The following was written in April 2016 and put the case for leaving the EU from a liberal perspective:

 

1. The EU: an idea whose time has gone

 

“Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong: It is a geographical expression.”

 

                                                        Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor 1871-1890

 

 

On June 23rd, there will be a referendum to decide whether we remain a member of the European Union. This will be the 2nd ballot on our involvement in the European project within 43 years of membership, which should tell us something. No other organisation we belong to has created so much controversy. Last time in 1975, we were told it was simply about prosperity, peace and jobs, even though the political establishment knew full well it was about a lot more than that: It was about membership of a United States of Europe in the making. After decades of opt-outs, foot-dragging and under-statement, the British political class has been forced to come clean as the EU impacts increasingly on our everyday lives, hence this referendum.

 

What follows is a liberal case against the European Union, together with an idea for future international relations.

 

The EU is at best an outdated 19th Century notion, an idea whose time has gone, left behind by advances in communications, which have rendered geography in politics irrelevant.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, inefficient and unaccountable institution mismanaged by a monster of a bureaucracy which is remote from ordinary people and now beyond the control of the politicians who created it.

 

Liberals will note that the political structures created are not human in scale and it doesn’t makes systems sense to wire all the key functions of the government of every member state into one massive European fusebox. Moreover, while the referendum campaign has to date been pre-occupied with what will happen in the short term, it is more important to consider the long term, to imagine 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 and declining market share. The troubles over freedom of movement across borders and problems with the European Single Currency have holed the EU below the waterline and the whole project is, Titanic-like, slowly but surely sinking, with David Cameron’s reform package akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the doomed vessel.

 

So it is not a question of whether we abandon ship but when. If we leave now, not only will we save ourselves but, and not for the first time, we can perhaps save Europe from itself.

 

Anybody who has experienced divorce will know that unpicking a relationship can be complex, costly and time-consuming. But trying to sustain a partnership which isn’t working is far worse and a formal and permanent separation is necessary to enable all parties to move on.

 

2. Referenda: It’s the song, not the singer!

 

“I would say to Boris….linking arms with Nigel Farage and George Galloway and taking a leap into the dark is the wrong step for our country”  

David Cameron Feb 2016

 

 

On June 23rd, we will be going to the polls to choose an option, rather an elected representative. It’s a referendum not an election, a choice of direction rather than personality. Unfortunately, we Brits are not very good at referenda, due largely to the adversarial nature of the way we conduct our politics, in turn fuelled by a partisan press, which is apt to concentrate on the singer, rather than the song. Moreover, since issues such as this transcend party political boundaries, party leaders can find themselves in the company of some strange bedfellows, much to their discomfort and to the delight of the media. David Cameron’s asinine remarks about George Galloway and Nigel Farage quoted above are astounding, given the fact that the Prime Minster was evidently content to be on the same side as these same gentlemen during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, was in the same camp as the BNP Leader Nick Griffin during the 2011 referendum campaign on the voting system, and now has Jeremy Corbyn for company in the current campaign!

 

And let us not forget the voters in all this! An ICM poll conducted in March indicates that the main party supporters are also divided; while Conservative voters are evenly split, 1 in 3 Labour voters and 1 in 4 LibDem supporters want to leave the EU, notwithstanding the pro-EU policies of their respective parties.

 

The last time there was a UK referendum was in 2011.  The turnout to decide whether to change the voting system was just 42.2% and the public debate during the campaign was described by Professor Iain McClean as “bad-tempered and ill-informed”. Let us hope that the standard of debate and the turnout on the day is much higher this time.

 

So far, it’s not looking good. As both camps fire off endless salvos of dodgy data in support of their positions, one is reminded of the infamous observation of Victorian Statesman Benjamin Disraeli who said: “There are 3 types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

 

 

3. Discounting desperate Dave’s dodgy deal

 

“..this is no way for an organisation to conduct itself…  in this town you have to be ready for an ambush at any minute”                                                                                                                        

                                                         David Cameron after an EU meeting in Brussels in June 2013

 

 

The last time we had a referendum on the EU was in 1975. It was held ostensibly to approve a re-negotiation by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government of our original terms of entry into Europe but, as with this referendum, was simply a means to heal a damaging split in the governing party. It worked back then, for a while. After a 2 to 1 vote in favour of staying in, those big beasts in the Labour Party opposed to the European project were silenced. As with Harold Wilson’s “fig-leaf” renegotiation package, David Cameron’s deal is tuppence worth of nothing, fluffed up to look more substantial than it actually is.

 

His compact with Brussels does nothing to enable us to regain total control of our borders. There is no repatriation of EU social and employment law, no changes to the working hours directive or social housing entitlement. “Emergency brakes” or limits on in-work benefits will have little effect; prospective immigrants are far more interested in our well-paid jobs than they are in our welfare system. As for the much-vaunted opt-out from “ever closer union”, this will require EU Treaty change, which could take years, if it happens at all, and to what useful purpose? The opt-out only covers further integration in the future; it does nothing to address sovereignty lost over the past 43 years of membership. In any case, it was the Conservatives who signed us up to “ever closer union” in the first place, so it could be argued that they are just cleaning up a mess which was of their own creation.

 

As for the February EU Summit Meeting itself, it all just looked too choreographed. As a seemingly desperate David Cameron bustled about, one was reminded never to confuse activity with action. As late as Thursday February 18th, our Prime Minister made it clear he was prepared to leave the EU if he could not get what he wanted, and yet 48 hours later, with one bound, or so it seemed, he was a European again and rather too ready to vilify his Eurosceptic colleagues whose company he had seemed prepared to join only two days earlier.

 

The only conclusion to be drawn is that our Prime Minister had never intended us to leave the EU and that Brussels knew it.

 

Moreover, while Harold Wilson’s renegotiation at the 1975 Dublin Summit was a done deal as the result of negotiating with the much smaller and less bureaucratic European Community of the time, it seems it is a matter of legal opinion whether David Cameron’s skimpy reform package will be honoured by the labyrinthine power structure in Brussels, and we won’t find this out until some time after we’ve voted.

 

The Prime Minister could address this problem by stating that, if Brussels ratted on any part of what had been agreed, we would have another referendum. That he has not done so speaks volumes.

 

This presumably explains why there will be no mention of the negotiations on the ballot paper. (There was in 1975!) So, on June 23rd, you are not being asked to approve a new relationship with a reformed EU; all you are being asked to decide is whether you want us to leave, or stay in, the EU, reformed or unreformed, for better or worse, whether it is more or less integrated, whatever form it may take.

 

The danger is, if we are bamboozled into staying in and the Cameron reform package subsequently unravels, the political establishment will simply claim a majority of voters supported continued membership of the EU on principle, no matter what. If we vote to stay, it will be a bit like signing a blank cheque. And given the quote above from the man himself, should we trust Brussels to honour their part of the bargain, or can we expect another ambush after the referendum?

 

It is probably best to forget all about the Cameron reform package and decide whether we agree with membership of the European Union on principle, which after all is what we are being asked on the ballot paper.

 

4. Just what is the European Union?

 

 

“Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire”

                                                  José Manuel Barroso President of the EU Commission July 2007

 

 

Most inter-governmental organisations are described as “international”, being partnerships of nations making common cause for one particular purpose. The EU is different. It is a “supranational”, rather than an international, organisation whose member states have agreed to limit or hand over their powers and freedom of action to a “higher European authority” across a range of policy areas. It is also a customs union within which goods, services and people can move across borders unhindered and tariff-free. Countries outside this “Fortress Europe” have to pay tariffs to trade with the EU. Over the years, further national responsibilities have been ceded to this “supranational” body to enable the creation of new pan-European institutions, the Single European Currency being one example.

 

The founding states were France, (West) Germany, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Italy, who in 1951 signed up to the European Coal and Steel Community as part of a step-by-step plan drawn up by the French, initially to create a common market in coal and steel overseen by the world’s first supranational authority, with the ultimate aim of creating a federation of all Europe.

