I have to say, I was rather surprised by Dave Cameron’s speech on the European Union. Coming from a prime minister who has always been more favourable towards the EU than many people would prefer, announcing the referendum on the UK’s EU membership is a U-turn with a positive effect.
We could argue politics. Yes, it was probably because the Tories’ support is waning. Yes, it was probably because the UKIP, our still-single issue party (no matter what they themselves say), is becoming more popular by the day. One could even argue that it was intended to be the positive news before the Q4 GDP figures came out.
And yes, it is aimed at winning the election in 2015. Of course it is. If Dave didn’t want to win, he’d be a lousy prime minister, and even lousier as a politician.
But that doesn’t matter. What matters is the essence of the decision. What matters is the people will have their say.
We could also argue over the effectiveness of referenda. We could say that people make emotional decisions over matters of great importance and if we asked people everything, we’d end up with loads of populist policies that made the functioning of a state impossible.
But let’s not forget that, for example in Switzerland, the system of referenda works, and works perfectly. Moreover, in this mountainous Central European country, only matters of great importance are put out for a vote. Less important matters can be decided in the parliament, but matters that influence not only us, but also possibly generations after us, are perhaps just too important.
A friend of mine pointed out that “…Mr and Mrs Average know precious little about the EU, how it works or whether their job does or does not depend on it.” That may very well be true. But one can always hope that Mr and Mrs Average Google around and arrive to this post. Because I’m going to make my case for the referendum, and why I think that the EU that exists today is a federation where countries that value their existence do not belong.
I used to support the EU when it was an economic union of free nations. Right now, however, it’s a political union with a “president” and a “foreign minister”, and its lawmaking is superior to the individual states’ parliaments.
In addition, part of the European Union has a common monetary policy. Which is actually peculiar, because at the same time they don’t have a common economic policy—which is one of the main reasons of the current state of the eurozone. By that, I am not, of course, advocating for a common economic policy in the EU—quite the contrary—I’m just pointing out an example where the politicians’ “brilliant” ideas can have major faults without the authors of these ideas even recognising them—or, even if they do, they don’t admit it.
There are people, among them politicians, who say that federalism in the EU isn’t a bad thing and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. But we’re forgetting that the European Union was never intended to be a federalist state. It was supposed to be a union of nation states. Countries that have voted to join the European Union voted to join an economic union where they can maintain their national identities. They never wanted to assimilate into a new nation. This is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons there’s so much euroscepticism—not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout the European Union.
I think there are many people who agree with me on this. They’re not basing it on emotions, but on facts. The fact is, we didn’t opt for this. The European Union that the UK once joined is long gone, and Robert Schuman, the father of the EU, would be rolling in his grave if he knew what has become of it. The people aren’t against the European per se, they’re against what the EU has become.
A poll a few weeks ago, long before Dave’s speech, showed that 63% of the people of the UK wanted an in/out referendum. That’s almost 2/3 of the nation. Moreover, according to a post-speech poll by The Times, 53% of the Brits are in favour of leaving the EU.
These are significant numbers. And they show that the referendum is the right track to take. Even if it’s in 2017. Especially if it helps the Tories win the next election. (And rule alone, without what’s-his-name.)