THE BLOG

Why the EU Debate Is Worth More Than Personal Ambitions

25/02/2016 14:37 GMT | Updated 24/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Some people have a deep reason to wish for the UK to leave the European Union, whether it is a frustration at the way the European institutions work, or the way they feel Brussels gives the orders and Britain just obeys, or maybe it is because they feel the government has no power to limit EU immigration...

These reasons, whether right or wrong, are things real Eurosceptics feel deep in their heart. They dislike the EU, they cannot stand the idea of "ever closer union", they just hate the idea of losing the pound. It is a deep inward feeling, something literally visceral rather than subject to their personal ambitions. That is why they are usually good fits for TV debates and get invited to give their opinion on the EU and throw at the audience some impassioned speeches that will upset some and get others happy.

Fair enough. Everyone can and should have a say. We live in a democracy and there is such a thing as freedom of speech after all. The likes of UKIP leader Nigel Farage or Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to name just a few, well-known Eurosceptics who have been battling against the European Union for a very long time and are never short of harsh attacks on the EU and the 'failures' of its institutions, may have an opinion I totally disagree with, they have not suddenly changed their mind for the sake of a career move that could lead them to a seat in the cabinet or a top position offered for their loyalty to some donors or senior figures within the 'Leave the EU' campaign. Evelyn Beatrice Hall, famously misquoting Voltaire, wrote "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," which absolutely applies to today's debate.

The debate on Britain's EU membership, however, poses a question that is not whether the UK should remain in or leave the European Union, but whether some politicians will dare put their personal agenda before the interest of a Nation and therefore hijack a referendum campaign because they dream of the top job that could become vacant if David Cameron fails to convince the British people that the UK should remain in the European Union.

Boris Johnson does not have the interest of the United Kingdom in mind. The Mayor of London has repeatedly praised and celebrated the benefits the UK's membership of the EU brings to London. In 2009, for instance, Boris Johnson praised the European Investment Bank (EIB) for granting London a £1 billion loan for the Crossrail project, he happened to unveil yesterday with Her Majesty. At the time, the Mayor said: "Our good friends at the EIB have provided us with a billion more reasons to proceed with the unstoppable force that is Crossrail. It is one of the largest loans ever secured for a transport project and I am especially pleased to have this backing for our drive to provide London with the facilities required to keep the capital one of the world's leading cities."

Not only is it absurd and selfish to bury one's beliefs in order to fulfil one's ambition, but it also says a lot about the way one can be expected to run a city, represent a constituency or let alone... run a country.