Eurospeptics who are attracted by the idea of 'affiliated member status' for the UK should reflect on the process that turned the European Economic Community into the European Community which then in turn was transformed into the European Union. They should not take the offer of 'affiliated member status' at face value. Many leaders of the EU are driven by an intense ideological mission and do not play with a straight bat, so we should think very carefully about their motives and about surrendering our ability to challenge them.
The way in which the many parts of the press, the Conservative Party and Ukip have tentatively embraced the recently publicised proposal by certain left-leaning members of the eurocracy to offer the UK 'associate membership' is a mark of political naivety. Until we learn to be smarter politically, we will continue to lose influence and the ability to shape the future of the continent of which we are a key part.
To deal with Delors and Duff and their friends is to deal with ideologues. Far from viewing the EU pragmatically as a trading area whose prime goal is to spread prosperity, they view it as an ideological project. In other words, the motives of federalist members of the eurocracy could not be further apart from those of the vast majority of the British people and indeed the peoples of other EU countries.
Delors and Duff are wedded to an intense ideological ambition, to do whatever it takes to engineer an EU that is both federal and socialist. This is their overriding motive, and any policies or political positioning emerging from their camp should be seen as a direct result of this intense, overarching, ideological agenda. The means are always considered justified by the ends.
Like all ideologues they are convinced they are right and that everyone else is wrong. They will take short term economic hits, whether in the form of challenging the degree to which one of their key export markets has unimpeded access to their own market (a future UK outside of the EU), or through welding vastly different national cultures to the same currency with different fiscal strategies. All short-term loses are acceptable as long as these tactical moves result in progress towards the ideological goal.
Whether we like it or not, whether within the EU or outside, we will be hugely impacted by the future trajectory of the EU, a trajectory that will be determined by Brussels institutions. As a result of the UK accepting 'associate membership', leading to the probable loss of our MEP's, commissioners, and possibly our seat on the Council of Ministers, the EU institutions would be, from our point-of-view, staffed with the wrong kind of people.
If we are to accept 'affiliated member status' we would be in a position of extreme vulnerability, signed up to the single markets rules but with no stake in framing them. In another decade we are predicted to be the most populous country in Europe; however we would have less influence in framing single market rules than Luxemburg. This would be an extraordinary situation but it is no wonder that Delors supports it.
It is clear what the left leaning euro federalists would get from the UK once we had signed up to the proposed 'affiliated member status.' However, what is less clear is what we would gain from such a status.
Firstly, Delors and the federalists would be able to motor on more easily towards securing their second substantive goal, having secured their first goal, the move towards a federal Europe; they will then be keen to secure their second, a socialist federal Europe. When Delors describes the UK as a barrier to the rest of the continent moving towards federal status, what he actually means is that we are a barrier to transforming the EU into a socialist federation. This explains why he made the bizarre claim that "the British are solely concerned about their economic interests, nothing else." Delors wants to reduce the debate the debate about Europe to simple question about how much it costs.
Growing disagreements between the French and the Germans and the increasing possibility of a stronger Anglo-German relationship strike fear at the heart of the euro federalists. Having secured their first victory by the introduction of the Euro, the euro elites are now completely focused on maintaining the momentum towards a socialist Europe. Of course, part of this transformation would be achieved if Chancellor Merkel were to lose the forthcoming German elections; however, it would be made certain by excluding the UK permanently from the decision-making process. The presence of the UK and Germany in a leadership role within the EU would place much greater emphasis on the single market and on a more liberal structure for the EU.
Secondly, the combination of the single market rules (without the UK having any say on their creation), along with shifting most of the contents of the social chapter into the single market rulings would ensure that we in the UK would be very restricted in the ways in which we could break free from European micro-management. Of course, this assumes we would be able to claim back any of the powers we lost to the social charter.
It is tempting to despair. However there is nothing patriotic about turning our backs on a vital battle that needs to be fought and won. Delors' assertion that we are friendless within the EU is highly inaccurate. Yes things are bad but our influence can be used to effect change; there exists the potential for us to work closely with our allies to make the EU work more efficiently and more transparently.
Why has Delors chosen this moment to intervene in the discussions? We have to think clearly about the motives of those who are now offering some kind of special status for the UK. We have to be beware lest this special status is used to damage our interests while depriving the UK of any voice in the decision-making process.
If we were to leave the EU, then we must leave on our own terms, in a way that suits us. Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that Delors would be happy if we were to secure such a dignified exit.