 

In 1957, the same countries signed the Treaty of Rome which brought into being the European Economic Community (EEC). It is this treaty where first mention is made of the quest for “ever closer union” and over the next 53 years, a series of landmark events advanced this cause: in 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held; in 1985 the Schengen Agreement was signed by some member states to create open borders without passport controls; in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty created the EU and paved the way for the introduction of the Euro in 1999; the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 gave the EU legal personality, a Council President, a foreign ministry and a foreign diplomatic service.

 

Not only has the EU become “deeper” in terms of integration, it has also become “wider” in terms of expansion, as countries have queued up to join: Denmark, Ireland and ourselves in 1973, Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986, Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995 and in 2004, its largest expansion to date with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Romania and Bulgaria followed in 2007 and in 2013 Croatia became the 28th member, bringing the total population of the current EU to just over 500 million. Turkey, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia are negotiating to become members.

 

Even so, not every European nation belongs to the EU. Only 28 out of the 50 European states are members. For example, Ukraine, Belarus and Norway are not members. Neither is Switzerland, a nation that is more at the heart of Europe than we will ever be and yet seems to prosper doing bi-lateral deals with the EU.

 

So how did the European Union come about?

 

 

5. One man’s dream of a United States of Europe

 

 

"There will be no peace in Europe, if the states rebuild themselves on the basis of national sovereignty... The countries of Europe are not strong enough individually to be able to guarantee prosperity and social development of their peoples. The European states must therefore form a federation or a European entity that would make them into a common economic unit..."

 

 Jean Monnet(1888-1979)

 

 

French diplomat Jean Monnet is considered to be the founding father of the EU, and the above quote was part of a speech he gave in 1943 to De Gaulle’s Free French Government, exiled to Algiers as the result of the invasion of France by Germany, the third time this had happened in 70 years. Monnet had returned from the United States of America where he had been helping to organise the allied war effort. He would have been impressed by the vastness of America, the sheer scale of its resources and industry, and the brash, optimistic, “can-do” confidence of its people. The USA would have represented a stark contrast to war-ravaged Europe and one can understand why Monnet considered a federated United States of Europe to be the way forward, albeit initially as a means of avoiding any more wars on the Continent.

 

As it happened, the Germans were thinking along the same lines! A top Nazi economist by the name of Walther Funk gave a speech on the economic reorganisation of Europe in July 1940, which championed a United Europe to provide safe export outlets for German industry. Funk concluded by stating that “a stronger sense of economic community among European nations must be aroused by collaboration in all spheres of economic policy such as currency, credit, production and trade.”  4 years later, as defeat loomed, a meeting of top German industrialists was told to ship out to neutral countries as much gold, intellectual property and assets as possible in readiness for post-war reconstruction. So, when the French approached a defeated Germany with Jean Monnet’s ideas as taken forward by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, they got an enthusiastic reception. The industries of both countries were particularly keen on the protection afforded by a customs union, which would guarantee reliable and unfettered markets during the period of post-war recovery and reconstruction.

 

France and Germany have been in the driving seat of this project ever since, although there are signs this alliance is not as close as it once was. After their defeat in 1945, the Germans saw a United States of Europe as the means of restoring lost respectability and influence on the world stage, albeit in a union with others. That was 70 years ago and the planet has moved on. There are signs that younger generations of Germans are increasingly fed up with having to bail out other less industrious European nations who, despite all this German munificence, never seem to waste any opportunity to remind Germans about the excesses of their great-great-grandparents. The time may soon come when the German people feel that they have apologised enough, that they do not need the EU to hide behind any more and are confident enough to be a world player in their own right with their own economy, their own currency and their own armed forces, like Japan.

 

As for the French, while they still cleave to the European ideal, many will have been appalled by the treatment meted out to the Mediterranean countries by Brussels during the Euro crisis. Moreover, the realities of monetary union and the economic discipline required to maintain it do not synchronize well with the French social model and way of doing things. There may also be a feeling that the EU has rather got away from the nation whose idea it was.

 

What would Jean Monnet have made of it all? If he took one look at today’s USA, would he conclude that a United States of Large was not the way to go after all?

 

 

6.  What was the UK’s attitude to a U.S. of Europe?

 

“It’s no good. We cannot do it. The Durham Miners won’t wear it.”

                                    

Labour Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morrison on reading Monnet’s proposals in 1950

 

 

It is not always appreciated that, before they approached Germany with the Schuman plan, France came to us first with Monnet’s ideas. If a United States of Europe had been devised as a means of regaining power and world influence lost by European nations during the last war, why on earth wasn’t Britain first in the queue?

 

To begin with, Britain’s WW2 experience was different from that of countries on the Continent. Her social fabric, institutions and manufacturing base remained intact throughout hostilities. Above all, her nationhood had not been ravaged by invasion. Indeed the cohesion dictated by war made Britain more of a united nation than she had ever been.

 

After the War, the British political establishment saw the UK as a central link between the USA, the Commonwealth and Europe (it still does!). Britain’s preoccupation with being at the heart of the English speaking peoples of the World meant she did not see her future solely in Europe. European states were seen to be down and out, soft on communism and incapable of defending themselves against a possible Russian invasion. The Labour Government of the day was particularly concerned that the envisaged common market in continental coal and steel would threaten the future of the newly nationalised industries at home, hence the quote above and Labour’s rejection of the idea.

 

There was no change when the Conservatives returned to power in 1951. During his second stint as PM, Winston Churchill had this to say: “Our attitude toward further economic development along the lines of the Schuman plan resembles that which we adopted for the European Army. We help, we dedicate, we play a part, but we are not merged and do not forfeit our insular or Commonwealth-wide character”. But the UK was a trading nation and needed new markets in an endeavour to stem the decline of her manufacturing base. In 1960, Britain inspired the creation of the European Free Trade Association which reflected our view of what form a European trading community should take – an open and free association of countries in a tariff-free area, in stark contrast to the EEC which advocated a protectionist, political, economic and military union.

 

Even so, it says a lot about the short-termism and lack of resolve on the part of the British political establishment that, within 18 months of EFTA’s creation, Westminster decided to apply to join the EEC and there was to be another 10 years of haggling before the UK application was accepted, by which time the EEC was 20 years down the road toward a United States of Europe. If Herbert Morrison and his Labour colleagues had been more enthusiastic in 1950, if we had joined as a founder member, would the UK political establishment have been able to create a European institution more to our liking? Discuss!

 

7. The EU: a politicians’, not a people’s, project

 

 

“The E.U. has a flag no one salutes, an anthem no one sings, a president no one can name, a parliament whose powers subtract from those of national legislatures, a bureaucracy no one admires or controls, and rules of fiscal rectitude that no member is penalized for ignoring.”

                                                                                               

                                                                                                George F Will Washington Post June 2015

 

 

If you are a citizen of the United States of America, you know all about your country’s constitution, a document of 7,600 words. You can buy a copy, available as a small pocket book. It is a people’s rulebook put together at the start of an 18th century people’s adventure into nationhood. And here’s the fundamental flaw in the nascent United States of Europe. If you are going to create a federated United States of EXISTING AND DEVELOPED nations two centuries later, it is vital that you involve the peoples of those nations every step of the way. It has to be a people’s project, with a vision, a programme of progress, and a goal. The EU has never been a people’s project. Continental politicians have not so much led public opinion as left it behind.

 

The creation of the European version of the US Constitution is instructive. Miffed by the rejection of their shiny new Constitution by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005, Brussels re-introduced it by stealth using the Lisbon Treaty. Valéry Giscard D’Estaing, Chair of the European Convention of the time, described the process: "The legal experts of the European Council. ...have taken the original draft constitution, blown it apart into separate elements and have then attached them, one by one, to existing treaties. The Treaty of Lisbon is thus a catalogue of amendments. It is impenetrable for the public…. The proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged. The institutions have re-imposed their language and their procedures, taking us even further away from ordinary citizens... When men and women with sweeping ambitions for Europe decide to make use of this treaty, they will be able to rekindle from the ashes of today the flame of a United Europe.”

