Those who accuse Brexit supporters of being ideologically fixated and closed to alternative ideas are not only hypocritical – they have utterly failed to understand what makes eurosceptics tick
One of the drawbacks of being a committed eurosceptic and Brexiteer is that one tends to be painted as a swivel-eyed ideologue, someone whose opinion is not based on considered deliberation but on flawed, base gut instinct.
Thus the two most common insults hurled at eurosceptics – besides the cries of racism and xenophobia, which are sufficiently stupid that we can safely ignore them – are that we hate the European Union as an article of faith (or religion) rather than reason, and that we are closed minded and impermeable to new information (like David Cameron’s triumphant New Deal with Brussels).
Both of these accusations are unfair, although there is a grain of truth – many of us do indeed feel that our euroscepticism is a calling, or at least a cause important enough that we are willing to devote time, money and effort to its advancement.
When I attended the recent launch of The Leave Alliance, for example, it was one of the few times when I have actually been surrounded by large numbers of like-minded people on the Brexit issue, and it was rather humbling to be in the company of people whose curiosity and passion have led them to become experts on the history of the EU and the workings of international trade and regulation. Where it differs from religion, though, is the fact that our understanding of and distaste for European political union is not based on gut instinct or faith, but on a close reading of primary materials – treaties, statements, declarations, meeting minutes, autobiographies, trade journals, news articles – which those who support the European project can rarely match.
(I should note that I hardly consider myself to be such an expert – but through my involvement with The Leave Alliance I now have access to much better information and have shed much of the woolly thinking which clouded my previous euroscepticism).
So yes – we take our euroscepticism seriously. And those who see this as a flaw or a point of ridicule have generally failed to understand what it is about the European Union which offends us so greatly. They rhetorically ask what concessions might prompt us to change our minds – what it would take for us to stop worrying and love Brussels – thinking that by asking the question, they are revealing our blind, unthinking animosity to the harmless idea of countries coming together to trade and cooperate with one another.
In answer to this charge, Pete North has an excellent blog post from January, in which he begins with a simple fact – the signing of a protocol by Georgia and Turkey governing the electronic exchange of customs data for goods shipping – and masterfully spins it into a damning case against the European Union, proving that a harmonisation and integration-obsessed EU is actually a barrier to the kind of global co-operation which leads to economic growth and wealth creation.
Read the whole piece – entitled “The EU is not a trade bloc – it’s a power cult“.
Here is the key extract, which I will quote at length:
At the heart of it is a paranoia that without the EU the nations of Europe will once again be at war thus have set about creating a Europe that deprives nations of their democratic will to the ends of creating a single supreme government for Europe – one which actively prevents European nations speaking on their own behalf and getting the best for themselves and Europe.
And so when the question is posed as to what it would take for us hardline leavers to change our minds, we would have to address the central issue. Supranationalism. Were the EU to abandon supranationalism, to dismantle the institutions and cultural programmes designed to engender a single European demos, culture and government, to instead become a common forum for international progress, then I could change my mind. But then I would want to see it as a more open forum where our trading partners can also participate and shape the rules rather than having the EU dictating.
There are two basic problems here. Firstly, the entity a properly reformed EU would resemble already exists. It’s called the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and secondly, to demand reforms of this nature – of such era defining significance, we would effectively be calling for the dismantling of le grande project forever.
And so it remains the case that we are hard line leavers in that the EU cannot be reformed, will resist any attempt, and will never serve the best interests of its members – or even Europe. The EU is purely about the preservation of the EU political body that serves to advance the supranational agenda of its long dead architects.
The EU is not about trade, it is not about cooperation and it wouldn’t recognise multilateralism in a billion years. Everything it does is with the intent of affording itself more power and more control while passing the responsibility and the consequences on to member states to deal with. It is here where nuisance turns to malevolence and such an affront to democracy, based on a foundation of intellectual sand, should be resisted.
If we examine EU for what it really is, it’s a power cult – and one that will never stop until it holds all of the power. It confiscates our wealth then acts like some kind of benevolent Father Christmas, buying off all the institutions such as academia, NGOs and local authorities who would otherwise oppose it, so that when it comes to a popular vote the establishment will never turn on its paymaster.
It is for this reason true leavers oppose the EU with every fibre of their being. It is why opposing the EU is a spiritual call and a life obsession. It is why the issue will never go away and it is why a referendum will not settle the argument – because for as long as there are those who know what the EU really is, and its modus operandi, there will always be people willing to fight it to the bitter end.
And that pretty much sums up why committed eurosceptics – at least those affiliated with The Leave Alliance – take this issue so seriously, will not change our minds based on the evidence in front of us, and will not rest regardless of the outcome of the referendum on 23 June.
It comes down to the two S’s – supranationalism and sovereignty. Both cannot exist simultaneously – any key competence is either a sovereign matter or it is decided at the supranational level. And the European Union is an avowedly supranational organisation, spurning healthy intergovernmental cooperation in favour of the creation of a new layer of government over and above the member states.
Were the European Union content to fulfil the much more narrow remit claimed by many of its apologists (i.e. facilitating trade and cooperation) then an accommodation could potentially be reached. But as Pete North rightly points out, all of the evidence – and I mean all of it, to the extent that the Remain camp do not even bother to claim otherwise – is that the EU’s ambitions are much grander. They always were – that’s why the organisation which they pretend is just about trade and cooperation has a flag, an anthem and a parliament.
If anybody is being dogmatic and impermeable to patently obvious facts, it is in fact the Remain camp, who possess a superhuman ability to ignore the federalist facts staring them in the face, and somehow pretend to themselves that events of historical record and verbatim quotes from numerous EU officials did not happen and were not said. If one is not an enthusiastic European federalist, one has to be either ignorant or in extreme denial to believe that the EU as it stands is just a trading bloc, or that there is not far more integration planned for the near future.
So who is operating on blind faith here – the Remain campaign or those fighting for Brexit? While there are plenty of loud and ignorant people on both sides, those EU apologists who naively or deceptively cry “nothing to see here!” while all the edifices of a European state are brazenly built around them should be held in particular contempt.
Top Image: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Files
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