Monday, 20 June 2016
We can have the EU or democracy, but we can't have both
I am one who believes in regulatory harmonisation. I am one who believes in freedom of movement. I am one who believes in pooling resources and expertise. I am one who believes in close cooperation with our friends. I am one who believes in very close military coordination. I am one who believes in sharing our wealth of expertise. I am one who believes in academic openness. I am one who believes in the value of foreign aid. I believe that immigration is both necessary and welcome.
What makes me different from the Eurocrat is that I do not believe this can only be achieved by taking shortcuts with democracy. I do not believe that Europe needs a supreme government to force such cooperation. More crucially, I believe this should come about because our politicians win the argument, not by connivery, distortion and deceit. If all of the above is not done without consent then it isn't worth having. For sure, there may be boundless economic benefits, but a people not governed by consent are not governed at all. They are ruled.
And when there is no consent it gives way to a political class who believe that those who stand in opposition to them are somehow intellectually and morally deficient. And in such a belief they take it upon themselves to further ignore the will of the public.
But if we cast our eyes beyond the narrow confines of the EU we see there are global efforts to bring about what we have achieved in Europe but through a process of multilateral debate and mutual agreement and consultation. No other trade bloc on earth requires a sacrifice of democracy. And while I have chastised Ukippers for using the expression "EUSSR", this is more from a marketing perspective than actual disagreement. Because the USSR was indeed an internal market which sought to use centralised authority to roll out a utopian economic ideal.
The consequence of that was widespread corruption and appalling hypocrisy everywhere, followed by a long and gradual road to collapse. And if that in any way sounds familiar it should. Even Mikhail Gorbachev has drawn parallels which ought to tell you something.
They say the EU works on a basis of consensus. To an extent they are right. It is still largely influenced by "the big three" but but it is still a consensus of elites who have zero intention of seeking permission from the peoples they notionally represent. And though that is as much a sign of our domestic dysfunction, there is a certain symbiosis where nobody can quite be sure whether the chicken or the egg be the origin.
The EU is essentially the product of political hubris. A system which believes that the public can be robbed of their sentimental and practical attachments through coercion and propaganda. And by doing so that humans can be broken of their human nature - to form local communities and develop loyalties to them. And like all utopian ideals it is bankrupt. And like all others before it it will fail because it forgets the primary rule of government. You can fool some of the people most of the time but not all of the people all of the time.
And though this battle against such a pernicious ideology started in 1975, some four years before my birth, it is a battle just as strong today and one which will rage for as long as there is no resolution. At some point in the near future I may declare my intention to turn my back on this tired old dispute, but in the end I will come back to this place. It is in my blood.
The truth of the matter is that if the EU were what it pretends to be, a multilateral forum for the democratic governments to bring about further cooperation, I would be voting to remain without hesitation. But as someone who has watched the beast from an early age I have looked inside its soul and seen a shrivelled shrinking vision. A political entity obsessed with control, driven by a fear of the people and a mistrust of democracy.
Moreover, it is a barrier to widening those values and ambitions I speak of in my opening paragraph. It may have brought down internal walls but the outer barrier is more fortified than ever. It may suit those for whom freedom is not paramount, but it will never be sufficient for true internationalists. A large cage is still a cage.
Ultimately it comes down to a single estimation. Whether the people are empowered to influence the rules by which they must live. If they cannot then they do not have democracy. And in the end, no peoples have prospered without liberty and no nation has ever been poorer for having more democracy.
The status quo may provide a certain familiarity, but ultimately it offers an economic and political dead end from which there is no return. As much as the EU is leading us toward a fragmented Europe, it is leading us toward a future of far greater uncertainty than Brexit. One which may see us repeating those gruesome struggles of the last century. And that is why I would pay any price to be rid of it.
For whatever good it has done, it is time to part ways with obsolete and paranoid ideas. We have reached an impasse. We can have the EU or democracy, but we can't have both. This week is your chance to choose. Choose wisely. Vote to leave the EU.