 

The resulting document, described by the political class as “The Consolidated Treaties” (you mustn’t call it a Constitution!) is a 103,000 word document comprising 336 A4 pages of articles and supporting protocols (ISBN 978-0-10-173102-7). It’s worth accessing on the Web, if only to get an idea of what generations of numpty politicians have signed us up to.

 

It’s not just the content, either; the whole tone of the document is authoritarian, redolent of a constitution of a totalitarian state; use of words such as “solidarity” and “loyalty”, phrases such as “the reinforcing of the European identity”, with all political parties required to “contribute to forming European political awareness” and “refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives” And you would need a pretty large pocket to carry this tome around with you! But then this document was never designed for your use…

 

Even advocates of our staying in the EU acknowledge it’s all a bit nineteen fifties naf but respond by offering up that old chestnut “reform”. A quick browse through 20 years of UK election manifestos reveals that calls for reform of the EU are sprinkled about like salt on chips. In 1997, Labour promised to lead a campaign for reform in Europe, acknowledging that “ Europe isn’t working in the way this country and Europe need”, in 2005 the Conservatives claimed to “support the cause of reform in Europe”, in 2010 Labour acknowledged that “ fundamental reform of the EU budget remains necessary”, and in 2015 the LibDems asserted that “only by remaining fully engaged in the EU can we deliver the further reforms that are urgently needed”.

 

One of the reforms identified by the LibDems in 2001 and again in 2010 was the cessation of the European Parliament’s current loony practice of meeting in both Strasbourg and Brussels which the LibDems had estimated to be wasting 200 million Euros a year. But it seems reforming the EU is akin to trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; the gravy train rolls on, as MEPs continue to commute back and forth between the two cities; it seems politicians get elected on the back of promises to do something about reforming the EU and then disappear inside the labyrinth they’ve created with a champagne flute in one hand and an expenses claim form in the other, never to be heard of again.

 

 

8. Which political party got us into this mess?

 

“We want to be in Europe but not run by Europe”  

Conservative Party Manifesto 1997

 

 

Surprisingly, it is the Conservative Party which has been the most consistently pro-European party of government: it was Harold Macmillan’s Conservative Government who opened negotiations to join the EEC in the 1960s, Ted Heath’s Conservative Government took us into the EEC in the 1970s, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government supported the creation of the Single Market in the 1980s and it was John Major’s Conservative Government of the 1990s who signed up to the Maastricht Treaty, arguably the most important step toward European Union. As observed earlier, it was the Conservatives who originally signed us up to “ever closer union”.

 

During this period, the Labour Party’s policy on Europe has ranged across the full spectrum of postures; in the early 50s it was opposed, it took no official position during the 1975 referendum being hopelessly split on the issue, its 1983 Election Manifesto declared the Party would withdraw from membership, while the Blair years witnessed a damascene conversion to outright support for all things European. What remains of Labour’s working class roots still looks askance at the role of big business in the EU. 

 

Speaking of U-turns, the positions of the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru are noteworthy because they campaigned for withdrawal from Europe in 1975 but are now supporters of the European project. Cynics might suggest that the EU is the nationalists’ “Get out of Jail Free” card; should independence be achieved but subsequently go pear-shaped, failure can be buried in the flaccid bosom of Old Mother Europe, even though one perceived distant tyranny would be replaced by another. Perhaps the campaign for independence would be better prosecuted outside the EU and in any case the quest for nationhood should always be about much more than just economics. 

 

Of all the parties in the UK Premier Division of Politics, the Liberal Democrats and their forbears have been the most consistent and most enthusiastic in their support for the European project. Uniquely, this is evidenced in the Preamble to their Party Constitution: “Within the European Community, we affirm the values of federalism and integration.” There’s no mention of NATO, the Commonwealth or even the UN. But, incredibly, Europe’s in there, as is support for federalism, another LibDem fetish. Federalism is where the same territory is administered by several layers of government, each layer having its own responsibilities and its own powers, including the right to levy taxes. Crucially, each layer enjoys autonomy from each other. The USA has a federal system of government and federalism was key to Jean Monnet’s dream of a United States of Europe. The trouble with it is that it requires armies of politicians and civil servants to function and, even if more of these is a good thing, are there enough capable politicians and bureaucrats to go round? If there’s a case for a Federated United States of Europe, now is the time to hear it and the Liberal Democrats are the only party to champion it. But it’s all very quiet at LibDem HQ…

 

Perhaps it’s no longer fair to describe Europe as a politicians’ project because the EU is now so huge that no politician is willing to expend their 5 years term of office trying to reform it, preferring instead to try and work round it. David Cameron probably elected to try this approach at the start of his premiership but it was his bad luck that the Euro, the glue designed to bind the United States of Europe together, itself came unglued on his watch.

 

Matters have not been helped by a worrying disconnect between the governors and the governed. In particular, the British polity has not adapted sufficiently to accommodate the greater sophistication of those it is supposed to serve, as is evidenced by the tripe being dished up in the literature currently being distributed by both sides of the referendum campaign.

 

It’s all depressingly reminiscent of the 1975 Referendum. Meaningless photos of families, pensioners, workers and children are used to reference infantile slogans and Tescoesque one-liners. It remains to be seen whether 1970s-style propaganda will impress today’s voters who are more educated, less deferential & trusting, better informed and more eclectic in their politics than they were 40 years ago.  

 

 

9. The Role of Big Business

 

 

“I don’t think I am going to sell more cars because the UK stays in or leaves the EU”

 

Carlos Ghosn, Chief Executive of Nissan Renault Feb 2016

 

 

Mention has already been made of the involvement of big business as one of the driving forces in the creation of a barrierless common market in Europe.

 

Big business does not like borders or having to deal with different sets of administrations and regulations. 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, a single government and a single tax system is obviously big capital’s regime of choice.

 

But, and crucially for Liberals, 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 unit costs of goods and services, but it has a dehumanising tendency, particularly nowadays as computerised automation marches on, as humanity is 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 about our membership of the European Union needs to be taken into consideration but it is not the be all and end all.

 

Besides, good governance and making money are quite different disciplines and there have been numerous occasions when captains of industry have flounced into the political arena and got it seriously wrong. One such occasion was in 1999 when we were warned by big business that our failure to join the European Single Currency would have serious consequences. As it turned out, there were serious consequences for those countries who joined the Euro and we have benefited from staying out of the Eurozone.

 

 

10. What’s wrong with the European Union?

 

 

“I completely underweighted the possibility they would flail around for three years… it was just inconceivable to me they would let it get as bad as they ultimately did,”

 

Former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on EU’s handling of Euro crisis

 

 

No other international institution to which we belong has attracted such widespread controversy and hostility. Why is this? What’s wrong with the EU? Here are a few defects:-

 

1. To begin with, war memorials across our land bear witness to the hundreds of thousands of lives that were sacrificed in wars to defend our liberty, and yet the political establishment signed us up to the European project which has over the decades involved the subjugation of our freedom and independence in favour of a supranational organisation. Our parliament has to process EU directives and observe EU laws; our courts can be over-ruled by the EU Courts. Was this necessary? Of course it wasn’t! Have Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Mexico and other nations far poorer than ourselves found it necessary to sign away their independence in some crazed pooled superpower compact? No, they haven’t!

 

2. The EU “Government” is a labyrinthine nightmare, comprising the European Council (national leaders), the Council of Ministers (Ministers from each member state), the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors. 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, it takes the EU ages to deal with difficult decisions, witness the crises over border control and the Euro, which prompted the quote above.

