Nothing Positive To Say About The EU? Just Bash The Leave Campaign

Owen Jones, unable to think of one positive thing to say in support of the European Union, focuses his attention on mocking the Leave campaigns

Owen Jones can’t make a full throated defence of the European Union and Britain’s place in it, because in his heart of hearts he knows the EU to be a bad, terminally unreformable institution in which we should play no further part. Of that I am absolutely convinced, no matter how deep in his subconscious Jones may have buried his natural euroscepticism.

But to avoid alienating his virtue-signalling left-wing readership who instinctively support the EU (either out of simplistic internationalism or the cynical knowledge that being in the EU imposes stricter employment and social laws on the UK than British voters would likely tolerate themselves), Jones has walked back nearly all his earlier principled criticism of Brussels, and now bleats the usual fantastical nonsense about staying in the EU to transform it into some kind of socialist utopia.

Thus, unable to make a passionate argument in favour of the European Union, Jones must content himself with making snide observations about the Leave campaigns (who regretfully seem to provide him with near endless material). He cannot make an honest intellectual or moral case for Remain, so he deflects by snarking at those who want to reclaim British democracy by leaving.

And so we get stuff like this, in which Jones wastes an entire YouTube video smugly pointing out that pro-Brexit Conservatives are moaning about the Remain campaign waging “Project Fear” when many of them adopted similar arguments against Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum, and against Labour and the SNP in the general election last year. Because, according to this bizarre logic, two wrongs (the Evil Tories doing it before, and the Remain camp doing it now) cancel each other out.

Jones scoffs:

Project Fear. That is how Chris Grayling, who is a Tory cabinet minister who supports Brexit – Britain leaving the European Union – that’s how he is describing the campaign led by the government to stay within the European Union. As soon as I heard him describe the campaign to stay in in those terms, all I could think was “you cheeky git!” It reminds me of the Yiddish expression, chutzpah.

[..] Then there’s Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, who in the weeks before the general election said “Ed Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister”. Again, you had co-ordinated attacks by big businesses warning of economic calamity were Labour to enter Number 10. Project Fear on speed, quite frankly. The whole campaign was waged on the basis of fear.

Now, the people complicit with that included, obviously, the likes of Chris Grayling and his colleagues in the Conservative cabinet, and the Conservative backbenches who now support Brexit and who are angry at those tactics, as they see it, being employed against them.

We can expect to see a lot more of this finger-wagging nonsense over the next few months from those who are determined to keep Britain inside the European Union.

Some of them refuse to make positive arguments for the European Union because they actually rather dislike it, but hold Britain in such low regard that they believe that despite being many times the size of independent countries like Australia and New Zealand, Britain is uniquely incapable of functioning independently outside of a regional political union.

Others shy away from talking up the European Union because they genuinely love the institution, want us to integrate even more deeply and therefore worry that they might get too carried away praising Brussels and so harm their own side.

Others still dislike the European Union and know full well that Britain could prosper outside this anachronistic mid-century supra-national political union, but persuade themselves to support Remain for fear of the social stigma that comes with declaring oneself a eurosceptic in certain circles.

But in no case will they be honest with the British people, because they have all come to the conclusion that telling what they see as difficult truths – in their case, that the European Union is a good thing for a, b and c reasons, and Britain should continue to participate because of x, y and z – will not win the referendum, but that Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) will do the job quite nicely.

Owen Jones rightly bristles at the way that the “No” campaign wielded this tactic in the Scottish independence campaign, which would make you think that he opposes it being used by any group and in any context. But apparently not so. Because Conservative Leave supporters “brought it on themselves” by utilising FUD tactics in the past, the Remain camp should not be criticised for doing so now.

It is a shame to see Owen Jones – at his best an intelligent and articulate voice on the Left – frittering away his time on the EU referendum campaign by pointing out the foibles and tactical hypocrisies of the Leave campaign. But what other choice does he have? Despite knowing full well that the EU is unreformable, Jones has committed to supporting Britain’s continued membership.

