Tuesday, 14 June 2016
How we settle the Europe question
If Britain votes to remain, it occurs to me that even though Ukip is a hollowed out shell, so long as it puts up a decent showing of paper candidates, then the next general election will be to a large extent a repeat of the referendum debate. I rather imagine it will rage at every election until we finally leave.
There's a good reason for that. We leavers all have our distinct motivations but above all else, Britain is going to get all the more rotten for remaining the in the EU. Satisfaction with politicians will decline, trust in government institutions will collapse and though we have heard plenty posturing about the virtues of the EU it will become apparent that nothing is going to get fixed. Then rather a few things they said would not happen will happen. They can spin it any way they want, but they will stand exposed.
I've modelled a number of political scenarios in previous posts and none of them sees politics as a whole recovering from this referendum debacle. Labour have shown themselves to be snobby and sanctimonious and Tories have proven themselves to be two-faced tribalists who will go whichever way their careers command them to. We have also seen how the Tory eurosceptic brigade are seriously lacklustre individuals. It's going to get messy.
The problem is that the hardcore of the Leave crowd is big enough to ensure politics remains a festering sore but not big enough to take power. So how do we make this go away? The EU thinks the answer is to bribe us all with our own money and to stick up EU flags everywhere they spend our cash. If that actually worked, we wouldn't be having this referendum. Meanwhile the domestic establishment think it can win the argument just by heaping scorn on ordinary people.
So if anyone needs an exit plan - a roadmap out of this mess, it is those urging for us to remain in the EU. We leavers are not going to compromise. The compromise will have to be theirs. And that's not me being unreasonable. It's just a fact.
They've been telling us that Brexit will cause a depression that it will start world war three and that it could even end western civilization. As yet they have not suggested that it will rain frogs, but there is still time. They have threatened us will all of that and yet most of those I know who are committed to leaving will still vote to leave anyway.
So why is that? Are we being irrational? It depends I suppose on whether you think some hardship is worth enduring. It depends whether you think that some things are worth fighting for and if necessary dying for. We think so. And one of those things is democracy. And if needs be we will wreck the country until we get it.
So how can remainers compromise to avoid such a fate? Well, it's easy. It doesn't even require a great compromise either. Talk to most people intent on voting to remain in the EU and only a hardcore minority of them actually believe in the deranged bilge about building a European Utopia. Most don't think it works well and most see it as dysfunctional and with a democratic deficit. The closest to a rational argument for remaining is the potential economic impact on the basis of flawed economic projections. But this is all predicated on the impact of leaving the single market as well as the EU.
We don't have to leave the single market as well as the EU. What means is that the economic impact is manageable and entirely short term. It repatriates a major element of policymaking and restores our place on global bodies. It gives us enhanced control over who we let in and best of all it means we're not in the EU. It means we are still closely cooperating with the EU, still integrating economically, but not politically. The extremists on both sides won't like it but it's the only thing that will bring peace.
If this referendum has proved anything it is that the divide is bitter and deep. It is fraying friendships and family and it is shattering the political order. There is a danger that could get worse if it is not resolved.
The bottom line is that the hardcore europhiles want a political merger, downgrading our political institutions to regional bodies working for the greater glory of the commission. It seeks to become a supreme government of Europe to which we are subordinate. It seeks to accumulate more power than it already has and the defences Mr Cameron claims to have secured are not worth the paper they are written on. That will never be acceptable.
By leaving and joining Efta, we are still part of the European village, we retain ultimate veto over our laws and pick and choose when we cooperate and when we say no. In reality we would most likely choose to cooperate most of the time. That is the natural progression of globalisation. But it would mean we have the option of saying no. I don't think that is too much to ask. That is a compromise I will live with because it ultimately means our democracy is safe.
Sovereignty may seem like an antiquated concept but the right to refuse our government is fundamental to any democracy and in a globalised world it matters more than ever. Until we have it, this will remain an open, festering incurable wound. Voting to leave is the only way this ends.