The Australian High Commissioner backs Brexit

The original article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 17th December

Australia is backing Brexit Britain all the way – ALEXANDER DOWNER

As the UK leaves the EU, our two nations will grow close again to promote our shared values and interests. I am not the first member of my family to serve as Australian High Commissioner to the UK.

My father held the position between 1964 and 1972. You will understand the significance of that period. For the past few years of his posting my father argued, sometimes acrimoniously, with the British government about the damage the UK’s terms of accession to the EEC – as it was then called – would do to Australia.

Over four decades later I am talking somewhat more amiably with Whitehall about the consequences for Australia of Britain’s departure from the EU. So there you have it. Britain’s adventure in the EU has been bookended by the Downer family. Let’s be frank. (We Australians do frank quite well.) My father’s generation was deeply hostile to Britain abandoning those Commonwealth countries which had stood by her in her darkest hour. In two world wars, New Zealand, Australia and Canada – with India, South Africa and other members of the then Empire – sent thousands upon thousands of troops, airmen and sailors to help save Britain from the Germans. And during the Second World War, following the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore in 1941, we Australians also had to deal with the Japanese on our doorstep.

Despite this sacrifice, the attitude of the Heath government in the Seventies was “So what?” Government is about the national interest, not emotion. Britain had to make its future in Europe and we could make our futures somewhere else. So our dairy, horticultural, beef and lamb exports were largely replaced by imports from the EU and our citizens were sent to the “Others” queue at Heathrow. Doug Anthony, the then deputy prime  minister, was so incensed that he abandoned his lifelong support for the Queen in Australia and joined the republican movement.

As for my father, he finished his term in London three months before the Act of Accession came into force. He left London a sad man. I remember standing with him at the Menin Gate looking at the thousands of Australian names inscribed there. With tears in his eyes he denounced Roy Jenkins for saying he had no time for kith and kin politics. For my generation of Australians, it’s different. We haven’t had the wartime experiences of our parents and grandparents. Britain long ago withdrew from what was called East of Suez and while we and the Americans fought communism in South-East Asia, after the Sixties Britain largely abandoned that task. Britain threw its lot in with Europe.

I was the Australian foreign minister for nearly 12 years. Not once in that period did a British foreign secretary visit Australia. But instead of sulking, we’ve been forging new markets in Asia and North America. It’s been hard going but we’ve stuck at it, securing free trade agreements with the US, the major economies of north Asia including China and with much of South East Asia. I can immodestly say we’ve done well. Politically, we’ve built fruitful relations with the Asean countries, we’ve forged strong ties with China, Japan and Korea and are building a multidimensional and vibrant relationship with
India.

Yet clever foreign policymakers know that in the era of globalisation, significant countries like Australia and the UK have global interests, not just regional interests. And in recent years our relationship has started to flourish again. Both of us have realised we can help each other, whether it’s militarily in Afghanistan or politically in institutions like the UN. We think alike on most of the great issues facing the world so it makes sense to reinforce each other when we can.

Now the world has changed again. The British people have voted to leave the EU. Had he lived until June 23 2016, my father would have been so pleased. An emotional man, tears would have come to his eyes. His son is something else. I do have a heart, of course. But my head said that Britain’s departure from the EU would damage the EU: it would blow a hole in the EU’s budget and the EU would lose a member with substantial strategic reach and awesome soft power. And that would not be in Australia’s interests, which are best served by a strong UK and a strong EU.

Nevertheless, once decisions are made, it is better to look to the future. So for our part, we are encouraging the UK and the EU quickly to establish a new, mutually beneficial relationship that sustains the economies and global influence of both. We are also keen to strike a free-trade agreement with the UK. That shouldn’t be too hard to do because we are like-minded free traders who know that protectionism makes people poorer and costs jobs.

Finally, we have another hope: that Britain will continue to recognise it is a global power with global responsibilities, not just a regional player. If it does so, this will mean Australia and the UK finding yet more ways to work together to promote the values and objectives we share. We’ll never recreate the era my father mourned, nor should we aspire to; but we should be able to do something special all the same.