 

3. The EU’s democratic pretensions are a sham. While there is a European Parliament, it is only one element of the legislative process. Moreover, since 751 Members of the European Parliament represent a total European electorate of 395 million, one MP per half a million voters operating in a multi-party-multi-national legislature will be hard pushed to do anything other than make a tokenistic job of it. It’s huge, impersonal and remote. Democracy loses traction under such circumstances, as few can name their European MPs and declining turnouts (43% in 2014) evidence increasing voter disengagement. The only people with the resources capable of penetrating this maze are lobby groups, big business and national governments.

 

4. In its quest for super-statehood, the EU has taken on additional roles and responsibilities which needlessly and/or dangerously duplicate existing institutions and networks, with particular regard to defence and diplomacy. The European External Action Service was created by the Lisbon Treaty to give the EU “one voice” internationally. In 2015, it cost 976 million euros a year to run an EU foreign ministry and EU embassies worldwide with a total staff of nearly 5,000. There is also a “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy” which sounds like something out of a Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera, but is in fact the EU’s foreign minister.

 

5. Much has been made about the cost of the EU to the British taxpayer, generally reckoned to be £9 Billion a year, assuming we will continue to claw back our £5 billion rebate and that we continue giving grants to farmers and other UK institutions currently receiving cash from the EU. While £9 billion is a tidy sum, it represents a mere burp in the gale of £772 billion spent annually by the UK Exchequer and in any case both sides are missing the point. By far the largest cost of the EU is the intangible burden of over-regulation and “one-size-fits-all” decision-making.

 

6. For small businesses in particular, EU over-regulation can be the difference between profit and loss, between job creation and redundancies and between expansion and shutting down. Last year, the Regulatory Policy Committee, an independent government body, revealed that new EU rules have imposed £2.3 billion in net costs to businesses since 2013, wiping out the £2.2 billion the UK Government had saved cutting domestic red tape during the same period.  Earlier this year Europe’s biggest companies, banks and investment groups blamed mounting EU regulations for stifling competition and threatening businesses with hundreds of billions of euros in extra costs. Of course, if we leave, there will still need to be regulation but small firms would prefer the rules to be home-grown because, as things are at the moment, while only a fraction of small businesses export to the EU, all must adhere to EU regulations.

 

7. The EU fails to make the crucial distinction between unity and uniformity. This quest for sameness and conformity should be of particular concern to Liberals. In any case, it doesn’t work; one size clearly did not fit all during the Euro crisis. When European governments were in charge of their own currencies, there was a host of levers they could use to regulate their economies, such as adjustment of exchange rates, borrowing and interest rates, so they could manage their national finances in the interests of the people who elected them, and if they failed to do this, they could be voted out of office. But, once they joined the Euro, most of these remedies were no longer available to them; they were locked into a centralised and democratically unaccountable institution whose sole priority was protection of the Euro.

 

8. The ultimate EU objective is, and has always been, the creation of a federated Union of European states, with one economy, one currency, one army, one law and one president. It even has its own flag and national anthem. But is a United States of Whatever 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 in the 19th Century but does European exclusivity and identity still make sense?  Why a union with Germany but not Japan, with Austria but not Australia, with Belgium but not Brazil?  

 

9. As the EU quest for “ever closer union” proceeds apace, the UK’s semi-detached status which Mr Cameron boasts about will become more pronounced. As we opt out of an increasing number of communal activities, we will be increasingly marginalized to such an extent that our influence will be minimal.

 

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 want their country to be a member of everything but belong to nobody. 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 in the past chosen to ignore.

 

 

11. The World in 2050

 

 

“If Europe today accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, then it’s obvious that it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life,” 

                                                                            

                                                                     Angela Merkel Dec 2012 in an interview with the Financial Times.

 

 

In mapping out a review of our future international policy, it is important to try and forecast what the global situation will be in, say, 2050 and how we can best prepare and prosper.

Our world is changing at bewildering speed, as hundreds of millions of people in a host of developing nations demand a standard of living that we have taken for granted for decades. If we are to survive, let alone prosper, in this challenging environment of shrinking resources, burgeoning populations and highly competitive markets, we need to reach out and make common cause with those nations - European or not - who think as we do. Much has been written about the shape of things to come during the course of this century and forecasts can be made about the state of play in 2050 under 3 key headings- population, share of world trade & global GDP, and military capability.

 

Population

According to the United Nation’s World Population Statistics, Europe’s population is in decline. In 2050, it is estimated that our continent’s population will reduce by 5.29 million. 17 of the 28 member states will experience a reduction in their populations. Germany’s alone will decline by 1.2 million. Moreover, age profiles in 2050 evidence a reduction in the proportion of youngsters and a rise in the number of retired.  Again Germany, the EU’s workhorse, will be in serious trouble with only 48% aged between 15 and 59 and a massive 39% aged 60 plus, of which 14% will be 80 and over. All of this has worrying implications for shrinking workforces, reduced influence on the world stage and a declining skills and talent base. The same statistics forecast that, while 15% of the World population was domiciled in today’s EU in 1950, this proportion will decrease to 5% by 2050.  The UN reckons that, by 2050, only the Russian Federation will feature as a European nation in a table of the top 20 most populous countries and that the most populous nation currently in the EU will be us, ranked 24th with 75 million people!

 

Share of World Trade and Global GDP

An EU Commission report published back in 2002 cast doubt on the viability of the EU as a trade block. In 2002, the share of World trade for the EU was 22%, North America 25% and China 18%. By 2050, the Commission calculated that the EU’s world share would have shrunk to 12%, North America suffered a slight reduction to 23%, while China’s share increased to 24%. So, by 2050, the EU share of world trade will be half that of either North America or China. This decline is also mirrored in Global GDP share. GDP is Gross Domestic Product, a measurement of a nation’s total annual output. The following table uses statistical information taken from another EU Commission report entitled Global Europe 2050 which features 3 scenarios from worst to best case. The “best case” stats have been used here:-

 

 

2010

2050 best case

USA

26%

18%

EU

29%

17%

India

  2%

11%

China

  8%

23%

 

Even use of “best case” stats shows a decline in EU GDP share by 2050

 

Military Capability

While planning to counter military threats over a 35-year period is difficult, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that in the future, conflict over shrinking resources might be as prevalent as wars over territory. Certainly the challenges presented by well-equipped terrorists and by the armed forces of a burgeoning China and a resurgent Russia have arguably made this planet less secure than it was at the height of the Cold War.

 

The EU’s unimpressive response to the deteriorating security situation was detailed in a March 2016 EUISS report which stated: “Europe’s 2015 defence spending corresponds to a mere 85.5% of pre-financial crisis levels (2007) and thus the lowest military outlays in almost a decade... In 2012, Asia overtook Europe to become the world’s second biggest regional defence spender after North America and, in 2015, outspent Europe by 36.4%. Elsewhere, troubled Middle Eastern and North African countries are slowly drawing level with Europe, too. And while Russia’s declining economy might prevent it from maintaining its massive defence investments in the long run, last year again saw Moscow devoting a substantive share of its resources to the military: 4.2% of GDP was allocated to defence in 2015, an increase by 9% in real terms compared to 2014.”  EU nations spend nowhere near enough on defence and so Europe’s military deterrent simply is not credible without the continued support of the USA, nor by any published reckoning will it be so in 2050.

 

From these projections, it can be concluded that the EU on its own does not provide economy of scale in areas where it matters. It’s just not big enough.

 

12. Issues: Immigration

 

 

 We will reduce the number of people coming to our country…We will keep our ambition of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands. We will control migration from the European Union by reforming welfare rules…

 

Conservative Party 2015 Election Manifesto

 

 

It’s a good job few voters bother reading election manifestos, isn’t it? The above promise rivals Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s 2007 call for “British jobs for British workers” for giving pie-in-the-sky undertakings that cannot possibly be discharged while we are still a member of the EU.

