For those who were uncertain about the EU referendum, surely the shambles we have witnessed over the last few days and the English breakfast that slid through brunch to lunch and ended up as a late dinner will have helped them make up their mind? We have seen what a shambles a political union of 28 countries with widely different interests, outlooks and economic conditions has to be. We have seen tiny countries holding bigger ones to ransom and we have failed to see what deals have been done behind closed doors to buy in these smaller nations.
Surely it is now clear that there are several drivers within the European Union that are not in Great Britain’s best interests?
First on the list is the commitment to “ever closer union”, representing a desire to lock together the economies of many of the 28 EU members and a dawning realisation that this can only be achieved by locking together fiscal and political decision making. Smaller and poorer nations clearly hope they can share in the wealth of the larger and richer ones. Given that Great Britain’s economy is streaking ahead of the sclerotic German and French economies, not even to mention those of Spain and Italy, it seems to me inevitable that Great Britain will have to continue subvention to the poorer nations of Europe if it remains in the EU. This is not just in relation to benefit tourism but to the wider issue of wealth redistribution from the richer in Europe to the poorer.
Second is the self-perpetuating drive of all large institutions to maintain their existence. In the European Union with its triple structure of Commission, Council and Parliament, it is the unelected bureaucrats shuttling between Brussels and Strasbourg who rule the roost and manipulate the rules and the debate. The European Parliament is a toothless body with no power to initiate policy and little control over its implementation. It is the only parliament in the world to have three official locations with its secretariat based in Luxembourg while its members shuttle at great expense between Brussels and Strasbourg. Another example of national self-interest trumping economic and financial logic.
Third is the sight of the Franco-German axis that sits on top of the whole structure. Germany achieved a miracle when the Berlin wall came down by successfully integrating the impoverished ex-Soviet East Germany into West Germany. I fear this success may have gone to the head of Mrs Merkel in her invitation to the world’s refugees to make their home in Germany at a time when her country’s economy is sluggish and those of many other northern European states are hopelessly sclerotic. We are a small and crowded country. We cannot accommodate an endless procession of refugees and economic migrants and we should fear the ability of fundamentalists to use open borders to bring their bombs and kalashnikovs to our country.
Fourth and I find this a compelling reason is to listen to the Labour Party’s reasons for voting Remain. They view employment protection, benefit enhancement and, it seems, open boundaries as a plus. We should hear their views with alarm, particularly while Jeremy Corbyn leads a Party that has lurched well to the left and that supports anti-competitive and anti-business policies. This is a Party that would perpetuate the worst aspects of our education system and plunge the NHS into a downward spiral in answer to which they would simply throw more and more money.
Now, if we listen to the siren voices of big business in the form of the CBI, of the Islington elite, of public sector institutions looking to the state for growing subsidy and to the academic lobby similarly leaning to the left, we may be persuaded that we have to Remain. They would say that wouldn’t they? Big business is better able to navigate the complexity of Euro bureaucracy. The public sector fears free market philosophy and sees the European Union as the antithesis of Thatcherite economics. As for the academics in their ivory towers and leafy cloisters, they are the Oxford and Cambridge equivalent of Islington and they have no idea what the real world is like. They are all good reasons for voting Leave.
So, now the debate starts as we wait for Cameron’s delayed cabinet and he releases the chains from his colleagues. It is great to hear that Michael Gove is going with his head and setting aside his heartfelt loyalty to DC. Now we wait for Boris. I have no doubt he is thinking furiously and, I fear, balancing political advantage against personal belief. He would be a powerful leader for the Leave campaign and I hope he will make that leap.
However, watch our MPs’ behaviours. Some will put their belief in our country’s future first; others will be worrying about their careers. I name no names but I suspect many of us know where many of them stand. Local Conservatives will have the opportunity to test their new MP when they hold the Constituency AGM on Saturday next. It is a grand opportunity both to hear her views but also for members to put their views forward. I hope our Constituency Chairman will grasp the challenge for democracy.