Trading with Canada – the EFTA angle

Mrs May is keeping her cards close to her chest regarding the sort of post-Brexit relationship she is seeking with the EU. Of course, there has been much intense and often ill-informed speculation in the media, which (in our opinion) is better ignored.

Occasionally, however, she or one of her team lets slip the occasional clue. It looks highly likely that the “WTO option” alias “Hard Brexit” is a non-starter.  In an exchange between the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week, Mrs May said, “We’re going to deliver the best possible deal for trade in goods and services with and operation within the European Union, and we’re going to deliver an end to free movement.” A couple of days later, Greg Clark, the Business Secertary, told Andrew Marr that “our objective would be to ensure continued access to the markets in Europe and vice versa, without tariffs and without bureaucratic impediments.”

The obvious assumption is that some form of continuing membership of the European Economic Area is envisaged, either by re-joining EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, or by a one-off arrangment whereby the UK, as a current participant in the Single Market, will be allowed to continue to be a member of it after we leave the EU. Either way, once outside the EU, like Liechtenstein, we can avail ourselves of Article 112 of the EEA agreement and restrict freedom of movement by EU nationals into the UK.

This seems to be the direction in which Mrs May intends to take us. The decision of Nissan to produce two new models at its Sunderland plant points strongly towards some form of continued membersip of the EEA. The complexities of the supply chain, to which Greg Clark referred during his interview with Andrew Marr, are such that, without a guarantee that there would be no disruption, Toyota would have not made this commitment. As state aid – in the shape of compensation for loss of single market access – is ruled out by WTO  rules,  this once again points to some sort of continued access to the single market being Mrs May’s objective.

This, of course, has been a divisive issue among Brexit supporters. Ironically, if the government formally announces that this is the plan, it will bring our side closer together for no leave supporter views access to the single market, whether or not via EFTA membership, as anything other than a short-term holding position – to get us through the Brexit door without  disruption to trade. We all want a looser arrangement in the longer term.

However, EFTA membership would raise a number of interesting points. Firstly, EFTA already has a trade deal with Canada,  It is a much less contentious arrangement that the CETA deal between Canada and the EU. While all relevant parties have now signed the CETA deal, it is not yet in force and by the time it is fully implemented, we may well be on the way out. Signficantly, there has been objections from a few EU leaders to the idea of the UK automatically being able to “piggyback” onto trade deals to which it signed up as an EU member state.

As far as CETA is concerned, re-joining EFTA would not only cirumvent this problem, but would be a much better outsome, as the EFTA-Canada deal has a much simpler disputes system. Each party will nominate one person who is impartial, then they agree on a third person who will be the President of the tribunal, and the case is then heard. If this doesn’t work, the WTO arbitration process kicks in. All in all, this deal is much less likely to see our elected government sued by predatory multinationals. Anti-CETA campaigners should read more about the EFTA-Canada deal. Unfortunately, those who have e-mailed me about the subject do not seem to have EFTA on their radars at all. 

Of course, EFTA has suffered from a low profile for many years. Apart from Liechtenstein, which joined in 1991, no other country has become an EFTA member since 1970. The organisation has lost member after member to the EU and has had to accept underdog status in its dealings with the EU. It now has only 4 members as opposed to the 28 member states of the EU. Iceland, which currently holds the EFTA presidency, has expressed its support for the UK rejoining. “The EFTA countries might make an agreement with the UK,” said Iceland’s Foreign Minister Lilja Alfredsdottir. “We are chairing the EFTA right now and I put it as a priority to analyse the possibilities that EFTA had on this front.

Of course, the UK’s re-accession to EFTA would tip the balance slightly. It would still be much smaller than the EU, but the additional presence of a heavyweight European nation would certainly give he organisation some extra clout. More importantly, it would put EFTA back in the spotlight, which could be something of a worry to the EU. Would applicant countries like Serbia, Montenegro or even Turkey start to weigh the two options of EFTA or EU membership and decide that, even if they would not be bribed with further EU funds,  preserving their political freedom by joining an organisation that is committed to trade and not political integration might be a better bet? What about Sweden and Denmark, who may be tempted to follow us out of the Brexit door?