 

This needs to be made clear: if politicians are trying to create a United States of Whatever, they will not allow border controls between member states; goods, services, capital and, most important of all, people must be allowed to cross from one united state to another without hindrance.

 

The only way to totally regain control of UK borders is to leave the EU.   

 

One of these days, the UK will need a grown-up debate about migration, shorn of post-colonial guilt trips and sloppy use of vocabulary such as racism. Here are a few thoughts to be going on with:-

 

Notwithstanding the lamentations of the Left, we Brits are generally not racist, although there have been considerable post-war problems accepting “cultural pluralism” - not the same thing at all - as foreign workers were imported by industry to do the jobs we couldn’t or wouldn’t do. But even here, even though the voters were never consulted about it, Brits have generally tolerated a multi-cultural metamorphosis of society over the decades and are probably the better for it. Even so, tolerance should not be confused with fellowship or even acceptance and an immigration free-for-all can so easily sour community relations, not only for those just arrived but also for those members of ethnic minorities who have been settled here for many decades.

 

Surely there has to be a limit to the numbers of people these islands can comfortably accommodate without changing the nature of our built, natural and social environment and thereby weakening social cohesion. In 2013, the average number of people per square kilometre in the UK was 262, over twice the European average. In England, the figure is 411 people a square kilometre, making it the most crowded landmass in Europe.

 

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 under the rule of law, not only for themselves but for their families as well. Moreover, within a given social spending budget, the greater the immigration, the less there is to go round for everyone else, and so-called freedom rapidly 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. You cannot have freedom of movement across borders unless the welfare systems of the countries in question are similar in scope.

 

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. Quite apart from the security risk this would present, there is no way you could possibly plan to accommodate the comings and goings.

 

Even leaving the door ajar for skilled immigrants raises a moral issue for Liberals: Plundering developing countries of their most valuable asset - their skilled workforce - is arguably the worst form of colonialism there is.

 

We are the fifth richest nation on the planet and we need to realise that the poor and destitute of other countries are quite prepared to risk coming here without access to any welfare services, to live off the black market or off the crumbs we drop from our well-stocked table, because even this will represent an improvement in their quality of life.

 

It’s time to consider immigration as part of a holistic foreign policy, so we can properly accommodate prospective visitors, for the benefit of our country, for them and their countries of origin. There has to be a plan, involving immigration control, aid and education packages, perhaps even Hong Kong-style enclaves overseas.

 

And then perhaps we will see people from other lands as less of a liability and more of an asset; the young and agile from other nations, confident, bright-eyed & bushy-tailed, can-do individuals, those with get up and go, who got up and went. The thing is, it has to be our debate and our plan, not part of somebody else’s. 

 

 

13. Issues: Jobs

 

 

“Your arms are hanging limp at your sides, your legs have nothing to do; some machine is doing that for you”

      In the Year 2525; Richard Evans 1969

 

 

“MORE JOBS, LOWER PRICES” proclaims the Britain Stronger in Europe leaflet. It’s only a matter of time before we are told that membership of the EU cures backache and makes you more attractive to the opposite sex! The same sort of propaganda was churned out during the 1975 referendum. When we first joined the Common Market in 1973, unemployment was 806,300. Since then, it has fluctuated across the decades as follows:-

 

UK Unemployment totals

Lowest

Highest

1960-1969

   292,500

   932,900

1970-1979

   511,500

1,635,800

1980-1989

1,470,600

3,408,000

1990-1999

1,310,000

3,062,000

2000-2009

1,397,000

2,484,000

2010-present

1,685,000

2,708,000

 

Clearly, if the EU is supposed to protect employment, it has not been doing a very good job! Some of us are old enough to remember Parliament going into a blind panic when the jobless total went over 1 million in the 1970s, but, as the table above shows, the number of those out of work has never since dipped below that figure in the following decades. As we wait to see whether what remains of our steel industry can be saved within the constraints of EU regulations and Thatcherite philosophy, perhaps we should consider some “Then and Now” workforce figures:-

 

Manufacturing Workforce

1966

2011

Steel & Metal Production

   630,000

230,000

Mechanical Engineering

1,260,000

340,000

Electrical Engineering

   910,000

130,000

Shipbuilding &Marine

   210,000

  40,000

Textiles

   810,000

  70,000

 

Several million UK jobs in manufacturing have been lost since we joined the EU. There are, of course, other reasons for this decline, as capital chases the cheapest means of production and developing countries make their own clothes and steel. Automation too is partly responsible and sooner or later somebody is going to have to address the problem of how you distribute the wealth machinery creates if you do not have salaries and wages as a conduit.

 

Capital does not have the answer and no philosophy in politics has yet addressed the problem. In the meantime, the claim that membership of the EU protects jobs is clearly nonsensical, especially if you look at the unemployment rates in the Eurozone, (UK: 5.1%, Eurozone: 10.2%), and youth jobless in particular (UK: 13.7%, Eurozone: 22%). 

 

 

14. Issues: Peace and Security

 

“For over 6 decades (the EU) contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” `

 

Citation for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Award to the EU

 

 

Credit where it is due; the EU has indeed acted as a Liberal Democratic beacon for those European countries previously run by dictatorships or communist regimes. These countries total half of the current EU member states. So the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize was quite justified, even though the timing of the award was curious, announced as it was in the middle of the Euro crisis, with harmony between member nations at an all-time low.

 

And the key word in the citation is “contributed”. There were other contributors, not the least of whom was - and still is - the United States of America, who underpinned the post WW2 peace with huge amounts of money courtesy of the Marshall Aid programme and who has shored up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with most of the military hardware and personnel. Without NATO - i.e. the USA -, Europe could not defend itself.

 

The problem with this is that the USA is in a similar position to the one we were at the beginning of the last century when we were still top dog but acutely aware that our hegemony would not last for much longer. Just as we were mindful of the need for change then, the USA is doubtless aware that, in 50 to 100 years time, she may not be big enough on her own and will need meaningful and reliable allies to replace the bunch of freeloaders she is currently saddled with. A sober re-appraisal by the USA of all current alliances is in prospect, especially since the Pentagon has been obliged to quadruple spending on US military preparations to defend NATO allies in Europe who are simply not pulling their weight. The only EU members in the Organisation spending the 2% of GDP minimum on defence as agreed in 2006 are Poland, Estonia, Greece(!) and the UK. Germany’s spending is a pathetic 1.2%. Matters are made worse by the EU establishment’s venture into diplomacy courtesy of the newly created EEAS, the Union’s shiny new Foreign Ministry. The EU’s disastrous meddling in Ukraine evidences an institution writing cheques that it’s diminutive military clout cannot cash. 

 

There is doubtless a lot of impatient pencil-tapping at the Pentagon. American annoyance that the EU is not doing enough to defend itself was highlighted in 2011 by Robert Gates, then US Defence Secretary, who warned: "There will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defence."

 

As for the security side of things, as we watched the amateur French and Belgian authorities chase their tails in the weeks after the Paris and Brussels atrocities, we will surely have taken some comfort from the fact that the UK’s anti-terrorist resources are far more professional and more effective than those on the Continent. The claim from EU enthusiasts that we would somehow be better protected integrated with the rest of the EU security services seems risible.

 

And then there’s liberal democracy itself. We need a defence and security system for the same reason we need a police force – it provides protection against the darker side of human nature. While there will always be human depravity, there are measures that can be taken to contain crime and reduce the level of enforcement necessary. The rule of fair law, freedom of thought & action, and equality of opportunity to access wealth, welfare, education and to participate in government are arguably all factors which minimize domestic criminal activity and constitute what dictionaries define as “Liberal Democracy”. Aside from domestic benefits, Liberal Democracy has advantages on an international scale. Liberal Democracies tend not to let disagreements with each other degenerate into war and are able to co-operate with each other because their systems of government and aspirations of their peoples are similar.

 

It is Liberal Democracy, rather than the EU, which underpins peace in Europe.

