EU and NATO: Spot The Inconsistency

by Jackie_South on May 27, 2015

Image result for natoFrom today’s Queen’s Speech…

“My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states. Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017.”

And later…

“My ministers will remain at the forefront of the NATO alliance and of international efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat terrorism in the Middle East.”

On 1 January 1973, when I was 3 years old, the UK joined the European Economic Community (as it was then known). Two and a half years later, my parents’ generation got the chance to vote on whether to remain part of it, after the then PM had negotiated a better deal for the UK. Accompanying my mum to the polling station in my school on that day is my earliest memory of what voting was like.

Forty years on, perhaps it is time to decide again. My vote will probably be to stay in, but I understand the argument that no-one of my generation or younger has had a say and that subsequent changes mean that some of those who voted ‘yes’ forty years ago may have got a different relationship to the one they expected.

But if the argument goes that we need a new referendum because the EU has a massive constitutional impact, and cost to the Exchequer, and therefore the UK’s commitment to it needs reconfirming after 40 years, why not look at other bodies and treaties where we have been denied a say for much longer?

The UK joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation when my parents were a similar age to I was when I held my mum’s hand on the way to that polling station in 1975. No-one has ever asked them, or any subsequent generation, for their permission for this. No-one asked the adult voters back in 1949 either.

And yet part of our treaty obligations, even now in times of such extreme government austerity, is that 2% of our GDP is spent on defence. That’s about £40bn: over three-and-a-half times what we pay into the EU and far more than the total cuts proposed by the new government.

Our NATO commitments have long since outlasted their origins: it is over quarter of a century since the demise of the Warsaw Pact and almost as long since the disintegration of the USSR. Since then, our membership has led us into conflict in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and came within a whisker of embroiling us in war in Syria. British soldiers have died in the wars NATO dragged us into, and British civilians have died from terrorist outrages in response to our involvement in NATO-led aggression.

Don’t get me wrong: I supported, and still do, some of those interventions: certainly Kosovo was justified to prevent genocide and intervention in Afghanistan was, on balance, the right thing to do.

But no UK citizen has ever lost their life because of our (far cheaper) membership of the EU. If it is time after 40 years to ask us again if we want to stay part of the European Union, surely someone should try to amend the Bill to ask us for the first time, after 66 years, whether we should remain part of NATO?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ray_North May 27, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Good points Jackie – and I know this isn’t the point you were making – but, I still think Afghanistan was an absolutely ridiculous invasion.

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George_East May 27, 2015 at 9:00 pm

I guess the difference (or at least the argument that the EU stands apart as an international institution to which the UK belongs) is that the EU is a law making body which impact a far wider range of issues now than it ever did when we joined. NATO obviously involves treaty commitments but this is not the same as wide ranging domestic law making powers. Indeed if we are going to vote on NATO then why not the UN, the IMF, the World Bank (all dating back even further than NATO) etc etc.

And to add to the Afganistan debate – I was marginally pro at the time, but in retrospect I think that I was wrong.

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Mike Killingworth May 29, 2015 at 8:07 am

Let’s think about this. To vote “yes” is to agree with the Tory leadership (presumably) and with finance capital (for sure). To vote “no” is to agree with Nigel Farage.

There is no political space left for the left, so few have we become. I doubt that Labour at the next election will win more sets than it did in1935.

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