Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Not Enough

OK, I've read David Cameron's letter on the subject of EU reform.  You should, too.  I've thought about it for a bit (yes, you should, too...).  It's not enough; even if he is given everything he wants, I'll still be voting to leave.  And we know, of course, that he won't be given it all, even though he will claim that he has. 

My reason is quite simple; he has approached EU reform from entirely the wrong direction.  He has identified areas that are within the sphere of EU policy and which are - today - causing some political friction.  He then asks for special terms for the UK in those areas.  That is ok insofar as it goes, but this is the run-up to an in/out referendum; it is a once-and-for-all opportunity to look at our position in the EU as an institution.  We last had a referendum on this subject 40 years ago - we should therefore be looking to the issues that may arise over the next 40+ years, the kind of issues that our experience since 1973 shows are likely to arise from the nature of the EU and the way in which it operates.  So we need to be a lot more ambitious than this. 

What we should be doing is the reverse of what Cameron has done.  Instead of identifying areas that we want to push the EU back from, we should be identifying the areas where we agree that the EU should have primacy in policy, and defining those areas carefully.  Then, any area not covered by those definitions is to be automatically excluded.  This is based on simple experience; the progress of the EU over the years has been characterised by a  steady growth in the areas of "competence" of the EU, and our relationship has been one of weary resistance, constant damage limitation.

He hints at this, with the request for an exclusion for the UK from the principle of "ever closer union".  But that highlights my other point; these reforms should be for all, not just the UK.  As it stands, even if he is allowed this, every other member will be committed to ever closer union and that will be the direction of the EU from then on.  The EU will continue to identify "competences" that it should acquire and will work on that.  What, exactly, will the UK opt-out from "ever closer union" mean then?  We will carry on with endless rearguard action, still slipping on the ratchet of integration.

So no, I'm not persuaded.  What would have brought me on board would have been a list of defined areas - trade between member states and the ability for EU citizens to live and work in other EU states (for example) - and a treaty commitment that the EU does not have and is not to seek competence in any other area.  Then, we could have done the same to the UK Government, and to local councils.  We could have renewed our democracy, defined the purpose of our institutions, and reinvigorated them both.  Instead, we just have a list of whinges that we want special treatment for. 

Vote OUT, then.  Let's have a Brexit. 

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