Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dangerously naive, ill informed or speaking in spite of knowing better.

Talking about the political class of course and one John McTernan in particular, he's of the opinion that Daniel Hannan's attempt to get a referendum on the EU is a waste of time and money or as he put it, an expensive distraction.

Daniel Hannan’s quixotic campaign against the European Union (EU) continues. In his blog, and in the paper, he announces the launch of a petition calling for a referendum on EU membership. I don’t have a problem with critics of the EU (some areas desperately need reform) or with those who wish to leave. I just don’t think it’s a particularly pressing issue. Successive Tory and Labour governments have kept the UK out of the most dangerous European institution – the Euro – and have maintained Britain’s opt-out on key areas of domestic policy. And the last Labour government resisted directives that would place onerous costs on business.

When I was up in the Northeast, I asked my Dad about the Common market referendum (he's quite the Eurosceptic, I must say) as he actually got to vote on it.

QM: Was it clear when we joined the EU back in '72 that EU law would have primacy over British law?

Dad: Yes, and Heath hid it.

It was always clear that Blair and Brown wanted the UK to join the Euro, and set out the necessary conditions for us to do so, that we couldn't meet them was more down to the UK economy, rather than the desire to keep us out of it. McTernan seems to have a very selective memory when it comes to Labours record on the EU, it was Brown who sneaked into Lisbon to sign away our political future, it was Blair and Brown who caved into EU pressure to give up our rebate.
By and large the settlement is fair and good for Britain, and for Europe. The EU brought Spain, Portugal and Greece into the European family when their respective Right-wing dictatorships fell – and economic growth from integration has transformed living standards in those countries.
Yes EU membership was good for these countries, until now, because they used the EU as a foil to rack up massive debts as left wing governments are apt to do. Now the debts are being called in however the chickens are coming home to roost.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall the Eastern European countries freed from communism have been allowed to enjoy the same support. That has been hugely important for Europe, and I am proud that Britain played a leading role in ensuring fair access to markets for workers and companies in those countries. This, in a way, is the heart of it – the Europe we joined in 1975 was a trading bloc, and at heart it still is. With the rise of China and India the negotiating power of Europe to lower trade barriers is critical. But, still, the lasting contribution made by Britain was Margaret Thatcher’s – driving a conception of the internal market within the EU that is far more free-market than France or Germany wanted. And one which delivers for British firms to this day.
The EU is a trading cartel that uses tariffs on imports to prop up its own internal markets, it restricts outside trade and tries to keep it expensive and uncompetitive. Prime example is the Common Agricultural Policy which keeps food prices high and strangles African farm development. The EU is not and never will be good for trade, the UK has a massive trade deficit within the EU, they sell us far more than we sell them.
I could go on, but the main objection to Daniel Hannan’s proposition is not that he has miscalculated the actual benefits of EU membership. It is that he has created a monstrous and dubious new constitutional convention with his idea that there should periodically be periodic votes to reaffirm decisions that were made in the past. (A sort of Buffy the Vampire approach – “unto every generation shall be born a referendum”.)  I’m not myself a huge fan of referendums – by and large I don’t like to see the House of Commons weakening its own authority, but the case for using them to affirm major constitutional change is strong. But the compelling case for a referendum is that – if won – they affirm a change of state, an irreversible change. Why reaffirm membership of the EU any more than we should reconfirm membership of NATO, or our commitment to the NPT (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). The argument that no one under 55 has had the chance to vote on EU membership is a nice try. But by that token no one under 87 voted for the NHS.
If enough people wanted a referendum on those policies, I say why not give them one. The EU however is of dubious benefit, costing us around £80 billion pa of which we get around £6 billion back. This is a classic strawman argument by McTernan, he ought to know better, probably does, but his article seems aimed at EUphiles and the hard of thinking.
Now, I know, there’s an argument that the question could be settled by a referendum. Unfortunately, this is just not true. Opponents of the EU, like the Scottish nationalists who support independence, have a faith-based politics. And that can never be dislodged by a mere plebiscite. Defeat is merely the beginning of the battle for the next vote. Not a referendum but a neverendum.
Um the ScotNats are in favour of an independent Scotland remaining in the EU (yes this is a bit of a contradiction in terms, but that's what they think they'll have) Though I'm probably reading this wrong and he's implying that the ScotNats are fixated on referendums until they get the result they want, bit like the EU with Ireland, Germany and Denmark really, when they kept going with referenda until they got the result they wanted, then no more referenda amazingly enough. So McTernan seems to imply only the EU is allowed to ask people to change their minds, at least until they get the answers they want, then tough, no more mind changing. Anyone else seeing the hypocrisy writ large in that point he's trying to make?
Whatever Daniel Hannan argues, the EU is not an Evil Empire. It is a flawed, but progressive institution which has done more good than harm. And a referendum on withdrawal – a policy not held by any major political party (including the Tories) would be an expensive and unnecessary distraction from the very real problems facing Britain.
Evil? No, corrupt to the core and costs us far more than we gain from it. Were the UK free to trade with the rest of the world our balance of trade would go up, prices would come down and we could still trade with the EU, just not be tied to it's cartel, bit like Switzerland and Norway.

5 annotations:

Sue said...

This article made my blood boil this morning, until I noticed "He was Political Secretary to Tony Blair". Says it all really.

Obviously not a lover of democracy. People like this should move to communist (remember when that was a dirty word?) countries.

The Boiling Frog said...

Well said TAOAQM, I saw this article this morning and wanted to comment directly on the site, but for some reason my Telegraph account never seems to work properly.

Among the many phrases that wound me was this one:

the Europe we joined in 1975 was a trading bloc, and at heart it still is

No it wasn't and was never designed as one - it was always designed as an unaccountable government (supranational) This was made pretty evident in the now notorious 1971 memo 30/1048

Trooper Thompson said...

We all know why the Euro federasts don't want a referendum - because they're convinced they'll lose it.

This guy likes the status quo, so he dismisses the idea of change. As for the rhetoric of 'what about a referendum on this or that?' Fine, I'm happy to have a referendum on all the things he mentions and more besides. Although I'm no ultra-democrat, I trust the ordinary people more than that gang of crooks and traitors in Westminster.

Furor Teutonicus said...

After the fall of the Berlin Wall the Eastern European countries freed from communism have been allowed to enjoy the same support. That has been hugely important for Europe, and I am proud that Britain played a leading role in ensuring fair access to markets for workers and companies in those countries.

"Fair" for bloody WHO?

It is not the total arsehole that wrote this, that has to try and make a living from building contract work, when the market is flooded with Poles and bloody Albanians, with their degrees in wattle and daub.

"Fair" for NO one. A bloody BARGAIN for THEM.

James Higham said...

I was going to also post on this but as you've done it well, no need. Good post, QM.