 

 

15. Issues: Trade

 

 

“Whether the UK will stay in the EU or not will not do any harm to trade and economic ties or financial relations between the UK and China. We have a smaller world and everyone is connected with each other and it is the age of globalisation. I think whether the UK stays in the EU or not will not have an impact.”

Wang Hongzhang, Chairman of the China Construction Bank

 

 

You will hear people say that “half our trade is with the EU” What they should say is that 46% of our international trade is with the EU, not the same thing at all. When you buy a paper from your local newsagent, trade takes place, but it is not international trade.

 

Our total exports of goods and services come to 28.4% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product, which is the nation’s total annual output). 46% of these exports go to the EU, so that means that 12.66% of our GDP derives from our exports to the EU, not the half that is bandied about in some quarters. Nevertheless, this represents a meaningful percentage and the impact of leaving the EU needs to be considered.

 

First of all, free trade within the customs union that is the EU might have had something going for it 70 years ago when global trade tariffs averaged 13% but after GATT and the birth of the WTO, average tariffs are down to 4% and all restraints on trade are reducing further as globalisation renders customs unions like the EU redundant.  

 

In any case, to hear the arguments of the powers that be, anybody would think we were a tiny country with the spending power of Andorra. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, with the second largest population in the EU, currently comprising 47 million well-educated and sophisticated adult 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 elect to leave, Brussels will not be inclined to mess about; they will want to do a deal as quickly as possible, especially since our departure will weaken the EU and they won’t want to risk weakening it further by dillydallying.

 

You will also hear EU enthusiasts claim that over 3 million UK jobs out of the total 31.4 million employed are linked to exports to the EU. Even if that figure were true and the BBC’s Referendum Reality Check website questions how this figure was calculated, is it seriously being suggested that these jobs will cease to exist if we leave, that no trade will take place with the EU? More to the point, is this 3 million jobs total something the government should be proud of?  Why have the powers that be allowed a situation to develop over the decades whereby we have become hopelessly hooked on trading in a small customs union and are thereby disproportionately susceptible to financial crises within the Eurozone? As the following table shows, there is teeming life beyond the staid confines of the EU:

 

 

Population

(millions)

Population,

(as world %)

% UK Exports

India

1,311

18%

  1.3%

China

1,367

19%

  4.2%

USA

   321

4%

13.9%

EU

   505

7%

46.0%

 

This is simply an illustration using just the USA and a couple of the leading emerging super-economies as examples, never mind the dozens of other countries listed by the World Bank. What the hell does Whitehall think it’s playing at? We need to take urgent steps to re-balance this part of our economy, especially in view of the EU’s projected decline in terms of GDP, trade share and population over the next 3 decades.

 

 

16. UK: Manchester United or Accrington Stanley?

 

“Britain is a third rate power nursing illusions of grandeur of its colonial past”

 

                              I.K Gujral, Prime Minister of India 1997

 

 

Are we big enough, strong enough, productive enough and talented enough to go it alone?

 

Yes, we are. The UK comprises a reasonably healthy and educated population who enjoy the benefits of a welfare state run by a democratically elected government; our island status has protected us from hostile land powers over the ages and enables ready access to maritime resources and trade routes; our temperate climate delivers a bounteous supply of fresh water and seasonal weather which enables us to grow 60% of the food we eat (we could grow a lot more!), and our location on the planet has spared us the extremes of major earthquakes, volcanic activity, storm and flood.

 

There are 65 million of us, making us the 21st most populous nation in the World. Hundreds of years free of invasion and civil war have enabled our institutions to become well established and respected; we are the fifth highest spender on defence, maintaining armed forces which include a nuclear deterrent, a blue water navy, state of the art fighter aircraft and a versatile army of 145,000 men; our English language enables us to wield considerable “soft power”.

 

While the days of Empire are long gone and the Union Jack no longer flutters over countless government buildings worldwide, we are still a rich nation, currently ranked the 5th most prosperous in terms of GDP after the USA, China, Japan and Germany. It is true that we will soon be overhauled by a host of other nations such as India, Brazil and Russia but this is not as the result of our becoming poorer but of other nations becoming richer. Nobody should have a problem with other peoples becoming more prosperous.

 

We are not without our problems, of course. Our education, health, legal and welfare services are a bit creaky and we have allowed our institutions to fossilize; the UK brand has taken a bit of a battering of late, thanks to our antics in the Middle East; we are lazy and picky about the jobs we do and how productively we do them; we waste resources and have become a nation of shopaholics, racking up private debt on the acquisition of consumer junk which falls to pieces almost as fast as it falls out of fashion; and, speaking of debt, for all the talk of public service cuts, the socking great National Debt still increases year after year, a damning indictment of government competence and a shameful inheritance for us to leave our children and their children.

 

Even so, all these defects are well within our gift to solve, improve or change. No nation is completely self-sufficient but we are more self-sufficient than most.

 

Reference has already been made to those European countries not in the EU who have nevertheless got on quite well outside the club with various bi-lateral treaties. There has been much talk of our adopting the Swiss model or the Norwegian way, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the UK’s population is nearly 5 times the size of both of these countries added together. We’ll have our own model, if you don’t mind!

 

In this referendum, you’ll hear a lot of talk about power and influence, which is a fixation of the political class. While the post-war British public seemed to have been quite unaffected by the loss of the largest empire the World had ever seen, the British political establishment had, in the words of US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, “lost an empire but not yet found a role”.  

 

Today’s UK politicians still seem desperate to have power and influence on the world stage and there is frequent reference to “punching above our weight” which has, if the truth be known, landed us in so much hot water over the last few decades, as is evidenced by our under-resourced adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

The British electorate is no longer bothered about international clout or influence and would probably prefer a clear conscience, peace of mind and independence. Voters seem comfortable with our place in the World as we slide slowly yet gracefully down the various global league tables monitoring wealth and influence – perhaps not a Manchester United any more, but certainly not an Accrington Stanley.

 

17. If the EU didn’t exist, would we need to invent it?

 

 

"Nobody would have deliberately designed a government as complex and as redundant as the EU"

 

Tom Reid US Journalist

 

 

If the EU had been a business, it would have gone the way of Woolworths years ago, but because there is no commercial imperative, politicians are apt to just keep pumping taxpayers’ money into it, rather than ask whether it is viable or continues to serve any useful purpose. Simply by asking the above question about the EU and, indeed, other international organisations enables us to plot a way forward for ourselves and other nations, unencumbered by the constraints and clutter of history.

 

For example, if the United Nations didn’t exist would we need to invent it?  On paper, Yes, absolutely. It is the only global institution where (nearly) every nation, democratic or not, has a forum to raise grievances and debate international issues. Even so, when push comes to shove, the UN is an institution which never ceases to disappoint; it dithers while innocent civilians are gassed in their beds. So, while we work away to make the UN more effective in the long term and acknowledge all the good work it does in other areas, we need to acknowledge the organisation’s limitations and perhaps consider an alternative grouping which can currently master the global tasks for which the UN is unsuited.

 

And, if the Commonwealth did not exist, would we need to invent it? Sadly, No. While this worthy and global institution once had the potential to become a powerful multi-cultural brotherhood which could have achieved co-operation in everything from trade to defence, we have allowed the Commonwealth to languish over the decades and, as currently constituted, its future is uncertain. Moreover, notwithstanding all the fine sentiments embodied in the 1991 Harare Declaration about individual freedom, the rule of law and democracy, many members can be weighed in the balance and found wanting in this regard. Even so, elements of the organisation provide a template for a new global body.

