A time for Eurosceptics to become the positive voicePosted on December 12, 2011
The reaction of pro-EU voices to David Cameron’s refusal to support fiscal union has been very revealing.
It has been revealing in that it has demonstrated clearly that the tiny pro-EU rump left in this country are actually happy with the idea that unelected EU officials should be able to overrule democratically elected Governments to dictate how member states’ financial affairs are run.
It has been very revealing that the EU establishment clearly never intended for vetoes to be used, and in fact is happy to circumvent them – ie that they have been a smokescreen all along.
It has also revealed what many of us have been saying in and around Westminster for some time – voters are sick of seeing British leaders roll over to have their tummy tickled at the EU negotiating table. Voters overwhelmingly agree with David Cameron on this one, and he’ll gain from that. Paddy Ashdown, by contrast, must be counting himself lucky that he’s no longer accountable to the electorate, so he can safely run round town shouting the EU’s message.
Most revealing of all, in my view, is the stark demonstration that the pro-EU side of British politics deeply and fundamentally lack faith in the abilities and potential of modern Britain. Without the protective wing of Mother Brussels and her trade barriers to shelter us, we are surely lost, they claim. Not for a second do they mull the idea that Britain has the capability to stand on its own two feet.
When they talk of retaining British “influence”, they mean that we can only retain influence in a reputational sense by sacrificing it in a practical sense. They mean that only by giving up our actual control over how we run our economy, our criminal justice system, our food production, our trading relationships and much more can we retain the cosy feeling of attending EU leaders’ banquets.
This is an insidious and depressing philosophy – talking Britain down, and automatically assuming that British scientists, entrepreneurs, business people and ordinary workers can never make their own way in the world. To use a 1970s term, they want a return to managing the nation’s decline.
For far too long the EU’s cheerleaders have been able to portray themselves as being on the sunny side of the street. They loved to make out that they were the friendly, positive optimists who saw sunny uplands in Britain’s future.
Contrast that to their message today:
“Suez seems mild in comparison. What sort of nation is it that rejoices in its own defeat?” – Labourlist
“At a time of economic crisis, we have made it more attractive for investors to go to northern Europe.” – Paddy Ashdown
“A Britain which leaves the EU would be considered irrelevant by Washington and will be considered a pygmy in the world.” – Nick Clegg
“In a world in which the influences of the old powers is diminishing by the day, Britain’s prime minister has attacked his closest partners and left our country weaker and more isolated” – Chris Davies MEP
There are plenty more bits of negativity where those came from, too. The peculiar and rare strain of politics that is Euro-enthusiasm is now essentially united around the core belief that Britain is a basket case. That’s not an idea which will set the electorate on fire with enthusiasm.
It is time to seize properly on this issue, and for eurosceptics to become the voice of positivity.
Where those who believe in integration see only weakness, we see great potential in Britain. Where they want protectionism, even at the cost of our economic health and starving bellies in the Third World, we want free trade and new enterprise. Where they look to secure a bed in the Little European retirement home, slowly dwindling away with the rest of the EU’s outdated economies, we want to reach out to trade with the whole world – India, China, Brazil and others.
When you talk to voters about the great issues of the day, they want to know what the future will look like for their children. Would they rather hear someone say “we think they’re done for, so we’ll give up their democratic rights in order to buy a seat in a declining economic bloc”, or “we’ll have faith in them to innovate and trade with the whole world”? The Lib Dems’ reluctance to collapse the Coalition and face an election rather answers that.