I have searched in vain for a metaphor to illuminate just how utterly preposterous was a recent statement from Foreign Secretary William Hague on the EU and the government’s plan to renegotiate the treaties. When asked what specifically they would be seeking to renegotiate, he said the part about “ever-closer union”. (Interview with Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics 29/09/13)
Anyone familiar with the EU will know that the principle of “ever-closer union” is the central driving force for the whole project and has been such since its conception. It was the light in the eyes of the Union’s “founding fathers” and is stated in the inaugural Treaty of Rome. To reject “ever-closer union” is to reject the EU, and anyone, such as Hague, who claims to support Britain’s membership whilst simultaneously rejecting the principle of “ever-closer union” speaks from a position of utter dishonesty or profound ignorance. In Hague’s case either one is conceivable, but, as he does not seem to be a fool, we must assume him to be a knave. With politicians like Hague, it is impossible to discuss the realities of Britain’s membership of the EU, either to examine the benefits or the disadvantages, because they steadfastly maintain a false narrative.
The truth is, however convincing it may or may not be, a rational case can be made for our continued membership of the EU, and for the project itself, as it progresses towards the federal European state, envisioned by Monet and Spaak so many years ago. But this case, heard all across the continent, is never made by British politicians, such as William Hague, who profess their support to our continued membership, but peddle the fiction that we can remain within the EU whilst opting out of the central driving force of “ever-closer union”.
Separating the ratiocination from the proclamation (i.e. what he says he wants from the policy he claims will deliver it), the logic of Hague’s position is that Britain should leave the EU and re-join EFTA, remaining within the EEA and keeping access to the Single Market. Practically speaking, this is the real alternative to EU membership. The effects on trade and industry would be marginal. The fear-mongered fantasies of the Europhiles would not come about. There would be no economic meltdown. The fabled 3 million workers, whose jobs depend on the EU, would not be thrown into the street. Neither would there be the bonfire of red tape our simple-minded patriots hope for. The copious regulations which govern inter-Union commerce would remain in place, certainly in the short term. There would no doubt be immediate savings with regard to payments to Brussels and the possibility of freeing internal trade from the burdens of bureaucracy, but superficially little would change. The real differences would be at a deeper level.
Britain’s membership has altered the way we are governed, aiding and abetting the forces of centralisation and regulation, reducing accountability and moving away from democracy towards technocracy – rule by experts. The EU has been used by our own political class like the matador uses his cape, and it little benefits the bull to stomp the cape into the dirt, if whilst so engaged he offers up his neck to the matador’s sword. Opposition to the EU should not delude us into forgetting that the British state is quite willing and able to trample our liberties without external assistance. The EU doesn’t tap our telephones, read our emails or send agents to infiltrate political pressure groups. Neither is it the EU which engages in murky military adventures in foreign lands.