 

And what of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Yes, NATO works. It does its job, even if that job is to do nothing other than organise and strike a military posture that is sufficient to give Russia and others pause for thought. Even so, it is hopelessly reliant on the USA, whose future commitment to the alliance is uncertain due to the concept of an EU single armed force which needlessly and dangerously duplicates the work of NATO. There is also the unwillingness of the majority of EU NATO members to pull their weight by spending 2% of their GDP on defence, as previously agreed. Moreover, while NATO was ideal for the Cold War when a military standoff substituted for fighting, once NATO partners found themselves waging a land war in hostile territory as part of ISAF, it is fair to say that some proved rather uneasy and inept about it. There are also valuable prospective members beyond the confines of Europe and the North Atlantic who could make a meaningful contribution; NATO needs to be global rather than regional. It also needs to beef up its commitment to “the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” enshrined in the founding treaty of 1949 and re-affirmed in 1995 as a condition of membership for new applicants. What, for example would NATO do about existing members who may water down or abandon liberal democracy in the future?

 

And finally, do we need the EU? No, none of us do. It is an old-fashioned artifice created in the aftermath of war in the erroneous belief that a regional and federated customs union of states, rather than Liberal Democracy, provides the best guarantee of peace and prosperity. Any benefits of membership can be realised just as well by other means.

As far as the UK is concerned, our semi-detached dalliance with the concept of a United Europe was badly thought through by our muddle-headed political establishment and has needlessly complicated our foreign policy. Indeed, future historians may conclude that our entire 20th Century pre-occupation with all things European was a ghastly mistake.

 

Clearly, the days of painting a map of the world in different colours according to regions and continents and requiring geographical proximity for alliances are over. We need a more mature approach to making common cause with like minds worldwide. 

 

 

18. The quest for peace, liberty and contentment

 

 

“By building relations we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier”  

Susan Lieberman, Author

 

 

For all their shortcomings, liberal democratic nation states are still the best means of government, which can then come together to make common cause as international government organisations. While some Liberals will claim nation states fuel tribalism and war, nationalism in moderation is nothing more than community politics writ large. The impersonality of vast super-states will always be bested by the diversity of smaller nation states; humanity prospers when people feel that they belong and are involved.

 

Even so, the social benefits of community, both in a local and national sense, are absolutely reliant on a healthy civil society. This is all too often taken for granted. Civil society in turn thrives best in a Liberal Democracy where participation, diversity, exchange of different ideas and human interaction foster desirable human traits such as enthusiasm, industry, thrift, kindness, respect, love and generosity. This does not happen automatically; it needs to be worked at, otherwise there is a danger that we will end up distanced and alienated from each other, our experiences limited to what we see on an edited screen, doing everything remotely and making choices for everything from politicians to pizza on some greasy beer-soaked keyboard, while wealth and the means of producing it is vested in the hands of fewer and fewer people. In this way humanity is devalued, resentment festers and the chance of violent dispute is thereby increased, fertile territory for angry gods directing nutcases with minds that hate.    

 

Perhaps this quest for liberty and contentment needs to be given some much-needed international focus because liberal democracy is currently very much on the defensive. After the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the march of individual freedom seemed unstoppable. It was argued that a liberal democracy incorporating individual freedom and the rule of law was necessary to create the conditions for wealth generation. Unfortunately, Communist China has since proved that this is not the case and that, provided the mass of people can be bought off with a better standard of living, or at least the prospect of one, they will submit to authoritarian rule and forgo democracy and individual rights.

 

In this regard, the 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy makes depressing reading. This index ranks 167 nations (the survey excludes micro-states) according to their performance under five general categories; electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The following table gives the total numbers of countries grouped into 4 categories according to the 2015 survey:-

 

Regime Type

Number of Countries

% of countries

% of world population

Full democracies

20

12

  8.9

Flawed democracies

59

35.3.

39.5

Hybrid regimes

36

22.2

17.5

Authoritarian regimes

52

30.5

34.1

 

Under one tenth of the world’s population enjoys the freedoms we British take for granted. This unsatisfactory situation requires a co-ordinated response from the nations whose democracies pass muster. Even those in the premier league, such as the UK (ranked only 16th out of 20) need to keep their democratic fabric in constant repair before they can start lecturing the 59 countries in the second division about tackling the flaws in their systems of government, never mind the rest.

 

What to do?

 

 

19. Going for G.O.L.D.

 

 

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”  

Winston Churchill

 

 

Perhaps we can use this golden opportunity for everybody’s benefit by creating something new, visionary and purposeful, certainly as a replacement for the EU, NATO and possibly the Commonwealth. Whatever it is needs to be global and exclusive, with membership restricted to full Liberal Democracies that are prepared to commit a certain percentage of their GDP to international security as their membership fee. If they haven’t got the troops or the equipment, they pay the balance in cash to those members who have, or they lose their membership. Moreover, richer members must undertake to provide a further percentage of their GDP to a targeted aid programme for poorer members.

 

Accordingly, it is suggested that the UK should lead the way in going for G.O.L.D. – a Global Organisation of Liberal Democracies, for aid, trade and defence, starting perhaps with a core membership of the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and other European nations contemplating a future outside the EU.

 

This would not be a union or federation like the EU whose weakness lies in its failure to make the distinction between unity and uniformity. In G.O.L.D, each member nation would have their own economy, currency, borders, language and system of government and welfare.

 

Members of G.O.L.D. would commit to defending themselves and each other, they would commit to trading fairly with each other and the richer members would commit to improving the welfare of poorer and developing member nations. There would also be a programme of assistance for prospective G.O.L.D. members in the form of aid, trade agreements, security and civil society development packages whose introduction the peoples of the nation in question would have to first support in a referendum. For the first time, aid, trade and defence would be linked to create a global triumvirate of resources, a step-by-step, nation-by-nation means to a peaceful and prosperous liberal democratic end.

 

Each year, perhaps on the existing International Day of Democracy (15th September), G.O.L.D. would publish an audit of liberal democracy worldwide, with nations ranked along the lines of the league tables published by the Economist, together with a review of progress and future goals.

 

To this end, the creation of G.O.L.D would give a much-need pro-active focus to what trade, cooperation, and defence of our collective and individual freedoms are all about. It would not just be a re-active regional defence pact with no final objective. Nor would it be a rich nations’ club where membership indicates “job done”. For example, the UK may be what the Economist describes as a “Full Democracy” but it is hardly a glowing example for others to follow, as is evidenced by abysmal levels of British voter engagement and registration, not to mention archaic practices and institutions. This is why it is important not to be triumphalist. For all the nonsense talked about our “Mother of Parliaments”, we have not been a democracy for that long; a mere 100 years ago, half of our adult population didn’t have the vote simply because they were female.

 

Liberal Democracy is always a work in progress and we are on the same road as, say, China, but a little further ahead, thanks to nothing more than accidents in history. Moreover, in exporting the liberal democratic model, we must avoid making the mistakes we made in Iraq and Afghanistan by naively assuming that a ballot box would somehow substitute for order on the streets and a reliable water supply. Democracy is the icing on the cake of civil society and the aid packages referred to above would need to be in place at least 20 years to bear fruit, allowing a whole generation of youngsters to grow up in peace and liberty under a full liberal democratic regime.

 

G.O.L.D would not necessarily need to be created from scratch. A coming together of existing organisations is possible, For example, NATO is already a well-established military alliance, with its HQ in Brussels. If the EU, also based in Brussels, were to ditch all its pretensions of continental statehood, it could metamorphose into a global body whose remit would be fair trade and the promotion of liberal democracy. Some members of the Commonwealth might also be part of this, providing the global dimension. While all these institutions currently support democracy, their commitment would need to be upgraded to incorporate freedom of the individual under the rule of law.

 

Clearly, the devil will be in the detail, particularly on the vexed question of terms of trade: one man’s free trade is another’s unemployment. Even so, just because something is difficult in politics does not mean it should be avoided; indeed, it is often the only way to go and a major part of G.O.L.D ‘s work would be making globalisation work for everybody, protecting established industries, while facilitating the creation of smaller production units in developing countries

 

But nothing is going to happen unless we Brits start the ball rolling on June 23rd…  

 

 

 

20. The Divorce Proceedings

 

 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigour has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves”.

