There is nothing new in Euroscepticism within the United Kingdom, it has long been a significant element in British politics. Since the inception of the European Economic Community in 1957, any snuggling up with our European brethren for financial or political reasons, made for very uncomfortable bed fellows. Why should the difficulties and differences of opinion throughout the 20th century be any different in the 21st?
However, I suppose we shouldn’t be that surprised when some (apparently) ardent followers of the trait, can swap their allegiance to the Euro flag almost at the drop of a proverbial hat. Their particular flags, blowing in the winds of public popularity, have more ups and downs than the Grand Old Duke of York!
The Foreign Secretary (also my MP), the Rt.Hon. William Hague MP was once a vociferous Eurosceptic but his views appear to have mellowed. It would also appear I’m not alone in wondering; could that have anything to do with his current portfolio and/or personal aspirations for the future?
”We think Hague has gone on a travel. He has gone from being Eurosceptic to someone who has got into this ministerial, political world of Europe and loves it.” (Peter Bone MP – Wellingborough & Rushden)
If our political leadership are really so concerned about what we the public think, why do they continuously ignore the things we call out for? A question raised by a colleague of mine in a letter to William Hague this week and reproduced in full below…
Dear Mr Hague,
By the time you read this letter, if indeed you ever see it, the outcome of tonight’s debate calling for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will be history. Informed opinion suggests that the government will carry the day by voting against the motion, but at what cost?
Whilst I have generally supported what you have done so far, in this instance I regret that I must take issue with you for several reasons.
There is something faintly unedifying in the government, the opposition and other elected members flying in the face of an arguably overwhelming majority of public opinion calling for just such a referendum. The very fact that all Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour MP’s have been instructed to vote against this motion strongly indicates that the MP’s are running scared of public opinion. There seems little doubt that a huge number will do as they are instructed, lest they put their own interests and political futures at risk.
There are many, many people, myself included, who are sick and fed up of being told that we don’t understand the complexities of the arguments for and against membership. Indeed, there’s a fairly compelling argument to suggest that those involved in running the EU have seen to it that the rules of membership are so complicated, that no one, themselves included, can any longer understand them.
Those same people are also fed up with the old argument being trotted out, that we elected our respective MP’s to represent our views in Parliament, and that we should recognise that “they” know best when it comes to debating complex issues, and leave it to their own judgement. After all, it isn’t so very long ago that a significant number of honourable (and not so honourable?) members demonstrated a singular lack of judgement over the expenses issue, and completely misunderstood the mood of the people.
You are reported as saying that the UK’s priority should be on “protecting the British national interest” during the current crisis in the ‘Eurozone‘ and that we should ensure that the UK has a “strong voice” in future discussions over changes to the EU. Forgive me for pointing out what should be the blindingly obvious, but we no longer appear to be a major player in the European Union, that privilege being confined to the German and French.
Conversely, we are undoubtedly a significant contributor to EU funds (several sources put us fifth highest), at a time when we have major domestic problems to deal with and our own citizens are suffering hardship and uncertainty. I have tried to find out what membership of the EU actually costs me, as an individual. It may come as no surprise to you that many people consider such a task to be impossible. MPs have called many times for a cost-benefit analysis, to prove or disprove the benefits of membership, yet successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have refused, on the grounds that the “benefits” are self-evident. Perhaps the truth of the matter is that they are afraid of what such a study would show.
For what it’s worth, following an admittedly perfunctory spot of Internet “research”, the lowest figure I’ve found was £440pa for each man, woman and child, and the highest was £1,763 – I suspect the actual figure will lie somewhere in between. By anyone’s standards, these are significant numbers.
During the June 1975 referendum, British voters backed the UK’s continued membership of the then European Economic Community (Common Market) by a 67% majority. However, the question asked was “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?” and I believe we were given a clear “Yes” or “No” choice.
That “vote” was over 36 years ago, and given that the then voting age was 18, it means that no one under the age of 54 has (yet?) been given an opportunity to have their say, yourself included. During that time, the current European Union has evolved in a manner far, far beyond what its’ original proponents could ever have imagined, intended or even dared to consider. It is also undeniably the case that the European Union similarly intrudes into almost every aspect of our daily lives, and is about as far away from the original concept as it is possible to get.
It has grown into an intrusive, undemocratic monster, that appears to feed upon itself and exists for the sole purpose of furthering not only it’s own self-interest, but those of the ruling elite within the organization. Its leaders appear to be divorced from any semblance of reality, and when discussing finances speak in figures hitherto unheard of, and closely resembling “monopoly money”.
The current crisis in the “Eurozone” was inevitable, the sad thing being that the only people who couldn’t see it coming were those political appointees who believed that countries with differing attitudes, cultures, governments, philosophies, and taxation systems could co-exist with each other under the one single currency. It was, and remains a disaster that was not only waiting to happen, but arguably has.
Sooner, rather than later, the British public must be given the opportunity to have their say on the terms and conditions of our continued membership of the European Community. The question shouldn’t be simply whether or not we remain within it, but how the terms and conditions of our continued membership may be renegotiated to provide a better, and arguably more equitable result. Winston Churchill wasn’t far off the mark in 1930, when he stated; “We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not compromised. We are interested, but not absorbed”. Wise words indeed.
George A Mead
George has succinctly and eloquently raised many of the issues that concern us all about our European Community membership. Many of the idealistic notions behind that membership although noble, are mainly theoretical and mostly unworkable, as the current European financial crisis has come to prove. But I am in no way against the people who reside within our neighbouring European Nations.
When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticise or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home… Winston Churchill
I’m reasonably well-travelled in Europe (and further afield); I love and value the social diversity and differences in scenery, cuisine, architecture, culture and traditions (unlike many). However, I would never try to stuff so many differing nationalities into the same box, at least not with an expectation of being able to keep a lid on it for any length of time. The EU notion was always destined to failure.
If all this political/financial connection between differing nations is such a good thing, how come so many states clamour for devolution from their parent nations and/or neighbours? The recent increased voice of Scottish independence from the rest of the UK (see here) is a prime example of how, even nations with fairly common interests have difficulty in maintaining their marriage of political convenience.
For that is what the European Union is really about; a power base of mostly self-interested and self-important politicians. A collection of pompous but very powerful individuals dictating their interests and needs to the masses. For that reason alone I’m more than happy to remain a proud Eurosceptic!
- Cameron bloodied by rebel MPs’vote over EU (independent.co.uk)
- Tory MP backs EU referendum call (bbc.co.uk)
- Steve Richards: The Sceptics’ rage over Europe is a proxy battle (independent.co.uk)
- UK Parliament rejects referendum on country’s EU membership (cnn.com)
- EU referendum is ‘wrong idea’ says Hague (independent.co.uk)