Another day, another newspaper column from a political has-been lecturing us on why leaving the European Union or renegotiating our terms of membership would be terrible, just terrible, and consign us to the lowly status of a third world country, adrift in the sea of globalisation with no friends and no influence.
The newspaper columns tend to follow the exact same template, and this time it was the turn of Kenneth Clarke, writing in The Telegraph, to gently explain to us stupid “swivel-eyed” nationalist loons exactly why our views are undermining Britain and putting our future at risk. He writes, with reference to the potential EU-US free trade agreement currently being discussed at the fringes of the G8 meeting in Lough Erne:
For, irony of ironies, it is of course the EU that is making deals with America and Canada possible. It should come as no surprise that President Obama’s officials have commented that they would have “very little appetite” for a deal with the British alone. Quite simply, the political commitment and dedication that the creation of a free market encompassing over 800 million people, 47 per cent of world GDP, and boosting the combined economies of the EU and the US by nearly £180 billion, could only ever be made by the leaders of evenly matched economic blocs.
What nonsense. While this statement may be true for some of the smaller EU member states, until you reach about Spain size, it certainly does not apply to the United Kingdom. Why would any country not wish to negotiate bilaterally with the sixth largest economy in the world, and miss out on the many benefits of tariff-free access to such a large hub of industry, innovation, technology, arts and sciences? Ken Clarke would have us tremble in fear that the mighty President Obama might overlook pathetic, little old Britain if we dared to stand on our own, but he certainly pays attention to the likes of India, Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and countless other countries with much lower nominal GDP than the United Kingdom, so that argument hardly stands up.
But of course, Ken Clarke doesn’t need his arguments to bear scrutiny, because they are straw men. He assumes that a Britain outside of the European Union would automatically be isolated, introverted and inward-looking, seeking to shut itself off from the world, but he is putting words into the mouths of the Eurosceptics. He disingenuously proclaims:
There always has been something of the romantic in the British soul. We can’t fail to be stirred by Charge of the Light Brigade visions of Britain standing alone against the odds. It is the same sentiment behind the idea of exchanging the EU for Nafta.
But, in the end, we are a practical race. We know that the empire on which the sun never set was created by intrepid, relentlessly outward-facing adventurers and administrators, not isolationist John Bulls. That “Brexit” would mean curtains for our ability to have any leadership role in world-defining plays like these free-trade agreements would greatly disturb us. Accepting a diminished situation in which the UK is forced to trade by EU rules which it has had no say in setting is simply not in our nature.
I don’t know of any anti-EU people who want to create a Fortress Britain and isolate ourselves from the world – in fact, quite the opposite is true. We feel that the ever more onerous conditions and regulations that must be observed as part of our EU membership damage our national competitiveness and make it harder for us to do the business that we want to do with the rest of the world. If the EU were simply a free trade area then remaining an EU member to negotiate an agreement with NAFTA or the US would make the utmost sense. But the ever-closer union has become so much more than that, spawning parliaments, commissions, foreign policy chiefs, “human rights” courts, and generally extending its tentacles into every aspect of national life. How does Ken Clarke imagine being beholden to all of these anti-democratic institutions improves our leverage or bargaining position when it comes to discussing matters of free trade?
Of course, Clarke is deeply invested in the success and longevity of the European project. He himself is a current member of the secretive Bilderberg group which in the post-war years was instrumental in formulating many of the policies and initiatives that have helped to bring us to our ever-closer union with our European neighbours and allies. Indeed, at the most recent Bilderberg Group meeting in Watford, England, one of the agenda items specifically focused on “the politics of the EU”, which you can read as “how to make the masses support our floundering European project”. The last thing that he would want is to undo his organisation’s stated objectives of weakening the institution of the nation state in favour of larger, pan-national, anti-democratic organisations. The European Union serves the needs of his political and corporatist friends very well indeed; the average voter, less so.
Personally, I don’t appreciate being talked down to by the likes of Ken Clarke, so in retaliation I am going to post this video of him, taken at a campaign event while he still held fairly high political office, being too fat to get out of a racing car that he was inspecting (skip to the 7 minute mark):
I’ll change my views on Britain’s need to leave the European Union, or at least drastically renegotiate our terms of membership the day that Ken goes on a diet.