Amid the claims and counter claims of the coming EU referendum there is one phrase that is going to be bandied about until everyone is thoroughly sick of it, that leaving the European Union will be a “leap in the dark”.
It was first wheeled-out by Lord Rose when he launched the stay-in at all costs campaign last year and has appeared like a rash over all Europhile output ever since. The Prime Minister used it on Saturday to defend his diluted deal and was repeating it again yesterday when interviewed on the Marr Show.
The unwillingness by disciples of the European Union to describe what the European Union will look like in the future speaks volumes about their lack of confidence in the grandest of all political projects. They know just how much the public distrusts all their empty platitudes and utopian pipe dreams – because their focus groups, private polling, radio show phone-ins and the rise of European protest parties tells them.
Instead of seeking to argue from first principle about how we could all benefit from having a common currency, open borders and a single market the realisation that these institutions have all turned sour has resulted in their out of date ideals being tucked away in the drawer marked “too difficult to explain”.
The economic devastation and high unemployment delivered to so many of the eurozone countries; the mounting public concern at the strains on the UK’s housing, schools and hospitals from unlimited EU migration; and the failure to deliver a single market in financial services after 30 years of trying were all dangers repeatedly warned about but ignored by the EU’s political elite. While Westminster may at times appear detached from the world of ordinary people, the distance from reality of the unelected European commission and its subservient European Parliament is tenfold.
The result is that the script for European Union supporters has already turned into a repetition of the worst aspects of Better Together’s campaign in the Scottish referendum of 2014. Claims are made about being positive but the output is thoroughly negative, trying to strike fear into the hearts of voters with invented statistics and ridiculous assertions like the end of cheap air travel and refugee camps appearing in Kent.
Many in broadcasting fall for this, with media interrogators demanding guarantees about trade, jobs and living standards for a future outside the European Union – but never asking for guarantees about the EU’s future direction of travel, what its next crisis will be and what expensive expediency will be used to avoid addressing it.
The simple truth is this. Whether the UK stays in the European Union or leaves we will be taking a leap in the dark. There can be no guarantees either way. No-one, not the Prime Minister, not one of the EU’s five different presidents, nor Frau Merkel or Monsieur Hollande can guarantee we shall not travel down the road towards ever closer union, because it is not in their gift. Only decisions of the European Court of Justice can prevent that happening and they abide by the laws as currently exist in the EU’s treaties – not some cobbled-together agreement that has no force of law behind it. That’s where we are heading and it is a dark void full of unknown unknowns.
Guarantees about anything included in the Prime Minister’s deal are worthless due to the opportunity to further dilute it when it goes before the European Parliament the power of the Luxembourg court. Within a day of signing the deal Merkel and Hollande have already confirmed it changes nothing in EU law and will not be put into treaty.
What guarantees can the EU elite give us about the future membership of their club and how it will impact upon us, not to mention the impact on the rest of Europe? How much will our contribution have to rise as further relatively impoverished countries like Bosnia and Turkey seek to join? How many more people will be granted right of entry, as the EU laws stipulate they must be? Turkey, with 79 million people, has already been granted visa free travel to Schengen-area EU countries – while Bosnia has unemployment of 44 per cent. The UK job market remains a magnet for both of these countries, what will the EU’s future relationship with them be and what does it mean for us? Members of the European Parliament assure me that the Commission is sitting on more than 20 proposals for new laws but dares not reveal them for fear of scaring the British public of what’s coming down the tracks. Then there is the Five President’s Report that outlines the interventions required for further fiscal convergence to shore up the euro that must impact inevitably on the British economy. And when you hear of threats to the City, such as the transaction tax still waiting in the wings, be aware that companies operating in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Dundee will all be hit too.
The future of our country and our communities will, in the main, depend on how we face up to the challenges thrown at us. We can either stay in the European Union and have nearly 70 per cent of our laws originate in Brussels – without our asking – while our public services continue to confront catastrophe and many of our businesses face unfair competition in a market that is rigged against them.
And the privilege for this leap in the dark? That comes at the price £12 billion, every year, and rising.
If I had to make a leap in the dark I would want it to be the one where I could at least craft my own parachute and make my own torch. Taking back control of our laws so that our politicians are once again accountable, establishing the supremacy of our own courts, determining who is able to bring their talents to our country – those and other advantages of leaving the EU give us a better chance of a softer landing than having no control over our destiny.
So let’s have less of the scaremongering Prime Minister. Let’s hear your vision for what the EU will be like in five, ten or 20 years’ time, because if that’s not a leap in the dark I don’t know what is.