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EU Referendum: downers and uppers

2016-04-26 04:49:54

Owen Paterson yesterday delivered a speech on the Future of Europe, telling us that the aim behind the European Union is, and always has been, to achieve by a series of stealthy, incremental steps, the creation of a United States of Europe, with a single, supreme government in Brussels, to match the power of Washington and the United States.

This is a well documented vision. It is embedded in the idea that, in order to prevent the peoples of Europe slaughtering each other, its nations must be abolished and replaced by a single, federal structure to ensure that the horrors of 1914-1945 would never be repeated. However, we have reached a point in this process of integration where, the Eurozone is about to become a new country.

Said Paterson, you may not like the EU you have got now but you will like the new one even less as it seeks to overcome the fatal flaw in the eurozone.

The fragile Club Med economies cannot create wealth at the rate at which they joined the euro. This has had tragic consequences for a whole generation of young people. Thus, the EU must be able to transfer money to them from the wealth-creating areas such as southern Germany and Southern Holland. And, for that, there has to be a central budget, a tax raising capability and a central economic government.

This is a very clear direction of travel. With unaccustomed honesty and candour the European establishment in 2013 drew up a draft treaty, produced by the Spinelli Group. Then, on 22 June 2015 it published the Five Presidents' report on completing Economic and Monetary Union. This strategy was confirmed again in the Commission President's State of the European Union Report in September 2015, with the promise of a White Paper in the Spring of 2017.

Therefore, it is not a question of whether, but of when these changes are made. In short, the Five Presidents' Report sets out an action plan for pooling sovereignty in the 19 Eurozone countries based on economic, financial, banking, fiscal, and capital markets union with all of these unions taking place at once. This plan is underway now to finally move to "political union" at the latest by 2025. From then on, the EU will be new country, one which we cannot possibly join.

Despite this, Theresa May is arguing that we should stay in the EU. Her one concession is to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), thereby exposing an inherent contradiction.

Currently, the ECHR is incorporated into the EU acquis by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is binding on EU institutions and enforced by the ECJ. On that basis, the only way completely to get clear of the ECHR is to leave the EU entirely. Mrs May is on the wrong side.

Another one on the wrong side is Dominic Raab. This man is supposedly a "leave" campaigner, yet is arguing that we could need a visa "or some other kind of check" to travel to continental Europe after Brexit. He says the issue would be a matter for post-withdrawal negotiations with the EU, but could not be ruled out if Britain wanted more secure borders.

This reveals an inherent incoherence in the official "leave" campaign which fails to understand that freedom of movement pre-dates the EU. That, post-Brexit, we would need visas to travel to France and other European countries is doubtless unacceptable to the majority. The idea could be a deal breaker.

But the incoherence gets worse as Michael Gove in The Times comes up with something truly bizarre even for Vote Leave. After we vote to leave, he says, "we will need to discuss new arrangements between Britain and the EU". At that point, he argues, "The other countries will know that until a deal which suits us is reached we still retain a veto over their plans. So that gives us all the cards".

What he seems to have in mind is a weary variation of the Thatcher "handbag" ploy, where the UK attains its preferred deal by threatening to withhold consent for a new treaty.

This was precisely what David Cameron had in mind in the 2013 Bloomberg speech. But it didn't work then and it won't work now. Hugo Dixon suggests in the Telegraph that the EU would gang up against us, but there is an even more brutal fact than that.

Simply, the UK is caught in the two-year Article 50 period, in which it must either come to an agreement or seek the unanimous consent of the "colleagues" for extra time.

Says Dixon, it is politically fanciful to suppose that we could vote to leave and then sit in European meetings year after year trying to sabotage our partners' efforts. Once we had triggered Article 50, our backs would be against the wall and not until Brexit was complete would the EU begin the process of agreeing a new treaty, when the UK no longer had a vote, much less a veto.

After all the years we have been considering Brexit, therefore, it seems that the so-called "big hitters" are only now beginning to think of how to approach the issue, and going through all the tired old arguments, without beginning to address the real world problems. They are fumbling the pass, both sides totally out of their depths.

One bright point to emerge, though, is that Mr Obama's intervention seems to have been counter-productive. It seems 29 percent are less likely to vote for "remain", up 12 percent on the figure before the President intervened, against 22 percent more likely, down three percent. The majority, 49 percent, are unchanged.

Another small glimmer is that King's College has withdrawn an invitation to Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson from him to speak at the College the right thing for almost certainly the wrong reasons. But any reduction in the opportunities this man gets to speak publicly can only be a good thing. 

We need to be grateful for those small mercies, however they come to us.