The ongoing arguments about the relationship between the UK and the EU are like a festering boil that needs to be lanced. The questions are “what caused the boil in the first place?”, “who yields the lance?” and “how is that enabled?”.
The Economic Arguments
I am a great admirer of Dr Alf Oldman who also has a political blog. He believes that there are huge advantages in being a part of the EU and that to leave would be an act of folly. He could be right. Here is a link to one of his blogs expressing that view. Please read it and the comments too (some, I confess, from me). Dr Alf and I are more or less on the same wavelength when it comes to this question but there are significant differences in the detail.
Lord Lawson, and you could say that he should know, believes we would have a brighter economic future outside the EU. He could be right.
There are many other examples of people convinced that they are on the right side of this divide but, to be blunt about it, few are completely detached in their thinking and the only reasonable conclusion must be that we just do not know. Furthermore, we shall never know. If we are in an economic mess in, say, twenty years time people will be saying it is because we are in the EU (or its successor) or, as the case may be, because we are not in that group. I would argue that global conditions have, are and will have a far greater impact on us and that that makes this argument over the EU almost trivial.
So if there is no economic argument is not the cause of this boil, what is?
The Bureaucratic Costs
Google “the eu bureaucracy” and you will get over 5,500,000 results. Near the top of the list is a piece written by Vince Cable almost exactly a year ago. Under the headline “The tide is turning against EU bureaucracy” with a sub-head stating “Britain is no longer a lone voice in the push for deregulation and a flexible labour market”, this appeared in the Telegraph. Here is the link to that piece which, I suppose, we should remember was written by a pre-EU LibDem.
Meanwhile, an unexpected source of comment on this subject can be found on the Datalite web page. Here we read a very detailed and cogent argument written by John D Henry BA Bsc, Managing Director of this company whose function is the manufacture of picture frames and personalised gifts. The headline reads “How European Union Bureaucracy is Killing Business in the United Kingdom”. This is all good stuff and I must agree that I find Mr Henry’s arguments very persuading but I would suggest he should also turn his attentions to some of the UK generated regulations which are not doing a great deal for our commercial sector either. But the stuff of boils? No, not really. The number of our electorate who really feel the impact of EU bureaucracy is quite small: there is something else.
The Democratic Deficit
This should be sub-titled “the fact that much power has been passed from the Mother of all Parliaments to the EU without the people of the UK having any say in the matter”.
I believe this is what is causing all the problems: this sense that we are losing control of our own destiny. This has become a boil that needs lancing for a variety of reasons.
- The perception that the politicians we have elected do not trust us, the people, with making what we all know is a very difficult decision.
- Despite that obvious lack of trust, politicians of all colours are widely divided on this issue: who are they to suggest that they should be the ones to act on our behalf when they can’t agree amongst themselves?
- The gravy train: just look at the people who, having proved less than good elsewhere, have found themselves in very nice and well paid jobs in the EU.
- The loss of control over immigration (much less of a problem than it is perceived to be it is, nevertheless, a factor to take into consideration).
That list could be longer but I trust is sufficient to make the point. This, I believe is the answer to my first question: what caused the boil in the first place?
None of the political parties who have controlled government since we joined the EEC has been able to include any meaningful references to the matter of our relations with the rest of Europe since they have been hopelessly divided on this – thus no election has given the government a mandate to act in a given way. The result has been a succession of treaties which have been entered into willy-nilly. Clearly the politicians cannot be trusted to lance this boil – it has to be the people.
The answer to the last question is easy given the above: a referendum and the sooner the better.
Here we are talking about carts and horses. Should the renegotiations (whatever they may be) precede or follow a referendum? I would opt for the referendum first for because if the vote is for staying in the EU, whoever is negotiating with the others in the EU can say, “We are committed to the EU, we wish to be at the centre of the EU for our people have spoken. So, less posturing and more hard work is needed and please remember that we expect the EU to be a democratic organisation.” Meanwhile, if the vote is for leaving the EU, so be it. That is the decision for the people.
If the re-negotiations take place before, our team is in the same position as it is today – it will be considered as being on the fringe of Europe and of no great consequence. Then comes the referendum and the outcome will depend in large part on how well or badly the results of these re-negotiations are “spun” to the people. Is that what we want?