Sunday, October 11, 2015

EU In/Out Referendum. Introductory thoughts.

Today, I have absolutely no idea how I will vote in 2017 (if that be the date). In 1975 I knew my mind. I wanted Out of the European Economic Community. I was a young fellow and it was first big political issue I took an interest in. Contrary to what many 'outers' say today, my antipathy was because I thought then it to be the first step to a European 'superstate' - a huge undemocratic self-serving buearocracy. This stuff about 'Ever closer Union' not being what we signed up for is tosh. Prime Minister Heath, who took us into the EEC was pretty clear about it. It's what we 'outers' in 1975 based our campaign on. And after much public debate, we were trounced. The British people bought into it big-time.  

The position today is that there is a renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU underway. When it's done, the Prime Minister will put his newly negotiated terms to the British people. No doubt the new terms of membership will be presented as a great success for Britain. No doubt France and Germany will be helpfully outraged by how good a deal the UK has won. At present, we cannot decide because we don't know what the options on the table will be. At least I cannot decide. There are far too many questions up in the air to decide whether to vote In or Out. We simply do not have the information we need. 

However, today's Telegraph claims to know the four demands the Prime Minister is making of our EU partners. Don't know how accurate this is, but let's consider them. Firstly, there's the idea of  "an explicit statement" declaring that Britain will be kept out of any move towards a European superstate. Inevitably, the question will be how secure such a statement can or will be. I think a few of us will take some convincing that this delivers much at all! But cannot disagree with this.

Secondly, there's the idea of another "specific statement" making clear that the Euro is not the official currency of the EU. Must admit it never occurred to me that it was or would be. I did not realise we needed a "specific statement" to prevent us being forced to join the Euro. I thought we were in the realms of "Never will".! Cannot disagree with this 'aim' though.

Thirdly, there's an idea involving 'red cards' to bring power back from Brussels to Britain - or at least stop new powers being forced upon us against our will. This is very "broad brush", though I do think it's in the area of reform I'd like to see. I expect there to be much debate about what this actually means.

And fourthly, there must be arrangements agreed which will stop Eurozone countries from shafting the City of London, and other matters impacting on non-Eurozone countries. Again this is a policy direction that I suspect most British people would support. But a lot more detail is going to be needed to satisfy British people it's meaningful change.

There's no reference to treaty change which would give legal backing to any of this. And no reference to border controls, which seems to be the issue most exercising the UK population at present. And that seems to be it, as far as a Telegraph front page is concerned. Perhaps there's a strategy afoot to lower expectations! 

Until recently,  I've felt that the people of the UK would vote to remain part of the EU. I'm not so sure today, and becoming increasingly unsure by the day. Especially when I read in today's media that three former prime ministers are lining up on the 'In' side without knowing the terms on offer. In the current X-factor world of politics, this seems to me to be a significant boost for the 'Out' side. 

Now this post is no more than a few initial thoughts on what will be the biggest decision of this Parliament. Not sure this is of much interest to anyone but blogging helps me to arrange my random thoughts in some sort of order. The referendum is a massive deal for the UK and for Europe. I expect to be commenting again on this issue over the next two years.

1 comment:

IanJ said...

My default position is probably for "in" because I tend to think that we gain more than people recognise through trade and common-ish standards. We also don't need to employ as many people in jobs that exist purely to add cost (e.g. customs)

Still, I won't make up my mind until the changes (if any) are known, and if the Telegraph were to be right about them - then the Prime Minister would be an idiot.