The big EU summit in Brussels reminds me that on Europe I often feel like Cassandra. I am sure that Britain's future is European. I am sure that in time we will join the euro (stop laughing). I am certain of these things, yet enunciating these kinds of views is often met with disbelief. British commentators seem set on the idea that the euro will fail then fall, and that Britain may even abandon the European project altogether.
But ask yourself this: if we left Europe, what would be the future for Britain? What would be the source of our power and influence? What, in short, would be the plan? I have never received a good enough answer to that question, most probably because I don't think anti-Europeans have even asked themselves. They need to face up to the fact that in a World in which, to be frank, even the United States is struggling to stay on top, we've not got a chance standing on our own on the international stage.
Right now, as a part of the European Union we have influence in international trade talks that means we're better off and can sell exports on better terms around the World. Each of us can live, work, travel, study and retire anywhere across 27 countries - from the cool sophistication of Scandinavia to the warm winter boltholes of the Mediterranean. Having access to a massive single market means our economy is better off, meaning more jobs and more tax income to pay for schools and hospitals. The EU has given us cleaner beaches, cheaper airfares and telephone calls, and of course - no mean feat - peace in Europe.
I find that some who attack Europe still want us to have access to the European marketplace, but purely on our terms. That's an imperial mindset, thinking that our relations with other countries should be on our own terms, regardless of what they want. Well, guess what, we're not an imperial power anymore.
The price we pay for this is a lack of power in Europe. Look at Cameron at the summit; he stands on the sidelines, out of the loop, having to respond reactively to the decisions being made by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy. If we were mature and threw our lot in with our European neighbours we'd stand alongside Germany and France, crafting the future of Europe, and doing so in a way that's good for us.
The choice that we have is, on the one hand, membership of a European Union that has delivered and continues to deliver better living standards, and on the other hand... well, what? What is the alternative that some seem to want to drive us towards by quitting the EU?
The time has come for us to decide whether we are in or whether we are out. If we do want to stay in then we should cease being some kind of Statler and Waldorf character, who just sits on the periphery and moans, and instead become full-blooded EU members who positively embrace our European future.
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