Monday, December 03, 2012

Britain has the perfect chance to work out how to loosen its ties with Brussels

Open Europe Chairman Lord Leach of Fairford has an op-ed in today's Times, where he argues,
If Britain pulls out of the EU, that will be as much due to our condescending Eurozealots, who have called every turn wrong for 30 years, as to UKIP. Both alike tell us that radical change in the European structure is out of the question.
Moderate sceptics, who want to stay in the EU but might want “out” if the Government can’t negotiate a changed relationship, are the majority of the electorate, but their voice is too seldom heard. The BBC neglects them, presumably calculating that pitting Nigel Farage against Denis MacShane does more for its audience ratings than analysis of the most important issue facing the country.
Circumstances, however, have conspired to deliver our fate to the moderates. While the eurozone faces a polarised choice between economic union or break-up, Britain has three options: “more Europe”, exit or renegotiate. And since “more Europe” has become unthinkable, the effective option is exit or reform. In a word, the Europhiles have lost. The sceptics, however, have not yet won. For this, the coalition is to blame for its failure to articulate a constructive vision of a Europe that would meet the aims both of the integrationist countries and of those that put self-determination first.
Whether Britain withdraws or remains, it will have to negotiate terms with an EU that has lost its way after the triumphs of its first 50 years, when tariffs were cut, enemies reconciled and a haven given to victims of dictatorships. Its icon, the euro, has awakened resentments unknown since the Second World War. Unemployment in the South is at 1930s levels, with nothing but depression and endless financial chicanery in sight. The region has slid inexorably down the global economic league tables.
Brussels treats the catastrophe predictably as a pretext for “more Europe”, but Germany’s reaction, caught between the appeal of European solidarity and reluctance to be the milch cow for Mediterranean indiscipline, has been cautious and ambivalent. There is nothing in Berlin’s response to suggest a closed mind to a new deal with the countries outside the eurozone. They know that a British government that signed up to deeper economic integration wouldn’t last a week. They also read the polls, showing UKIP neck-and-neck with the Lib Dems. It is not in Germany’s interest to drive Britain to withdraw, depriving the EU of its financial centre, its principal advocate of democracy and free trade, and one of its two foremost military powers, not to mention its highly lucrative market.
Germany is ripe for change. After two thirds of a century’s atonement, it no longer has to disprove a wish for domination or to pretend that without uniformity there can be no peace in Europe. It can admit that the proudest European heritage - German music, Italian painting, French civilisation, English literature - is utterly removed from the integrationist obsessions of the European political class. Liberated from guilt, Germany begins to recognise again democracy’s ability to reconcile voters to political defeat, to repeal unworkable laws and dismiss bad leaders, and to tackle difficulties with the grain of national traditions, institutions and instincts, not by the imposition of one-size-fits-all European-level solutions.
The shape of a new Europe therefore writes its own script - a neighbourly alliance, partly federal, partly by treaty between independent states, in which those who want to share a currency and economic sovereignty and those who just want co-operation would be equally welcome. Only trade, the bedrock of the original Common Market, would be universal.
In truth, it is not the eurozone that is the “core” of Europe - it is the single market. In the new, flexible model for EU integration, the UK would remain a full member of the customs union and single market and maintain its vote on making Europe’s trading rules. But it could limit Brussels’ involvement in areas such as policing and crime, fisheries, farming, employment law and regional policy. 
The EU’s institutions would be adapted so as not to discriminate against countries who have chosen to be less integrated. Likewise, the UK would not vote on EU laws that did not apply to itself. The presumption of travel towards a common destiny would cease to apply, since all forms of EU membership would be equally legitimate. 
 Instead of institutional tinkering and going round in circles on the euro, national democracies would start working out how to succeed in the globally networked modern world. Each country would find its own way back to prosperity. That, after all, was how Europe became rich and civilised in the first place. Relieved from unwanted legislation and desperate sacrifices for the euro, we would rediscover the amity of neighbours. 
We might even find that a confederate EU had become a magnet for Norway and Switzerland. That would be a delicious irony - sceptical Britain bringing about a strengthening of Europe that has eluded the zealots. 

14 comments:

Rollo said...

