Being from the continent myself, my attitude towards the EU has always been relatively positive. Quite naturally, there have been many things I have disagreed with and I have always exercised caution when praising the EU institutions: but generally speaking, I thought the EU was a great idea and that it worked relatively well. What has been happening in Brussels and Strasbourg over the past weeks since the European Parliament elections, however, has made me change my position: the EU clearly is unreformable and the noble ideal of cooperation between European countries has been hijacked by federalists who seem to have completely lost touch with reality. After becoming a British citizen in the Autumn of 2015, I will be voting ‘Out’ in the event of a referendum in 2017.
David Cameron is often portrayed as a loser after he failed to prevent Monsieur Juncker from becoming the head of the European Commission, the EU’s pseudo-government. However, I believe Cameron to be the only reasonable leader in Brussels – together with the Hungarian PM – who had the guts to say that he believed that it should be up to national leaders, accountable to their national governments and parliaments, to decide who the Commission president should be. Merkel, Hollande and 24 other national leaders just gave in and did what the Parliament wanted them to do.
Once you set the precedent, it is a done deal in politics. For decades, the EU has performed its proper role of the coordinator of the common market. After this decision, however, political supra-nationalism has won: it is not your Prime Minister who is supposed to speak up for you in Europe, it is a mass of more than 750 MEPs, of whom only 73 are elected in the UK. Those MEPs are subject to so little media attention, so little scrutiny and so little accountability compared to MPs in Westminster. Their legitimacy is further weakened by the fact that turnout is so very low in Euroelections: figures of around 30% are not unusual. Due to the grand coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Socialists in the European Parliament, we can be sure that no major change in the behaviour of the main EU institutions can be expected.
David Cameron is often portrayed as a loser, but I believe him to be the only reasonable leader in Brussels.
And what’s wrong with that? After all, is it not more democratic when the entire parliament elects the leader of the executive, as opposed to him being appointed by a select group of national leaders?
This naive argument is indeed so often used by eurofederalists. At home, when you vote for your MP, you also at the same time know whether you are voting for Cameron or Milliband (and good old Clegg in the days gone by) to be the next Prime Minister. European parties tried to play the game in 2014 by nominating their own front runners: but the huge lack of legitimacy arises from the fact that so very, very few people voting for parties in their home countries actually knew about it, and fewer still voted for those parties because of those frontrunners. You find me ten people in Oxford who voted Labour because they wanted Herr Schultz to become the next commission president, and I will get you a Gin & Tonic. You find me five Green supporters who know who Ska Keller is, and I promise to make it a double.
And there is probably more to come. Wait a year or two, and serious discussions about a common European army will happen. In less than a decade, Her Majesty may be christening an aircraft carrier HMS Juncker which would fight under a blue flag with twelve yellow stars. Had it not been for the incompetence and the lack of charisma of Baroness Ashton, the EU ‘Foreign Secretary’, the common foreign policy would probably have become much more powerful at the expense of the Foreign Office. When they find another Blair, there might be no need for British embassies abroad as all foreign policy will be dealt with by Brussels.
A civilised divorce is better than a long unbearable marriage.
I still believe that European integration is the greatest success of post-war European politics. Unfortunately, however, over the past decade or so, it has been dominated by people who have dedicated their lives to the ideology of an ‘ever closer Union’, who reject the old fashioned British pragmatism and call anyone who dares to raise questions about the direction of European integration a chauvinist or a nationalist. I see it on my Facebook statuses: whenever I post something even remotely Eurosceptic, my friends from from the Continent immediately start calling me ‘misled’, Mr Cameron ‘arrogant’ and Britain ‘selfish’.
For those reasons, I think the UK would now be better off out. Rather than a long, unbearable marriage, a civilised divorce seems to be the better option. I would love to give Mr Juncker the benefit of doubt and hope that he will be reasonable and will agree to the demands of the British people for power to be brought from Brussels back to Westminster: but it is so, so very difficult.
What do you think?
Jan is a PPE student at Christ Church. Originally from the Czech Republic, he ran for the European Parliament on behalf of the Czech Conservative ODS party. He likes rowing, Dvořák and Plush, and is OUCA Treasurer-Elect.
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