Earlier on today, the BBC website was running a Have Your Say on how William Hague should deal with the European Union in his role as Foreign Secretary. The comments were the usual mixture of bald assertion, shibboleth and vague geopolitical musings. However, I would say that overall, the antics within the EU of late have not increased euroscepticism at all – and this worries me.
Most British voters are bored by most topics of importance, and none more so than ‘what’s going on in Europe’. Europe is where they used to go for their holidays, but now increasingly bypass on their way to Africa, the US, Asia and Australia. If they think of the EU at all, they think of promised referendums that never materialised, and a Constitution nobody got to vote on. But they don’t care about any of this stuff: like riots in Greece, it’s something occasionally going on in the background.
The EU issue is one where there is much blather and little or no calm auditing of the plus and minus account. Given that, as always, the electorate is woefully uninformed about its nature and problems, it would be good if Nigel Farage stopped bellowing at people and laid these out for all to think about. The key points would be:
*The trade gap we enjoy with the EU plus costs of membership come to £50 billion per annum.
*Take your eye off the ball for a second, and be it the City, our fiscal destiny, or uneconomic legislation, the UK will be stitched up and held back.
* Germany gets cheap exports from the euro, and France gets a subsidised farming sector. We get a grand total of £3billion in aid: our euro ‘balancing fund’ contribution alone this year has been £7.8billion.
*The EU is an expensive exporter riddled with protectionism and obsessed with social wealth redistribution. Its bureaucratic costs and unelected power are both completely out of control.
* The eurozone is a neither fish nor fowl federated currency imposed upon a ragbag of 16 different economies. The ECB’s fiscal policies have been a disaster,and these are now coming home to roost.
* If the UK sold high-value luxury goods to just three Chinese in a thousand, it would make more money than all its EU trade put together.
* The unelected Brussels Commission has shown itself time and again to be anti-democratic and dangerously anti-libertarian. Herman Van Rompuy is the personification of that attitude and behaviour.
The true pity about all this is that the self-styled opposition to the EU in Britain is a joke Party of malcontents and lightweights called UKIP. Without doubt, UKIP has held back discussion of the real EU issues in the way that, for years, the BNP held back discussion of immigration: nobody wants their views to be associated with such people.
I believe it behoves William Hague to make one last effort to get the EU to see sense and to understand that when we say reform, we mean real reform. I feel safe in suggesting this, because Brussels will not take a blind bit of notice. My worry is that the British electorate won’t take any notice either.
If you travel around Europe, there is no difficulty at all in getting people to discuss the euro crisis in particular and the EU in general. The Dutch are hard to shut upon the subject (a majority of their electors returned eurosceptic MPs last month) and Hans on the streets of Germany is vitriolic about the ClubMed debtor nations in general, and France’s mad point of view that they’re cheating by being too successful. France’s behaviour remains unchanged, but feeling there has become more anti-German – as it has in Spain and, to a lesser extent, Italy.
Not surprisingly, the northern EU is strongly opposed to having pre-surveillancve of their fiscal budgets, and France plus the Clubmeds are all for it.
The pre-surveillance of Budgets in theory becomes an issue in November. In practice, the issue is academic: there won’t be any fiscal body to survey Budgets by then…but if by some miracle there is, Hague and Osborne have made their positions clear – as has Cameron: a red line has been drawn and won’t be crossed.
But none of this can change the fact that, had the Conservative Party gone to the country with an openly eurosceptic policy set last May, they would’ve annihilated UKIP and been returned with a thumping majority. I know for a fact that, having now seen the Eurogonks close up, Osborne is sorry that they didn’t.
The public has been quietly persuaded for some forty years that to cut privileged trading ties with the EU would be a disaster. In the 21st century, to stay in this monolithic, uncompetitive lunatic asylum would result in a catastrophe for Britain on every level.
Over the next few days, I’ll be posting on specific examples of Bedlam as and when they appear. There are times when, to be honest, the indifference out there makes the exercise seem pointless, but it must be pursued: there is too much at stake not to.