“David Cameron has done his very best, but a vote to Remain will be taken in Brussels as a green light for the further erosion of democracy”
OK, I know a lot of you think Boris is most accurately described by a word many people find offensive, but he’s put together a very good argument here on why we must leave the EU. Published in part here under ‘fair use’ terms and conditions, in the public interest.
I am a European. I lived many years in Brussels. I rather love the old place. And so I resent the way we continually confuse Europe – the home of the greatest and richest culture in the world, to which Britain is and will be an eternal contributor – with the political project of the European Union. It is, therefore, vital to stress that there is nothing necessarily anti-European or xenophobic in wanting to vote Leave on June 23.
And it is important to remember: it isn’t we in this country who have changed. It is the European Union. In the 28 years since I first started writing for this paper about the Common Market – as it was then still known – the project has morphed and grown in such a way as to be unrecognisable, rather as the vast new Euro palaces of glass and steel now lour over the little cobbled streets in the heart of the Belgian capital.
When I went to Brussels in 1989, I found well-meaning officials (many of them British) trying to break down barriers to trade with a new procedure – agreed by Margaret Thatcher – called Qualified Majority Voting. The efforts at harmonisation were occasionally comical, and I informed readers about euro-condoms and the great war against the British prawn cocktail flavour crisp. And then came German reunification, and the panicked efforts of Delors, Kohl and Mitterrand to “lock” Germany into Europe with the euro; and since then the pace of integration has never really slackened.
As new countries have joined, we have seen a hurried expansion in the areas for Qualified Majority Voting, so that Britain can be overruled more and more often (as has happened in the past five years). We have had not just the Maastricht Treaty, but Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon, every one of them representing an extension of EU authority and a centralisation in Brussels. According to the House of Commons library, anything between 15 and 50 per cent of UK legislation now comes from the EU; and remember that this type of legislation is very special.
It is unstoppable, and it is irreversible – since it can only be repealed by the EU itself. Ask how much EU legislation the Commission has actually taken back under its various programmes for streamlining bureaucracy. The answer is none. That is why EU law is likened to a ratchet, clicking only forwards. We are seeing a slow and invisible process of legal colonisation, as the EU infiltrates just about every area of public policy. Then – and this is the key point – the EU acquires supremacy in any field that it touches; because it is one of the planks of Britain’s membership, agreed in 1972, that any question involving the EU must go to Luxembourg, to be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice.
It was one thing when that court contented itself with the single market, and ensuring that there was free and fair trade across the EU. We are now way beyond that stage. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the court has taken on the ability to vindicate people’s rights under the 55-clause “Charter of Fundamental Human Rights”, including such peculiar entitlements as the right to found a school, or the right to “pursue a freely chosen occupation” anywhere in the EU, or the right to start a business.
These are not fundamental rights as we normally understand them, and the mind boggles as to how they will be enforced. Tony Blair told us he had an opt-out from this charter.
Alas, that opt-out has not proved legally durable, and there are real fears among British jurists about the activism of the court. The more the EU does, the less room there is for national decision-making. Sometimes these EU rules sound simply ludicrous, like the rule that you can’t recycle a teabag, or that children under eight cannot blow up balloons, or the limits on the power of vacuum cleaners. Sometimes they can be truly infuriating – like the time I discovered, in 2013, that there was nothing we could do to bring in better-designed cab windows for trucks, to stop cyclists being crushed. It had to be done at a European level, and the French were opposed.
Sometimes the public can see all too plainly the impotence of their own elected politicians – as with immigration. That enrages them; not so much the numbers as the lack of control. That is what we mean by loss of sovereignty – the inability of people to kick out, at elections, the men and women who control their lives. We are seeing an alienation of the people from the power they should hold, and I am sure this is contributing to the sense of disengagement, the apathy, the view that politicians are “all the same” and can change nothing, and to the rise of extremist parties.
Democracy matters; and I find it deeply worrying that the Greeks are effectively being told what to do with their budgets and public spending, in spite of huge suffering among the population. And now the EU wants to go further. There is a document floating around Brussels called “The Five Presidents Report”, in which the leaders of the various EU institutions map out ways to save the euro. It all involves more integration: a social union, a political union, a budgetary union. At a time when Brussels should be devolving power, it is hauling more and more towards the centre, and there is no way that Britain can be unaffected.
Eurogeddon: Euro zone debt
Europe: Democracy or bureaucratic Dictatorship
Europe’s citizens are anti integration
Europe going down the drain
European fascist Union
How Europe’s bureaucratic fishing policy destroyed Britain’s fishing industry
Immigration burden is crushing European nations
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