I think that this is a betrayal of the democratic accountability and local control that Jones spends much of his time promoting. And I suspect that he does, too. Which is why we can all expect to see lots more “gotcha” videos on YouTube criticising individual members of the Leave campaign, but not a damn thing praising the European Union or explaining how this magical socialist “reform” of the EU is to be achieved.

After all, nothing distracts from a guilty conscience like pointing out the flaws, failings and inconsistencies of other people.


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At Least Jeremy Clarkson Is Honest About His Euro-Federalist Dreams

British television presenter Clarkson returns to his home in west London

Unlike most people in the Remain campaign, at least Jeremy Clarkson has the courage and decency to admit that he doesn’t just tolerate the European Union but actually dreams of Britain being part of a federal European country

So that great producer-punching pseudo Man of the People, Jeremy Clarkson, has come out definitively in support of Britain remaining in the European Union – and not just the EU as it is now, but the EU as it yearns to become in the near future, a fully politically integrated federal European state.

No great surprise there – Clarkson has made pro-European rumblings before. But what is surprising (and actually rather impressive) is the full-throated way in which Clarkson embraces his support of the EU.

Unlike nearly every leading politician and personality in the Remain camp, Clarkson does not attempt to flatter us or pretend that he “gets” our concerns about Brussels gradually usurping our democracy. Unlike the deceitful-yet-ingratiating Sajid Javid, Clarkson makes no promises to go back to ranting at Brussels the moment he has helped doom us to continued membership of the EU (though in Clarkson’s case, more ranting is all but guaranteed).

Jeremy Clarkson actually does something which almost nobody in the intellectually squalid, fear-based Remain campaign dares to do – he owns his pro-Europeanism and wears it as a badge of honour, rather than doing what so many Turncoat Tories and others have done, prancing around like the World’s Biggest Eurosceptic before meekly running to David Cameron’s heel and supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU as soon as the prime minister snapped his fingers.

Clarkson writes in the Sunday Times (+):

I suppose that now is as good a time as any to declare my hand. I’m with the man whose wife we fancy. I’m in.

When Mr Cameron was touring Europe recently, seeking a better deal for Britain by sucking up to the leaders of such places as Romania and Hungary, I watched on YouTube an MEP called Daniel Hannan make an anti-EU speech to a group of, I think, students. It was brilliant. One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. And, I’ll admit, it made me question my beliefs. But despite his clever, reasoned and passionate plea for us to leave Europe, I’m still in. He talked sense, but a lot of this debate is about how we feel.

In 1973 my parents held a Common Market party. They’d lived through the war, and for them it seemed a good idea to form closer ties with our endlessly troublesome neighbours. For me, however, it was a chance to make flags out of coloured felt and to eat exotic foods such as sausage and pasta. I felt very European that night, and I still do.

Whether I’m sitting in a railway concourse in Brussels or pottering down the canals of southwestern France or hurtling along a motorway in Croatia, I feel way more at home than I do when I’m trying to get something to eat in Dallas or Sacramento. I love Europe, and to me that’s important.

I’m the first to acknowledge that so far the EU hasn’t really worked. We still don’t have standardised electrical sockets, and every member state is still out for itself, not the common good. This is the sort of thing that causes many people to think, “Well, let’s just leave and look after ourselves in future.”

In other words, Jeremy Clarkson is your garden variety Euro-federalist. He looks at the bureaucratic opacity of Brussels, the contempt in which the EU is held by many of its citizens and the fact that cultural and regulatory harmonisation has not been completed to produce a single cultural identity where we all identify as Europeans first and use the same electrical outlets, and concludes that the correct answer is “more Europe”.

Fair play to him. He’s completely wrong, and betrays an almost criminal contempt for the democracy and right to self-determination for which our ancestors fought, bled and died. He is the archetypal person who votes as a consumer – because a harmonised, federal Europe would be better for his wallet and his weekend jaunts to France – rather than as a thinking, engaged citizen. But at least he has the god damn balls to honestly state his position. Hardly anybody in our own elected House of Commons supporting the Remain campaign would dare to do the same.

But then it begins to come off the rails (or the test track). Clarkson continues:

Britain, on its own, has little influence on the world stage. I think we are all agreed on that. But Europe, if it were well run and had cohesive, well thought-out policies, would be a tremendous force for good. I think we are all agreed on that as well. So how do we turn Europe from the shambles it is now into the beacon of civilisation that it could be in the future?