Not sure I like this concept of loosening ties. The EU works like a cancer, infiltrating its tendrils into every aspect of life, deceiving the native cells by pretending to be harmless, growing like tumours where ever possible until it finally kills off the national body politic and replacing it with its own bloated growths. Loosening ties will be as effective as zapping a single lump.

Agincourt said...

How nice the EU would be if it were as Lord Leach proposes. But that's dreamland! Why? Because if it were not so, this would be how the EU would have evolved. But the reality is quite the opposite. Instead the EU is built around a self-aggrandizing & self-centered bureaucracy which cares nothing for democracy, & wants only to destroy nation states & centralize everything in the EU around itself. The only solution for Britain therefore - & in due course for many of the other EU member states - is OUT!

Average Englishman said...

So, Lord Leach thinks that the UK can adjust its membership of the EU so that it is just part of a 'Common Market' which was what most people signed up for in 1975, including me. With the greatest of respect it seems to me that the good Lord is not merely an optimist but is verging upon the delusional.

Lord Leach seems to ignore the EU federalist fanatics that are embedded throughout the EU and run the organization. The more I have learned about them and their goals, the more I have realised that the only realistic thing for the UK to do is leave.

Also, the world has changed since 1975 and it is more important for the UK to trade freely on a worldwide basis than be stuck with the limitations of the EU market. In addition, having seen the so called benefits of the free movement of labour (an army of immigrants) and I would be happy to see the back of that as well. All considered, the UK's ties with Europe could be dealt with better by way of a far looser free trade agreement (EFTA I recall) and some strictly policed UK borders. As for ongoing security issues, I shall be happy to continue relying upon NATO thank you.

Anonymous said...

stay in = full integration + euro eventually.

out is only option

Rik said...

1. Moderate sceptics

Probably this is the largest group and the group that will decide the outcome of a referendum.

However that includes people that are now basically Outs. So these would have to be properly convinced. I donot see that happening yet.
Or to say it bluntly if you need Blair to promote your case in the UK you have a problem and a serious one. Could be worse could be Brown, but still pretty bad.

This is a relatively complicated case (a plain In or Out is much easier), so it should be properly and timely communicated. And keeping in mind that most of those are likley on the right side of the spectrum (aka no way by guys like Blair or one of the EU-staff.
One might consider teaming up with Labour on this issue would give a broad support.

2. UKIP
You simply get what you ask for. Parties like the UKIP mainly come up by outright failure of the mainstream parties. Here the Conservatives. The Conservatives have simply neglected a large part of their electorate until it was too late.
Now it has become essential for both the UK and the Conservatives themselves that they get a proper result from the renegotiations with Brussels. The times are on their side as the treaty need major revision anyway, because of the Euro crisis, but that was not known when half the voters of their party or so were simply neglected.
A sign that not much is learned from this is the immigration issue. The UK simply requires a proper discussion on this issue as well. It is not without reason the UKIP brings this up as a second pillar, it simply brings votes. And as history shows in Europe it will get on the agenda. If it doesnot work with nice guys like the UKIP it will go differently and you have a Wilders or Le Pen at hand.

3.The new model.
It might work but especially on areas were trade is playing it should be assured that especially SMEs are not confronted with a different legal set up in each EU country they want to do business with. If trade would be regulated by 10s or 100s of seperate treaties it simply will become too complicated for most SMEs and only the big ones will remain.

Idris Francis said...

Lord Leach did a superb job when he set up Business for Stering, which played a major role in keeping us out of the euro. I am therefore sad to say that I disagree with his proposals for our future relationship with "Europe" as much as do the first four comments, and indeed more so. Ruth Lea, who also played a major role in regards to the single currency, when economics head of the IoD, says that the belief in the sort of half-in, half-out arrangements Lord Leach proposes, is "delusional". As it is, It is also wishful thinking, and amounts to being in denial, also known as cognitive dissonence, refusal to face up to clear evidence that happens to be
inconvenient.

Of course that is not to deny that the proposals might be reasonable and sensible - the problem is however that those with whom those arrangements would need to be negotiated are neither reasonable or sensible. Nor for that matter are they remotely competent - any Board of Directors who had done to their company what the EU elite have done to Europe would be fired out of hand, not given more power.

In any case, what on earth is the point of making agreements and treaties with those who have no more intention of abiding by them that Hitler did with his Non-Aggression Pact with Stalin, nothing more than a tactic to avoid invading Russia until the war had been won in the West?

