Let’s not beat around the bush – the Tories who have engineered a debate on a referendum on our membership of the EU have one agenda, and that is to leave the European Union: they don’t like Europeans telling us how to protect our employers; they don’t like Europeans implementing laws about free trade; and they don’t like having to pay for a tier of government in Brussels – in short they don’t really like Europeans and are labouring under the dangerous misapprehension that we would be better off if we left Europe altogether.
It’s cobblers, it really is – if we left Europe we would be leaving our most important trade ally, we would be leaving an invaluable source of funds, and we would be leaving behind a massively important legal entity in terms of employment protection and fair trade. Britain outside the EU would not be stronger, we would just be a weird little island sitting in the arse end of the North Atlantic with little in the way of natural resources or indigenous industry and no friends. But, we’d have our big friend USA, the sceptics tell us – well, no we wouldn’t because when push comes to shove America looks after number one, it always has, and it always will.
But should we have a referendum on our membership of the EU?
No, we shouldn’t. Its bonkers. Here we are with the economy of our country and indeed the economy of Europe disappearing swiftly down the pan and this bunch of loonies want us to launch ourselves into a debate about whether we should be in Europe at all. Its a bit like passengers standing on the deck of the sinking Titanic arguing about whether they should have crossed to New York by White Star or Cunard – it makes no sense and in current circumstances is wholly irrelevant and dangerously counterproductive.
But no one ever voted to be a member of the EU, they tell us – well, tough, no one ever voted directly to have a monarchy or be in a United Kingdom or have our Parliament in London either, but these are things that are interwoven into our democracy and can be changed if enough people voted in a certain way at a general election – UKIP, the only party offering a referendum on our membership of the EU only got 3% of the vote in 2010.
There is, of course, an argument for reforming the European Union, there is also an argument about whether Europe and the concept of a Europe wide union is feasible – and the current financial crisis underlines this, but, that is different from an argument about our own involvement, because, if this more important debate about EU reform is going to happen, then we must be at the forefront of it, not cowering on the sidelines like a grumpy old malcontent clinging onto the last vestiges of a long forgotten and not much missed Empire.
The only good thing about the debate as to whether we should have a referendum on Europe is that it demonstrates the natural instinct of many Conservatives to be suspicious of anything that is remotely different to them and that includes other people from across the channel.