracy, freedom and prosperity - but it isn't, and it isn't going to be without a fundamental change of attitude, which will not be achieved by politicians (or at least, is not very likely to be achieved by politicians, because many of them have the same problematic attitude). I very much doubt if a referendum would have had the result its more hysterical advocates were claiming for it - the British are suspicious of the EU rather than hostile to it - but it might just have given the EU pause for thought as to why it was wanted in the first place - and that would have been a very good thing indeed.
That's a very helpful analysis and must be correct: potential wasted. But still beyond redemption? Hope not, but real will to reform will prove elusive I fear in present climate apart from wrecking nad weakening measures sponsored by skeptics.
A vote on a free trade zone 35 years ago was hardly consultation on a federalist mission. The fact that Europe has failed so miserably makes this a great time to propose a simple idea. If Europe were so great for our nation, you have to wonder why so many of its cheerleaders are so scared of a referendum. The answer is obvious. They rightly fear they would lose. Given that the whole project has so little democratic legitimacy (ie none), and fears the one thing that would give it any legitimacy, then it is little wonder that it is compared to Berlin (be it the Kaiser, Hitler or the Stasi - Germans know a dictatorship when they see one) or Soviet Moscow.

This issue will not go away. And Cameron's tactics have been a complete disaster. Given the suicide of the Labour Party, and the likely electoral destruction of the (almost openly) dishonest Lib Dems, Tory backbenchers and members have no incentive to back away from this row. Eventually there will be a referendum on this issue, and we will get back our sovreignty...with or without David Cameron.
Did you notice these? One of them would might been even better had the comparison with the early, pre-campaign, AV opinion polls not been edited out!


The EU is very very young. Youngsters make mistakes and take time to learn...
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