Oh really? We are “all agreed” on that, are we?

Actually, no we are not agreed at all. Our prime minister and foreign secretary may hold our country, its history and present capabilities in astonishingly low esteem, but fortunately the same cannot be said for many of the people. Many of us correctly believe Britain to be one of the few truly indispensable nations on Earth, that our contributions to the arts, sciences, commerce and global security are almost unmatched, and that we could throw our weight around in the world accordingly, if only we cared to stand up for our own national interest once in awhile.

But such views are unheard of outside the Chipping Norton set, the middle class clerisy in general and the fawning circle of friends and admirers surrounding David Cameron (of whom Jeremy Clarkson is one). These people, many of whom came of age at the peak of 1970s declinism and economic doldrums, have at their core a deep pessimism and scepticism about the ability of Britain to survive and prosper as an independent actor on the world stage.

So deeply have they internalised this self-doubt and self-loathing that no matter how much evidence you show them to the contrary – the examples of Australia and New Zealand, say, somehow surviving in the world without being part of an Asia Pacific Union and sharing a common parliament and court – they bat it away without even stopping to think.

Clarkson then sums up:

Right. So let’s switch our attention. Let’s leave the “parish councillors” alone and concentrate our big guns on the real decision makers in Brussels. Let’s have hacks outside their houses all day long, waiting for one of them to do or say something wrong. Let’s make them accountable. Let’s turn them from “faceless bureaucrats” into household names.

That is the biggest problem with the EU right now. Nobody is really concentrating on its leaders. Nobody is saying: “Hang on a minute . . .” And this means they are running amok.

It’s why we need to stay in. So our famously attentive media can try to stop them. To make them pause before they move. To make the Continent work the way the Continent should — as a liberal, kind, balanced fulcrum in a mad world that could soon have Trump on one side and Putin on the other.

And here we have the classic pivot back to “the answer is more Europe!” Rather than looking at public attitudes toward the European Union which range from disengaged indifference to blind, seething rage, Clarkson concludes not that the experiment in political integration by stealth has failed, but rather that we should just come to terms with it and re-order our media and culture around the EU’s artificial construct.

Clarkson is actually saying that if only more journalists doorstopped Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz every morning with awkward questions about budgets and foreign policy, we would immediately begin to feel more vested in the EU project and finally become enthusiastic Europeans. It’s pure wishful thinking, of course, but then so is everything about the EU, an political organisation build on the the principle of “If you build it, they will come” (they being a European demos willing to be led by Brussels).

But though Clarkson is wrong on nearly every point, cavalier with our democracy to the point that it does not even merit a mention in his article and unabashedly in hoc to the establishment’s ingrained europhilia, still he somehow comes away as the most intellectually honest and respectable of all the high profile Remain supporters.

Unlike an oleaginous Turncoat Tory, Clarkson does not feel the need to butter us up with constant anecdotes about how he hates Brussels just as much as we do, honest. And unlike those bland Remainers on the Labour benches, he does not just mutter inanities about countries “working together”, as though intergovernmental co-operation were not possible without the umbrella of an undemocratic political union.

No, Jeremy Clarkson owns his position, and has the guts to tell us that not only should we learn to love the European Union as it is now, we should actively fight for further political integration:

But, actually, isn’t it better to stay in and try to make the damn thing work properly? To create a United States of Europe that functions as well as the United States of America? With one army and one currency and one unifying set of values?

At last, an honest argument from a Remain supporter – someone who is brave enough to stand up and say “actually, I feel more European than British, I think that the nation state is kind of passé anyway, I’m envious of the size and power of the United States and terrified by the sight of Russia; therefore, we should proceed full speed ahead with the creation of a European country”.

Again: I find Jeremy Clarkson’s argument utterly repellent and contemptuous of our hard-won democracy and liberty. But my God, it’s refreshing to hear from someone from the Remain camp who actually says what they really feel about the European Union.

David Cameron, Philip Hammond, Theresa May and other assorted peddlers of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) – your turn next in the honesty corner.


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