There is a rising tide of Euroscepticism within mainstream political parties and on the floors of national Parliaments throughout the European Union, including in parties and countries where support for the federalist project had previously at least appeared to be universal. The more popular, less organised doubts now manifesting themselves as opinion poll results have certainly or probably always been there.
Yes, even in Germany. And yes, even in Belgium, a country which we are wrong to mock or discount, since it is historically our principal ally and trading partner on the Continent, an entity very much like our own United Kingdom, with a social democracy rooted explicitly in Christian principles, and even headed by a monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Unlike the EU, Belgium is a real union of Latin and Teutonic peoples and cultures. No wonder that we once fought a World War at least ostensibly in order to defend Belgium, the campaign to dismember which should strike fear into our hearts by making us wonder quite how small must be the easily digestible entities demanded by global capital.
Scotland would be too big to satisfy those demands, and England would be vastly so. Clement Freud once said that he had never seen the point of Belgium. We might all see the point of her once she is gone. But if she is becoming a bulwark against the EU, then she might not be gone any time soon, if ever.
Thank goodness for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. The 1997 General Election result, by making Brown Chancellor instead of Kenneth Clarke, kept this country out of the euro. All three valiantly fought off repeated attempts by those around Tony Blair to take us into that ill-conceived currency. Contrast the position of George Osborne. Now that Blairism has been defeated in its party, even if (at the time of writing) it remains enthroned in the other one, the collapse of the eurozone is as much Miliband’s moment as is the collapse of Rupert Murdoch’s influence over British politics. Miliband should seize the opportunity to position himself in the mainstream of British and European public opinion, which is also the emerging mainstream of opinion among European politicians and parliamentarians.
Calling the referendum “a device of demagogues and dictators” was Thatcher’s only ever favourable quotation of a Labour Prime Minister (Clement Attlee). Yet to those who worship at Thatcher’s altar while wholly ignoring her record on this and so much else, the demand for that deeply flawed and wholly foreign device has become a nervous tick. They honestly cannot see how Pythonesque it is to demand a referendum in the cause of defending parliamentary sovereignty. A referendum cedes the decision to the BBC. The Lisbon Treaty is self-amending, so there can never be another treaty. MPs will soon consider a motion for a referendum on withdrawal. What is needed is an amendment suggesting legislation with five simple clauses.
First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law.
Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the UK, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them.
Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.
Fourthly, the disapplication in the UK of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the Supreme Court) unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.
And fifthly, the disapplication in the UK of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, so that we were no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, or Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women candidates. Soon to be joined by Turkey’s Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and Kurdish Marxist separatists.
The appropriate person to move this amendment is the Leader of the Opposition, with a Labour three-line whip in favour of it and the public warning that the Whip would be withdrawn from any remaining Blairite ultra who failed to comply.
The Liberal Democrats set great store by decentralisation, transparency and democracy, and represent many areas badly affected by the Common Fisheries Policy.
The Liberals were staunch free traders who were as opposed the Soviet Bloc as they were to Far Right regimes in Latin America and Southern Africa, while the SDP’s reasons for secession from Labour included both calls for protectionism and the rise of antidemocratic extremism; I am far more of an economic patriot, but that only goes to show how this cause unites people across ordinary political dividing lines. (Both the Liberal Party and the SDP still exist, and both are now highly critical of the EU.)
The SDLP takes the Labour Whip, the Alliance Party is allied to the Lib Dems, the DUP is staunchly anti-EU, and the one other Unionist is close to Labour. The SNP and Plaid Cymru can hardly believe in independence for Scotland, greater autonomy for Wales, yet vote against the return to Westminster of the powers that they wish to transfer thence to Edinburgh or Cardiff; the SNP also has the fishing issue to consider. Even any remaining Conservatives who wanted to certify the European People’s Party as politically acceptable might be brought on board.
Leaving those fabled creatures, backbench Tory Eurosceptics. It is high time that their bluff was called. This is how to do it.Tags: Domestic (UK), Europe
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This post was written by David Lindsay