Sunday 10 May 2015

Time to get busy

You are going to have to get used to me being even more of a monomaniac now that the election is over. All I'm going to do is bang on about the EU. The forthcoming term will be dominated by this issue and those who know the least will speak the most. The media who confidently predicted a hung parliament and a Ukip surge will be the same media telling us what Brexit will entail. They will be wrong. That is the only consistent thing about our media.

The only people who will be more wrong about it is Ukip. I had hoped that a eurosceptic party would be a useful ally but all hopes of that have faded. It's a cretinous band of misanthropic know-nothings who are comfortable in their misery and ignorance. There is going to be no bonfire of regulation, we are not going to take back control of our borders, nor will there be any great savings - and I would go as far as saying the UK will scarcely notice the difference.

That does not mean we should not leave the EU. In reality the EU has already left us by charging headlong into currency union. That much is now irreversible and even if member states voted to leave, the EU would not permit it. It would symbolise the end of le grande project. Britain however, is not a Euro member, thus has no real influence over the biggest of all EU factors so the EU could afford to lose us and we can afford to lose it.

If we want access to the single market and keep our borders open, which we do, we will have to remain in the European Economic Area - which is not the same as the EU. That is the only way we can retain the things worth having without being erased as a nation state. There is never going to be a time when we don't have to comply with EU regulation if we want to export. Eurosceptics who say different are wrong. But Brexit will give us more of a voice in that EU regulations do not in fact originate from the EU. This is a point I will continue to hammer. Regulation is now global and the EU is just the middleman. EU federalists will speak of a seat at the top table. The EU is not that top table. I don't recall a time when it ever has been.

Presently the EU takes our seat at all the international top tables and negotiates on our behalf. In terms of forming regulation and influencing the outcomes, we have less influence than Norway. It must also be said that just because the EU has a parliament and election, it is not democratic. The collective vote of UK MEP's in the parliament and ministers at the Council of Europe can never command a majority thus we are incapable of defending any needs distinct to Britain.

Moreover, ironically, it is Ukip who have proven why the EU is a bad model of government. It has proportional representation, but because there is no pan-European demos, and no shared political culture, it becomes a talking shop of the continents malcontents, propelled into office on a wave of protest and cynicism. It means we will only ever have the likes of Nigel Farage and Janice Atkinson speaking for us in Europe. It's hardly surprising that the EU goes to such extended lengths to ensure the EU parliament has no real power. Giving these bozos any power at all would be a dangerous thing - and so for its own safety, it has to avoid democracy at all costs - and I don't really blame it. But that can never be a sufficient settlement when so many critical policy areas are decided for us.

In truth there is not going to be a golden age of sovereignty, deregulation and democracy, and leaving the EU is only a babystep. But it is the first and most necessary step to take if we want to take a more active role in shaping the world and making globalised markets work in our favour. We have to look out to the world and not just inwardly on a corner of Europe. Our voice is diminished as 1/28th of a voice in the EU and no entity that large can speak for all its peoples. Barely half of them I would imagine.

The size and the power of the European market dictates our international clout. The existence of a talking shop with a blue flag in Strasbourg is really neither here nor there. A non EU alliance between the EU, the UK and EFTA is much more powerful than just the EU. There is competition and strength in diversity and when the EU falters we can show the way. We can lead Europe from outside the EU.

Leaving the EU does not mean the end of free trade, nor does it mean the end of human rights and workers rights. As far as workers rights go, I can think of no influence that has done more harm to British workers than the EU in dictating how and when we can work. The thousands of dead migrants in the Mediterranean are a testament to the EU's model of human rights. As for keeping the peace, it is the existence of a common threat and our common defence in NATO that has kept the peace. France and Germany don't go to war over coal and steel because we import it. Moreover if we got serious about making good use of our own natural resources, we could be a global energy exporter, stripping the Russian bear of its power.

The truth is, the EU is yesterdays solution for yesterdays problems. It is no longer relevant to the modern world. If ever it was. The EU may well become that federal superstate, and I would happily engage with that nation, but the UK's destiny lies elsewhere. Those who would have us stay in the EU are the ones who underestimate the economic and cultural dominance of the UK and speak of the EU in purely economic terms, failing to understand what the EU is. But the UK is more than just a market. It's something tangible, distinct and potent - and it should not be abolished. The world would be diminished by its loss.

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