Thursday, 20 November 2014
We need to leave the EU, but not for any of the reasons you thought
The maladministration of the EU is well documented. As a eurosceptic of twenty years I can't begin to recall the multifarious reasons for disliking the EU. And it's not even about the loftier issues of sovereignty and nationhood either. This "we want our country back" shtick from Ukip is cute but it's naive.
For sure the EU is a federalist project, hell bent on becoming the United States of Europe, but that is an equally naive vision. It's so blindly optimistic that it is actually funny if you think about it. There is no shared European demos. There are cultural similarities but the notion that the French and Germans would ever consider themselves fellow countrymen is laughable and the idea there could ever be any political convergence between Italy, Spain and Germany is a howler. You just have to look at the EU's attempt to take a united position over Libyan intervention to see that a single foreign policy is a non-starter. Moreover, French defence industry interests trump any EU foreign policy cooperation - and always will.
As far as "ever closer union" goes we're about as close as we're ever going to get. Britain isn't the only nation that has a bone or two to pick with the European Union. The left wing have some eurosceptics among them too. Mehdi Hassan complains about the failed economic ideas of the EU, but these aren't really credible reasons for leaving the EU either. Were you to do a serious analysis of all the EU's criminal malfeasance you would be appalled, but I would argue that the effects thereof are only marginally worse than what our own governments do.
The simple fact is that large bureaucratic governments suck wherever they are. Whatever the EU's own ambitions, that government is never going to wholly replace our own. So essentially we have two useless centralised governments. This is why I am opposed to an English parliament and indeed the Scottish and Welsh assemblies. We are actually talking about triplicating governance and this is not forgetting our corporate scale "local" authorities.
These are obsolete ideas in an internet age. The world is shrinking while global markets grow. We would would never wish for a global government but there is a continuing need for global governance and international standards to facilitate trade, regulate it and to police it. Violent crime and robberies have decreased globally in recent years but internet crime has exploded, as has people trafficking, the global drugs trade, piracy and of course mass immigration. These are international problems that require international solutions, and so we must be free to negotiate the deals that best tackle the problems that affect us rather than have the EU do it for us.
Similarly, the majority of EU law isn't actually made by the EU. It is made at an international level, along with trade rules by ASA, Basel2, UNECE, Codex Alimentarius, WTO, NAFO and whole host of bodies few have ever heard of, where the EU takes our seat and negotiates on our behalf. Norway has more say than we do at an international level - and it's Brussels sitting by the fax waiting to be told what the law is. Moreover, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, a Norwegian minister, flatly denies Norway has no EU level influence. Norway has more influence than we do.
This is not to say that we simply close ourselves off from the EU or Europe. Leaving the EU does not mean leaving the single market and as a strong player in the EEA and EFTA we have enough clout to play the EU at it's own game while being free to join the global community. We would still keep the four freedoms of the single market. Those are good things, but we can easily lose the ECHR that prevents us putting rational constraints in where necessary.
This doesn't mean we lose workers rights or human rights. We could still be a large player in the International Labour Organisation (where EU labour laws come from) and Britain has always been at the very forefront of human rights in the modern era. It's offensive (and inaccurate) that the left wing suggests these concepts would cease to exist without the EU.
The EU is a relic of a the post-war world and it has nowhere to go. It has served its purpose. It's a talking shop to decide what to do with international law passed down to it, and our effort in Strasbourg amounts to narcissistic bickering about how to gold plate it before we accept it on national level - where we add our own gold plating. It simply doesn't have a purpose in the modern globalised world. Moreover, in its wilfully antidemocratic agenda to form a federalist EU, it has stoked the fires of grubby ethno-nationalism. Most of the emergent parties would never have broken into the mainstream without a healthy dose of funding from the EU. Europe has never looked less unified in the light of its own hubris.
It isn't a even post-cold war Marshall plan for Europe either. It is the freedoms of the single market that have done more to increase the wealth of former Soviet bloc nations than this pointless entity with a blue flag. The EU handouts are inconsequential, and in fact the EU is taking credit for something that is not its own achievement - while bribing the citizens of Europe with their own money.
Like it or not, mankind is progressing more toward open borders, free trade and free movement of goods and capital. It is unstoppable. We don't want to waste our lives in queues at the borders, and there isn't any value for the consumer to be paying more just because goods cross a line on a map. But we can have all of those without surrendering what we are as a nation and we don't have to abolish the nation state to do it.
And then there's one critical thing. Our society is evolving beyond the need for leaders and flags and parties. We're becoming more educated and more advanced thanks to the internet and we don't see why we should have politicians speaking for us on matter of significance. Direct democracy is coming. It can be no other way. The people want their say and they won't accept a proxy speaking for them.
Our blueprint for real democracy, The Harrogate Agenda, is made of six demands to bring true democracy to Great Britain. Demand number one is that "The peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland comprise the ultimate authority of their nations and are the source of all political power. That fact shall be recognised by the Crown and the Governments of our nations, and our Parliaments and Assemblies".
Now that may sound archaic and lofty, but without such recognition of this fact there is no democracy, and the other demands cannot be enacted without it. But that singular first demand is totally at odds with the European Union because the EU, while it has democratic furniture like elections and voting rituals, is not a democracy. There is no demos, and there is no actual power for the people. And so our transition to democracy makes us incompatible with the EU and its structures. If we are to progress into a new age of empowered peoples, anachronistic relics like the EU must be abandoned so that we can embrace the future.
The EU is an obsolete protectionist idea and it's every bit as small of an idea as Ukips desire for a fortress island. Why are we so unambitious and stunted in our collective vision that nobody is making the case for a great and global Britain?