Why I'm Backing This Wobbly EU Marriage

19/05/2016 09:52

At the start of the Brexit debate this year, The Prime Minister denounced Bojo's Brexitism, saying that it was akin to filing for divorce to save a marriage. A nice analogy. Let's stick with it.

I support this renewal of our marital vows with the EU because I am, despite my scepticism, willing to take a leap of faith that the EU, like a wayward spouse, can change its behaviour.

The biggest issue for me isn't the disaster that was and is the current euro. It isn't the ridiculous corruption and waste of the CAP, which has harmed poorer countries and lined the pockets of undeserving toads. Nor is it the corruption and greed of past Eurocrat elites, who have failed so many times to get EU accounts signed off, it would make Sepp Blatter blush. No, it's sovereignty and sovereignty creep by EU central powers who seem to think that things are irreversible. I'm sure that's what Soviet officials thought.

It's a deception to say that the EU was designed to become anything other than the Petri dish from which would emerge a federal state. That could have been interesting to vote on if there hadn't been so many errors. And perhaps being honest about the intentions of the project might have brought people behind it in the first place.

But like the bad spouse who promises better times, we have the EU's offer. It won't, so the PM says, demand 'ever closer union'. It won't force us into the euro. It won't presume that the British Raj is theirs to dictate from Belgium (or Strasbourg. How can you have two cities for one parliament?!).

And like the bad spouse, there are the things we took to in the first place. There were and are good times, it's true. A large, freer market has good benefits. Travel and trade are just two of them.

Thus, I find myself looking at the offer and, for now, I will accept. What might be wrong with the EU now can be changed. Being in enables us to change the whole thing. Like Finn redeeming himself in the latest Star Wars film (or Mencius' view of human nature), there can be a way to get the good out of the EU that truly benefits us all.

Yet, and I address this directly to EU officials who cannot be ejected directly by British or other nations' voters: do not presume this is acquiescence. We can activate withdrawal Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty whenever we wish to. Just because we say yes now does not mean yes forever. But I hope it doesn't have to be like that. There's a lot to be had together.

As a half-Finn, I am only too well aware of neighbours who think they can do whatever they want. If the EU can't be changed, then our membership of the club should be revisited.

Can it change? Well, when the EU was rejected in past national referendums, it had to change course and come up with something that national citizens would support. While it would be easier to avoid 'No' votes in the first place by working out all the foibles, there's something here to work with. The spouse can mend its ways. Perhaps, sometimes, it needs the sharp jolt of rejection to recoil from holding on too tightly.

Indeed, maybe a test would be useful. As a senior ex-government economist said to me, "Currently, new members have to join the euro. With Britain and Denmark carrying opt-outs, perhaps new members would like to opt-out of the euro as well." Maybe they would. Certainly, it should be their choice. Would Brussels agree?

Political power belongs to voters, not officials. If a full EU state with all the trimmings is on the menu one day, then by all means, let's have a vote on it and decide what we want to do.

And that's the most important thing about this referendum. Do ask what the EU should do for you, not what you should do for the EU. Whatever you think, vote. Democracy would be poorer without you.