Saturday, July 02, 2011

Dis-Ill-EU-sion

This morning I found a letter I wrote to my [New Labour] MP in 2008. It tells the evolution of my opinions on the Common Market / European union. Since writing my opinions have hardened further: disappointment and frustration led to anger, and now outrage.
So here it is repeated. I think the public demand for a referendum will be an important issue at the next election, and that a referendum must eventually be held. The "democratic deficit" in the EU erodes its authority and stability, as do its attempts to preserve the euro by illegal means.

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Thank you for your letter arguing New Labour's case against a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. It does not address the central issue.

You were elected on a manifesto which made a clear, simple, unqualified commitment to a referendum on this treaty. You would argue the benefits of increased British commitment to Europe. You appeared confident you could win the argument and the referendum.

In the event this commitment will not be honoured: a serious betrayal of trust. New Labour's contract with its electorate is broken.
So the further arguments you develop are worthless. Each point you make is open to challenge. In refusing a referendum you tacitly declare no confidence in your own case.

In practice we all know and accept that manifesto promises are mostly electoral propaganda, as reliable as Lenin's pie-crust. But this commitment is different: the issue affects the future of democracy in Britain.

In the beginning I strongly advocated Britain's membership of the Common Market, but experience has convinced me this was a serious mistake. On European questions our politicians have a record of evasion, economy with the truth, and, on occasion, dishonesty. I have been taught Euroscepticism, indeed Eurocynicism. I call it dis-Ill-EU-sion.

I am now convinced Heath lied about some of the terms agreed for Britain's entry. I remember pro-Europeans stressing that we were joining a Common Market, not a European Union. On this basis many of us voted “yes” in the referendum of 1975. We have had ample time to reflect how badly we were mistaken. I joined the derision of Mrs. Thatcher, when in 1990 she declared her doubts about a single currency, a European central bank, and admission of Eastern European countries. She foresaw wealth and jobs flooding east through Europe, and a tidal bore of migrants coming west.
I owe her an apology.

For the EU is indeed ill. It is corrupt; it has not returned audited accounts in a decade. It fails to create a fair environment for competition, even such basics as harmonized fuel taxation. It is authoritarian and hubristic. The Euro-bureaucracy will increase its power by right means if it can, if not, by any means. It is hugely expensive for Britain.
New Labour consents to this. Indeed it goes further than most, advocating EU membership for Turkey and the states of the North African littoral, seemingly oblivious to the political, cultural, economic and demographic consequences.

We should refuse the Lisbon treaty. We should seek to repatriate powers to our own democracy. Norway should be our model for engagement with Europe, not France or Germany. We can renegotiate our European commitment from a position of strength: Europe is the main beneficiary of British EU membership.

Reality can be denied, but will eventually break through. A thorough, critical review of our experience of EU membership is needed. A referendum would provide the opportunity for such a review and a debate on the best response to the facts revealed.

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