“Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong: It is a geographical expression.”
Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor
The Liberal Case against the EU in brief
Below is an 1100 word summary of a more detailed document which is available to view by clicking on the "Detailed Case" navigation button on the left
On June 23rd, there will be a referendum to decide whether we remain in the EU. This will be the 2nd ballot on our involvement with the European project in just over 40 years, which should tell you something. The last time was in 1975, when we were assured it was just about peace and jobs, even though the political establishment knew otherwise: it was about the creation of a United States of Europe. The EU is simply a work in progress towards that goal.
The European Union is at best an outdated 19th Century notion, an idea whose time has gone, left behind by advances in communications, which have rendered geography in politics irrelevant. At worst, it is an undemocratic and unaccountable institution mismanaged by a monster of a bureaucracy, which is remote from ordinary people and now beyond the control of the idiot politicians who created it.
The EU is not like other international organisations we belong to; it is a “supranational” body whose members hand over their powers to a higher European authority. Moreover, the EU’s political structures are not human in scale and it doesn’t makes systems sense to wire all the key functions of every member state into one massive European fusebox. In this debate, we need to forget the short term and consider the state of play on our planet in the year 2050 and beyond. Such projections suggest that the long-term future of the European project is dire, thanks to a reducing and ageing EU population. The troubles over borders and the Euro Currency have holed the EU below the waterline and the whole project is, Titanic-like, slowly but surely sinking, with David Cameron’s reforms akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the doomed vessel. Anyone who has experienced divorce will know that unpicking a relationship can be complex, but trying to sustain a partnership which isn’t working is worse.
So, what's wrong with the European Union? No other international institution to which we belong has attracted such hostility and controversy. Why is this?
1. The ultimate EU goal is, and has always been, the creation of a federated union of European states, with one economy, one currency, one army and one law. But is a United States of Europe still relevant or desirable? Thanks to the Internet and the Jumbo Jet, the World is a much smaller place than it was in 1950. A union of countries having nothing much in common apart from their borders might have had something going for it 100 years ago but does European exclusivity and identity still make sense? Why a union with Austria but not Australia, with Germany but not Japan, with Belgium but not Brazil?
2. The architects of a US of Europe will not allow border controls between member states so the only way to totally regain control of UK borders is to leave the EU. It is time to challenge the nonsense that is talked about freedom of movement of people, as if they were mere goods. People require shelter, food, health services, education and protection, not only for themselves but for their families as well. So-called freedom of movement degenerates into anarchy as the chaos of migration defeats all attempts to plan for jobs, schools, houses and hospitals in a highly developed welfare state such as ours. Having open borders is a bit like leaving the front door of your home open to all comers so that even complete strangers can walk in for food, bed and shelter. There is no way you could possibly plan to accommodate the comings and goings.
3. The “supranational” nature of the EU involves the devaluing of our sovereignty. Our parliament has to process EU directives and observe EU laws; our courts can be over-ruled by EU Courts. Was this necessary? No! Have Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil and nations poorer than us found it necessary to sign away their independence in some crazed pooled superpower compact? No, of course they haven’t!
4. The EU “Government” is a maze, comprising the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is a hybrid system of intergovernmental and supranational decision-making, where the elements of a super-state have to work alongside national sensibilities. This complex arrangement does not make for speed of, or resolution in, decision making, and when push comes to shove, Brussels dithers; it takes the EU ages to deal with difficult decisions, witness the crises over border control and the Euro.
5. The net cost of the EU to the British taxpayer is about £9 billion a year but even this represents a fraction of the intangible cost of over-regulation and “one-size-fits-all” decision-making. For small businesses in particular, EU over-regulation can be the difference between profit and loss. In 2015 the Regulatory Policy Committee, an independent government body, revealed that new EU rules imposed £2.3 billion in net costs to businesses since 2013. Of course, if we leave, there will still need to be regulation, but small firms would prefer the rules to be home-grown by accountable politicians.
6. The EU’s quest for sameness and conformity doesn’t work; one size clearly did not fit all during the Euro crisis. When nations had their own currencies, there was a host of options they could use to regulate their economies, such as devaluation and adjustment of borrowing & interest rates. But, once they joined the Euro, most of these remedies were no longer available to them; they were locked into a centralised and unaccountable institution whose priority was protection of the Euro at all costs.
Most British voters want to sell goods, not their souls, to visit the Continent because it’s different, not because it’s the same. They are unsettled by today’s EU, which they perceive to be undemocratic, distant and inimical to their interests. It’s a gut feeling which the political class has chosen to ignore because the EU has always been a politicians’, rather than a people’s, project. In any case, we are big enough to go it alone, being the fifth largest economy in the world, with the second largest population in the EU, currently comprising 65 million well-educated and sophisticated consumers. This is a huge market which everybody is keen to trade with. We import more from the EU than we export so, if we leave, Brussels - and Continental industry - will want to do a trade deal as quickly as possible. All this talk of delay and uncertainty is nonsense. Besides, there is teeming life and trade beyond the confines of the EU whose population is ageing and in decline, with only 5% of global population and 17% of world trade projected for 2050. We need to go global and so does every other European state.
Beware Dave’s dodgy question!
Those of retirement age will remember the last time we had a referendum on Europe, following Labour’s infamous “fig leaf” re-negotiation of 1975. But at least when we voted, the deal was watertight and there was reference to it on the ballot paper. Not so this time! It seems it is a matter of legal opinion whether David Cameron’s skimpy reform package will be honoured and we won’t find this out until after we’ve voted, which is why there is no mention of it on the ballot paper. All you are being asked on June 23rd is whether you want us to leave or stay in the EU, reformed or unreformed, more or less integrated, whatever form it takes in the future. If we are bamboozled into staying, and the Cameron reform package subsequently unravels, the political establishment will claim a majority of voters supported continued membership of the EU no matter what. If you say stay, it will be like signing a blank cheque.
Big Business says stay! Why?
Big business bosses are lining up to tell us we must stay in the EU. Why? Well, big business does not like borders or different sets of administrations. Big business craves freedom of movement of people, goods and capital, so a United States of Whatever with a single currency, a single set of regulations and a single government is obviously big money’s regime of choice. But, just because a U S of E is good for big business, does not necessarily mean it is good for the mass of people. Capital has a tendency to treat humanity as consumers, rather than as individuals in families and communities. Mass production may well drive down the cost of goods and services, but it has a dehumanising tendency, particularly nowadays as computerised automation marches on, as workers are designed out of manufacturing processes, and the ownership of the means of production, together with the wealth it creates, becomes vested in the hands of fewer and fewer people. So what big business has to say is not the be all and end all. And remember they got it wrong when they said we had to join the Euro!
Promoted by David Green, 33 Hartwood Road, Southport, Merseyside PR9 9AN April 2016