Guest Editorial by Clara Harris
Britain has an immensely rich history. It is a history of kings and queens, of good men and bad, of desperate last stands and brutal wars; of literary genius and great thinkers, of scientists, engineers and statesman – men and women who by their endurance and fortitude built a civilisation, which, by no means perfect, was founded on the great tenets of liberty.
I see the European Union much as Gaitskell did; as ‘the end of a thousand years of history.’ Like it or not, the EU does have for its goal ‘ever closer union.’ All the trappings that come with it – bureaucratic legislation, loss of border control, free movement, common agricultural and fishing policies, the European Arrest Warrant, economic and monetary union – signal the dissolution of national validity. Perhaps I wouldn’t be worried about this transfer of power if the EU was remotely democratic.
But it’s not. It is a political leviathan ultimately run by a group of unelected bureaucrats and successfully lobbied by big businesses – so much so that it can be described as a manifestation of corporatism. The phrase ‘unelected bureaucrats’ is probably overplayed, but nevertheless true. (The EU’s 1996 booklet ‘How to Serve the European Union’ made me laugh. Apparently the aim of the Commission was ‘to keep the red tape and bureaucratic legislation to a minimum.’)
There are seven European institutions, and only one elected: The European Parliament, which has very limited powers. In fact, under the Treaty of Rome the Parliament was only given a consultative role, although it is now allowed to improve proposed legislation by amendment and its assent is now needed for the more important treaties. Yet the real legislative power is the Commission, which is entirely unelected, and the Council, in which we have only 8.5% of the vote. This means every time Britain has voted against new EU legislation it has been outvoted by default – and the same in the Parliament. The resulting laws, which we have to obey by order of the Supreme Court, have cost UK taxpayers £2.4 billion. Members of the Council and Commission are required to work in the EU’s interests and not for their home states.
It begs the question: what are the EU’s interests? Article B of the Maastricht Treaty gives five general objectives:
- To promote economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable, in particular through the strengthening of economic and social cohesion and through the establishment of economic and monetary union, ultimately including a single currency.
- To assert the European identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence.
- To strengthen the protection of the rights and interests of the national of member states through the introduction of a citizenship of the Union.
- To develop close cooperation in justice and home affairs.
- To maintain the acquis communitaire [the accumulated legislation and court decisions] and build on it with a view to considering to what extent the policies and cooperation introduced by this Treaty may need to be revised with the aim of ensuring the effectiveness of the mechanisms and the institutions of the community.
Any laws passed to further these objectives supersede British law.
Why is this system so sinister? Because it takes away everything our forefathers worked towards; namely, constitutional freedom. What Ted Heath signed away in 1972 was one of the best political systems known to man, and the reason that it was so was because it was practically synonymous with individual freedom. Political and economic freedom is only possible when power is diffused as far as possible through the people, and not concentrated in the hands of a few. The less power a government has, the more the people and vice versa. British parliament embodied this; the parliament served the people, not the people the parliament. In our days of cultural Marxism and obsessive thought policing we have forgotten how important this principle is: Parliament was given power on behalf of the citizens, and more importantly this power could be taken away. Politicians must be accountable.
Without national sovereignty we lose all this, because we no longer have the right to decide who governs us. Britain now obeys laws from a body entirely removed from the people, and it doesn’t matter what those laws are or how many. The EU by its very nature is undemocratic, and as such one should oppose it on principle.
Even if the EU did not have a democratic deficit, the concept of a supranational organisation ratifying legislation that applies from Bulgaria to Iceland is incredibly naïve. The history of these countries and therefore their cultures are very, very different. Rule of law, a crucial requisite of democracy, cannot therefore be upheld across the entire EU unless some kind of political and cultural hegemony can be enforced…Oh, wait. This is what the European experiment was about; essentially multiculturalism on a massive scale. It’s failed. Nation states exist for a reason, and trying to lump twenty-eight different cultures under a single law and citizenship will not work. It only exacerbates the extremes of the political spectrums in the subject nations, and no amount of reform will reverse this trend.
‘Remainers’ tend to laugh in the face of all this. They retort by saying that principles are not practicalities; that Britain cannot survive in an increasingly globalised world (I believe the slogan is ‘better together’); that the laws which the EU passes benefit Britain; and that the EU has kept the peace in Europe for the past fifty years.
I give them this:
- Principles should always be the foundation of political decisions, especially major constitutional ones such as this. Without them, there is no basis for right and wrong – especially in this case when the Remain camp’s argument is largely materialistic.
- Britain can survive economically outside the EU as a more competitive, outwards looking nation. There will be a cost and nobody is disputing that – just how much and for how long is unknown; most of the economic arguments surrounding Brexit are pure speculation. What we do know for definite is that at the moment we are giving Brussels £350 million per week – money which otherwise could be pumped into the struggling NHS and our poorly budgeted education system. We are a net contributor; we give more than we take – but businesses suffer from needless red tape and competition regulations.
- Britain will not automatically rescind any trade deals with the EU; but if we stay, we are forbidden from making our own trade deals with emerging markets, many of which are in the Commonwealth and Dominions, which we as a country have far more in common with in terms of history and habit. The EU has a poor record on international trade deals, failing to conclude deals with the US, India, Japan, ASEAN and Mercosur, which has cost the UK 284,321 jobs.
- If Brexit does have a lasting negative impact on the economy, financial security is no compensation for slavery, no matter how gilded the cage.
- The European Union is primarily a political union, not a financial one.
- If Europe has the ability to pass laws that benefit Britain, it also has the ability to pass laws that can significantly harm it. We can do nothing about these laws, because the Eurozone has a permanent voting majority and the Commission and Council are not accountable.
- A united Europe was originally meant to reconcile a broken Germany and a bitter France after two devastating World Wars. This aim has been accomplished – it is very unlikely there will be war in Western Europe, at least between nations. Ironically the political expansion of the EU has achieved what Britain partially fought the wars against, namely the elimination of self-rule and national validity and the absorption of Britain into an increasingly federalised superstate which is both expansionist and dictatorial. NATO does the job of keeping the peace well anyway since it is a purely military organisation, and is a completely distinctive body with no legislative powers.
- Security threats now don’t come from within Europe, and they don’t come from nation states and empires as they did in the 20th Century; they come from ideologies. The biggest threat is from radical Islam – and given the current migrant crisis and the rising terror levels in European countries, it would be wise to leave an organisation which guarantees us no border control and has proven itself incompetent in handling such crises.
What will we have if we stay? Voting to remain is not voting for the status quo; the EU’s powers will continue to grow and its borders to expand. You only have to look at The Five President’s Report, published by the EU last year, to see this. By 2020 we will be contributing £400 million per week, and it will only go up. The Commission’s Five Presidents Report details an even greater transfer of power to Brussels, including more taxation controls. Alternatively, Europe will become a sinking ship, and we will sink with it. The migrant crisis will continue to escalate, exacerbated by the dire financial situation the Euro has created in Eastern Europe. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end.
But the arguments for liberty, democracy and sovereignty alone trump all these. It is the one thing that truly matters under all the mounds of twisted statistics and alarmist half-truths. In the end, we have a choice. We have a choice between the EU and Britain, because we cannot have both, and we cannot have reform. The question it all comes to is this: do you want to be a servant of Brussels, or a represented citizen of a sovereign Britain?
This is the Britain I want: not in Europe, but of it; not necessarily a big global influence or a booming economy, but a land which has the opportunity to be so; a land where the people are free to think and speak as they wish, a land where justice and liberty are upheld under the rule of law, a land where power belongs in the hands of the people. This is the land our ancestors worked and bled to create, and so help us, it is the land we have a duty to keep.