That is how the EU sees all such agreements, as stepping stones towards their real objectives.

I found out the hard way many years ago, when a colleague turned out to be a pathological liar - with a bad memory - that the only rational thing to do was walk away. That applies in spades to the EU. I have devoted a great deal of time in what would otherwise have been 20 years of leisurely retirement to finding out more about the EU - and the more I know, the worse it gets.

Nonsensical aspirations - akin to second marriages, a triumph of hope over experience - are fast becoming the biggest single obstacle to regaining our freedom - not least because, as Lord Leach confirms, our Europhiles and the EU economic disasters have shot themselves not so much in the foot as in the back of the neck - three time.

I utterly reject Lord Leach's attempt to equate Denis MacShane (who, incidentally, has been admitting for some time that the EU game us up) and Nigel Farage, and also his reference to "analysis of the most important issues facing this country".

Having heard MacShane speak at least three times, and noted that he never addresses the issues at all but simply attacks those who disagree with him, and having known Nigel for some 15 years and heard him speak innumerable times, that is neither fair nor reasonable. Nigel is where he is, and UKIP with him, because Nigel constantly addresses those important issues, understands them better than most other politicians and also has the gift of being able to speak plainly and inspirationally to audiences of all kinds (other than some Lib Dems of course)

It is now UKIP and Nigel Farage who are realistic and honest about what needs to be done, not those who (in "dreamland" as Agincourt says) about precisely the opposite form of EU from that the elite have been working insidiously, deviously and dishonestly to achieve all these years). They seem incapable of understanding where our interests really lie, and that is as a free and soverign nation, trading with any country we choose on terms we alone agree with them.

Macky Dee said...

[Germany] "no longer has to disprove a wish for domination." - Well they should because that IS THEIR INTENTION. Why doesn't ANYONE ask themselves... Why does Germany care SO much about unity and all being governed by the same small elite... (It's because they are the most influential, they will always be in a position to get what they want...) And the rest of Europe sucks up to them (obviously not the people, but the EU leaders dont seem to argue with Frau Merkel very often!).

christina speight said...

Rollo, Agincourt, Average Englishman and Idris francis are all of them right. [As is Rik as far as he goes in description] But Lord Leach is not living in the real world it seems. He wants a deal that "meet[s] the aims both of the integrationist countries and of those that put self-determination first." [Ruth Lea's 'delusional"?) That's not on the table. They are hell bent - as Open Europe demonstrates daily - on a federal superstate to which the sufferings and destitution caused by the Euro are a handy stepping stone.

The EU stands on its Acquis Communautaire where nothing that's done can ever be undone. So the starting point must be total withdrawal and a sovereign country can negotiate if the EU chooses to do so in good faith (do they know the phrase?) - The Treaty says they must.

Something might come out of that but I despair that our lot will force matters to the decision point. They'll do anything to stay glued to the EU flypaper.

Jesper said...

UK is not alone in wanting a new treaty. The divide and conquer strategy employed by europhiles might make it appear that way but it is an illusion.

The likelihood of a successful renegotiation of the treaties is currently higher than it has been in many, many years.

UK may or may not en up leaving, if UK leaves then the blame will be put somewhere. If the UK just leaves then the blame will be put solely to the UK. But, if the UK comes up with a good starting proposal for a new treaty and EU-institutions refuse to negotiate then the blame will be placed on EU-institutions.
So, even if UK were to leave, please come up with a good starting proposal for a new treaty so that it will be clear what kind of people are running the EU-institutions.

UK has nothing to lose by making an honest attempt to renegotiate, the worst that could happen would be that the UK got what it asked for in its negotiations.
Alternatively, would this be a good or a bad outcome: Obstinate EUrocrats, by refusing to negotiate, refused to respect the will of the people in the UK (& many other countries in Europe) so the result was that UK leadership said enough was enough and decided that UK should leave.

Rik said...

@Jesper
Exactly that should be the starting point for the reneg.
A plan that has a complete revision of the treaty in it in a way that all weak points are adressed.
-You get support from other countries;
-EU will look awful in the public eye and not only in the UK in case of a plain refusal.
You isolate them iso the other way around.

Idris Francis said...