 

Inauguration Speech of US President Franklin D Roosevelt 1932

 

 

Look, we can do this. However many members of the political establishment both from home and abroad are lined up to warn us against spoiling their decades of deceit and machination, the fact remains that we do have a choice, otherwise we would never have been granted a referendum. After all, number one in the politician’s rulebook is that you never allow something onto an agenda that you are not prepared to have passed. So, somewhere deep in the bowels of the Foreign or Cabinet Office, there is a Plan B, whatever is claimed to the contrary.

 

Our divorce from the EU needs to begin with a stonking turnout and a decisive majority to leave on June 23rd. Yes, our departure will be the equivalent of California’s deciding to leave the USA; yes, there will undoubtedly be an aftershock as the political establishment tells anybody willing to listen about the dire consequences of the electorate’s decision and no doubt every political commentator that ever there was will lap it all up and pontificate to the nth degree. And yes, there may well be a dip in the value of Sterling, the resignation of a Prime Minister, and even the fall of a government.  But Sterling will recover; markets have no time for political sentiment, and we can soon elect another batch of politicians.

 

None of this is of any moment. It’s all short-term stuff and, as previously observed, we are in this for the long haul. The important thing is that, after decades of foot dragging, obfuscation, argument, opt-outs and all the uncertainty that goes with it, everybody will know where we stand and the course that we have set, for good or for ill.

 

In particular, capital, big business, money – whatever you want to call it – will shrug its corporate shoulders and find a way of doing business with us and, more importantly, they will tell the political class to get on with the divorce proceedings. German car manufacturer BMW has already been reported as having told the German Government that there must be no delay in setting up alternative trade agreements with us because they are a net exporter of cars to the UK. All the talk of years of uncertainty is garbage; big business, for all its faults, will use its lobbying muscle to give any recalcitrant politicians a good kicking.

 

As for ourselves, we will be in sole charge of our destiny for the first time in ages, unfettered by the responsibilities of empires and free from the apron strings of Old Mother Europe. Here is a golden opportunity to discover new markets in a host of developing countries, to regulate and invest in our own industries, to streamline everything we do, to make common cause with peoples anywhere on the planet and, for good or ill, to paddle our own canoe. All thus far is in our gift; what follows is not. If we are resolute enough and the turnout and the majority is large enough, perhaps the aftershocks described above might be severe enough to destabilise the EU itself and set in train a root and branch review of how European nations see themselves on the world stage. As previously observed, the vote on June 23rd is not just about us; not for the first time, we find ourselves in a position to come to the rescue of other beleaguered European nations.

 

The previous chapter flagged up a proposal for a new global alliance which current EU members may find more in keeping with the way they would like to transact business and international relations in the future. It may be a good idea on paper but there are a host of reasons why G.O.L.D. may not come into being. Even so, the UK could still pursue foreign policies to promote the liberal democratic dream by, say, lobbying for NATO to become a global alliance with full liberal democracy as a condition of membership and by uprating the importance of the Commonwealth as a means for promoting individual freedom.

 

The important thing is that we should no longer be prepared to accept mediocrity in our politics, either at home or abroad. We don’t tolerate waste or shoddy goods and services in our private lives, so why should we accept them in public life? Our associations internationally need to have purpose, we need to support them and even have pride in them, know what they do, how much progress they have made and what their goals are. By this measure, today’s EU simply does not rate.

 

This article makes a Liberal case for leaving the EU. Best endeavours have been used to marshal the arguments but in the final analysis, this case represents just a point of view. There is understood to be a Liberal case for remaining part of, and becoming an enthusiastic champion for, a United States of Europe and hopefully, if such a case exists, it will be heard within the next few weeks. Whatever your view, it is vital that all those entitled to do so cast their vote on June 23rd and that whatever is decided is accepted by all with a good heart. One way or the other, for our sake and everybody else’s, this needs sorting.

 

So, an end to decades of messing about! Are we in, or are we out?

 

 

Written & Promoted by David Green, 33 Hartwood Road, Southport, Merseyside PR9 9AN

April 2016

 

Autumnal Postscript

 

On June 23rd 2016, 72.2% of the UK electorate turned out to vote to leave the EU by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%.

 

What happened was huge. We have to go back to 1992 for such a high turnout in a UK national poll. That day last June, the political vibe was palpable, reminiscent of the 1970s, as voters queued to participate; people were phoning me up to ask how to vote because they had never done so in their lives before and the staff at my local polling station observed that they had never known anything like it.

 

Liberal input into this campaign was, frankly, minimal on both sides. Perhaps the standard of national debate would have been higher had the liberal cases for and against been more prominent. As it was, the liberal case for LEAVE was disjointed and ranged across a handful of small organisations- principally LiberalLeave, the Adam Smith Institute and the Liberal Party. Even so, what they lacked in celebrity and battle buses they more than made up for with robust and closely argued cases for leaving the EU, which, if the Ashcroft polls are correct, provided 30% of Liberal Democrat supporters with reasons to vote LEAVE. But by far the most glaring campaign omission was the complete absence of a visionary case for a federated union of European states which ought to have been championed by the most fanatical enthusiasts of the European project, the Liberal Democrats. And yet, there was nothing of the sort from the Liberal Democrats or, indeed, from anybody else; the REMAIN campaign seemed content to rely on Project Fear and endorsements by a host of politicians and commentators, even though support from many of these was somewhat half-hearted.  Business Secretary of the time Sajid Javid seemed to sum up the attitude of many REMAINERS when he wrote in the Mail on Sunday that, while the EU was failing, overblown and incapable of reform and that we should never have joined in the first place, on balance, we should stay. There was just no enthusiasm for the EU at all; at best it was portrayed as a necessary evil. Jean Monnet’s dream of a United Europe never featured at any stage in the campaign.

 

Maybe the true Europeans were told to keep quiet for fear of frightening the horses and upsetting the machinations of the political establishment who sought to replicate Harold Wilson’s scam of 1975 with another in/out referendum, erroneously supposing that all they had to do was stage-manage a crisis meeting in Brussels, pretend they had achieved meaningful reform and then line up the Great and the Good from Obama to Beckham to persuade a two thirds majority to vote to remain, thereby dishing the UKIP and silencing all critics of the European project, which could then carry on as before. It never occurred to the powers that be that they could ever lose. They completely overlooked the fact that today’s voters are more educated, certainly more opinionated, less deferential & trusting, better informed and more eclectic in their politics than they were 40 years ago, as is evidenced by the fact that the 65+ age group of voters who voted LEAVE by nearly 2 to 1 in 2016 were the very same voters who as youngsters had voted 2 to 1 to remain in the EU in 1975.

 

In the end, a small majority of those who voted decided to call time on our involvement with the project to build a federated Union of European States with one border, one army, one currency and one government, an idea whose time has gone, overtaken by events and advances in technology and now encumbered by a reducing and ageing population and a declining GDP and market share. For good or for ill, we have resolved to let go of the apron strings of Old Mother Europe, not because we are turning our backs on the 7% of the world’s population who belong to the EU, but rather because we wish to reconnect with the 93% who are not. Everybody needs to accept that and move on.

 

The problem is, both Houses of Parliament are pro-European in sentiment and have been instructed by the electorate to do something which they do not wish to do. There are even moves afoot by some who are hoping that the mysteries of Parliamentary procedure and the law can be exploited to overturn the result. Formal notice to Brussels of our intention to leave should have been given on the day after the referendum so that the time during which we suffered the disadvantages of continued membership without the advantages of freedom of action outside the EU could be minimised. What we have experienced instead has been weeks of dithering and uncertainty which has had a debilitating effect on our international standing and has created instability in the markets. Industry and commerce are reported as spending millions in preparation for withdrawal. Everybody, it seems, but Westminster, is altering their position in anticipation of our leaving.

 

David Green

September 2016

 

 

 

 

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