Defending Britain’s interests?
So, David Cameron is vetoed a revision of the Lisbon Treaty. Has he done so to ‘protect Britain’, to even ‘protect Britain’s interests’? The obvious answer has to be no. What compelled Cameron to actually wield the veto was a raft of measures that would have imposed regulation on the City of London. No ‘transfer of sovereignty’ really involved there – indeed, considering the spectacular absence of any British regulation of the City that is fit for purpose you may well think that some outside assistance would be welcome.
It is eminently sensible, in an era of globalisation, that these things by regulated within a European, not a British framework. Cameron is however, determined to play King Canute and damage Britain’s interests merely to please his own backbenchers and City spivs who carry a large share of the can for causing the financial crash. It is important that partisans of Europe and the European project make this point – isolating Britain is to damage Britain. For too long we have let the Eurosceptics pedal the myth that British interests are best served by being on the fringes of Europe rather than where we should be, at the heart of it.
Europhiles are too timid. They are unwilling to take on scepticism on its own turf and they instead invest themselves in trying to desperately sell a rose-tinted view of Europe. So, the electorate is left with two polar extremes – Europe is either the devil incarnate or the promised land where the streets run with milk and honey, depending on which side you believe. Because Europe is an external other, something people are naturally suspicious of, it’s not then surprising that in this simplistic clash people tend to gravitate towards scepticism.
If partisans of Europe want to win the argument then they have to do a few things. They have to be honest and open about Britain’s position in the world and the fact that this leads to the best place for it being at the heart of Europe. Also, they have to be honest and open about the limitations and problems with the European project as it stands. We need to talk about the complete and total lack of democracy and proper accountability in Europe. We need to talk about how the same social problems that afflict Britain – a country run for the 1% – and how they are writ even larger in Europe and, finally, we need to put forward a programme to change those things that lead to sceptic sentiment taking hold.
If partisans of Europe don’t grasp these nettles then they can expect to lose the debate time-after-time and that is a tragedy, not just for Europe, but for Britain too.