If I may have a second bite: Apart from all the sound points made by all who have commented so far, one issue has been largely ignored both by Lord Leach in his aspirations and by his critics - and that it that the EU is in terminal decline, its share of world trade has fallen for years and will continue to do so for as long as those lunatics remain in charge of the asylum.

Demographics and the rise of the leading countries outside the G9 - whose skills, competitiveness and turnover are rising fast - of course play a major part in this. But equally or more important is the dead hand of the EU and its inhibiting effects on business, entrepreneurship and everything that goes towards a successful economy.

As my recent letter in the Telegraph (fifth at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/9699797/Battle-of-the-bins-shows-why-electors-no-longer-expect-councils-to-listen.html ) pointed out, the EU believes (like the USSR dec'd) believes that economic success can come only from bureaucratic interference in every aspect of business, from what to do to how to do it to when to do it, and in every detail.

As a former electronic engineer/inventor/manufacturer/business owner and winner of a Queens Award for Exports I know that this is the very opposite of the truth. The Industrial Revolution started here primarily because this was the most free nation on Earth, and the most inventive, precisely because that very freedom of thought, of expression, of experiment and of challenge to established norms and thinking. It was no coincidence that we have the largest proportion of eccentrics of any country - invention and eccentricity are first cousins - also because of that freedom to be different and to think differently. As late as the early 1990s a survey found that of all the significant inventions since WW2, 50% were made by British people, America with 5 times the population coming second with 25%, and the rest in low single figures.

The very last thing this country, of all countries, needs is the box-ticking, rule-following approach to science and business that the EU imposes on every activity. Indeed, it is beyond rational dispute that the (dare I say it?) Teutonic mind-set that the rule-book is King, that orders must be followed at all times (anyone ever see a German jay-walking?) that cost Germany WW2, when faced with our free-thinking, stream-of-consciousness inventive approach. (Examples abound and I could list them, but one for now - throughout the War they believed their Enigma codes to be unbreakable, so never thought to ask themselves whether we might be breaking them, as indeed we were due to the inventiveness of our scientists and mathematicians.

On a personal level, my determination, for the last 20 years, to leave the EU at the earliest possible opportunity is based on fundamental principles of freedom, democracy, habeas corpus, jury trial, the separation of powers and many others that are anathema to the EU elite - but even if that were not so, I would be determined to leave because I realised 20 years ago, at the time of Maastricht, that those in charge of this EUSSR Mk 11 would reduce the economies of Europe to rubble once again. Nothing I have seen since has changed my mind other than to strengthen that opinion (though I must admit that not even I, knowing then that the single currency was madness, realised at the time that the EU elite also knew that it was bound to fail, but went ahead with the intention, as we now see, of using that inevitable crisis to grab yet more power) Nor would I have dreamed that they would persist in keeping it afloat at the expense of untold millions of people, their lives, their jobs, their hopes and dreams.

We have been involved with these people and their dreams of a totalitarian European State, for more than 40 years - how much longer do we have to carry on pretending, as Lord Leach still does, that they are for turning?

leonjwilliams said...

Unfortunately (in my opinion) it does indeed seem likely that the UK will have a referendum on EU membership and they way things are now and have been for a very long time the electorate are set to say goodbye. I expect what with all the misinformation in the UK media people may realise (albeit too late) the benefits of being in the EU.

Rik said...

@leonjwilliams
The issue is not well represented in the media I agree with that.

-But it is from both sides. The Europhiles (now in sharply declining numbers) in the UK treat the EU as the gospel. Forgetting that somewhere you have to deliver on your promises and they simply didnot do that.

-And in the rest of Europe the media are in general very pro-Euro and simply are often absolutely not critical over what is happening.

-The EU itself is hardly trying to sell the EU to the UK public for instance with advocating policies popular in the UK.

May be the whole of Europe needs a bit of objective and critical reporting and the EU can get something a majority of the people in all countries like to have and much of the others can live with.
But at the moment we are pretty far from that.

Anonymous said...

I agree, this is a good oportunity for Britain as a whole to take a new look at its relationship with mainland Europe - how it is all going to turn out eventually, nobody knows at this moment in time. Everything is in flux and all we can due is keeping track of the various directions it pulls. As a German who lives and works in Britain for over twenty years, I remain critical of too much Euroscepticism. To me, it appears to be self-defeating since too obsessional with a form of independence which doesn't really exist any longer in the globalised world we live in.