Gilligan in The Sunday Telegraph today demonstrates all the worst characteristics of the chattering classes with a profoundly misjudged piece headed "The EU: so where did it all go wrong?".
The problem with the piece is that it starts with the premise that a "cautiously enthusiastic Britain joined the Common Market" forty years ago. And, because today few are celebrating, that is somehow a "bad thing".
Represented here is the classic myth, that the "Common Market" was a good thing, yet this brave venture into Continental free trade took a "decisive wrong turn" and became something alien, which could not longer be supported.
Sadly, the generally sensible Gilligan, confronted with having to write about something of which he clearly knows little, actually uses this phrase, telling us that:
… there has been the debacle of the euro, the decisive wrong turn that changed the EU from a broadly successful institution into one that seems to have condemned many of its members to, at best, years of stagnation and misery.
Therein lies the delusion. Anyone with any serious knowledge of the "project" is fully aware that the single currency was an integral part of the EEC, as indeed they know that the "Common Market" was simply a disguise for a customs union, the final objective of which was European political integration.
Thus, we have a project founded on deception and, what has happened over the years is that more and more people have understood the real agenda and want nothing of it. This makes it utterly ludicrous to cast the progression in terms of "where did it all go wrong?" What went "right" is that people have leaned that they were deceived.
To an extent, Gilligan actually acknowledges this, in that he concedes that "the EU's fatal lack of real popular consent may be catching up with it". But, any sensible person, one might think that, once it was realised that there was a lack of popular consent, the only option would be to leave.
Such sense, however, does not trouble Gilligan. Instead, we get this (above):
Yet the British impetus for full withdrawal may be dangerous: in the modern world, the very idea of "UK independence", as promoted by the eponymous Eurosceptic party, is surely an illusion. Even if we left, given the amount of trade we do with the EU, we would still have to follow most of its rules – while no longer having any role in setting them.
For sure, independence in an interdependent world is something of illusion, but that is no the point. The question is how we manage our international relations. And, while part of that is trading rules – if we chose to make it so, only those companies which exported to the EU would have to obey those rules.
What we see in this revealing excerpt, therefore, is blind, ignorant prejudice. Gilligan is a europhile at heart, so he seeks excuses not to leave. But, throughout the piece, he commits an even greater sin. He plays the same game that the europhiles indulged in back in 1973, eliding European "culture" with a political project that has become the European Union.
"For all our professed hostility to the EU, we are in some ways far more 'European' than we were", he concludes, offering us a classic non sequitur
. Hostility to the system of government called the European Union has nothing to do with us embracing aspects of European culture.
Why the Sunday Telegraph
thus bothered to publish this drivel is a mystery. There is so much more that could be said, and which could make a real contribution to the debate, that one wonders what this branch of the legacy media is trying to achieve – other than to hasten its own demise.