Back in the 1980s, Jacques Delors envisioned the EU and EFTA states as working in cooperation as partners in a “European village”, which in due course became the European Economic Area (EEA) alis the Single Market. However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were fears that if joint decision making between the EU and EFTA was to be implemented,  the newly-independent nations of Central and Eastern Europe may plump for EFTA rather than the EU, which the EU hierarchy was none too keen on. The EU therefore had to be the lead partner and EFTA subordinate in the EEA. With EFTA still draining members to the EU in the 1990s, it had little choice in the matter. 

Now, however, Brexit has dealt a hammer blow to the credibility of the entire EU project at what was already a difficult time.  It has also put the final nail in the coffin as far as any hopes that existing EFTA members might leave it and join the EU. Making the EU more attractive than EFTA may have been a simple job in the early 1990s; the UK rejoining EFTA after Brexit in a couple of years’ time would lead to a very different perception of the situation.

Of course, to repeat, the EEA or indeed EFTA is not a long-term arrangement for the UK. Ideally, what is needed is a continent-wide free trade agreement – one without the baggage of CETA or TTIP – which would replace the EEA, probably EFTA too and would only include free movement of capital, goods and services like any normal free trade agreement. This is a long-term goal around which all Brexit supporters could unite.  In the short term however, EFTA, while far from perfect, may prove a valuable tool for tipping the balance of influence in Europe away from Brussels, which would be no bad thing.

(with thanks to Hugo van Randwyck for details about the EFTA/Canada FTA)

Virtue Signalling & Democracy versus Populism

One of the most nauseating features of the post referendum period is the effortless assumption of superiority by those who lost the vote. They are, they maintain, the educated people, the successful people, the outward-looking liberal people, the idealistic young and the truly compassionate. The European Union, they believe, is an institution which affirms all those values and reinforces their already exceedingly good opinion of themselves.

They are, of course, in favour of democracy – after all, the EU has its own elected parliament where the peoples’ voices are heard! But when the people vote against this wonderful European construct, that decision is not democracy but populism. Then the voice of the people must either be disregarded completely or they must be made to vote again until they come to their senses and conform to the pattern of the benevolent EU project.

After all, the voters of France, the Netherlands and Ireland have all had this sort of treatment and quietly resumed happy fulfilled lives within the great harmonious European polity. This has not been done by any external force or coercion but by powerful people within each member state who have given their first loyalty and duty to the European Union above that which ordinary people owe to their own country. One of their most vigorous advocates is a Mr. Westerman who writes to papers all over the place from his home in Wales. On October 28, I responded to a letter of his in the Derby Telegraph where he had made such assertions.

C.N. Westerman brackets Nigel Farage with the late British fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley. (“Populism in politics can arrest critical thinking” October 24).

This is most misleading as Sir Oswald was a keen advocate of European union, which Nigel Farage certainly is not.

Euro-fanatic Kenneth Clarke twice invited Sir Oswald to address the Cambridge University Conservatives while another then student, Michael Howard, resigned in protest. Perhaps we should not read too much into the genial Clarke’s youthful enthusiasm.

While the European project drew on many ideological sources, including Christian Democracy (Konrad Adenauer), Socialism (Paul Henri Spaak) and Communism (Altiero Spinelli), there is no doubt of the transfer of Nazi principles and personalities to the post war era.

For years I puzzled over the origin of the EU’s biggest project, the Common Agricultural Policy. It was so grotesquely bureaucratic and alien to the common sense system we had before, I just could not place the ideology behind it.

It was not until 2002 when someone sent me a German book, “European Economic Community”, that I knew beyond reasonable doubt. It was a collection of papers by senior figures in government, industry, diplomacy and academia, published in Berlin in 1942.

I translated the lead paper * by Walther Funk, Reichsminister for the Economy and President of the Reichsbank. Apart from uncomplimentary references to Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt, there is hardly anything in it which has not come out of the European Commission and European Movement in the last fifty years. The similarities are just too many to be merely coincidental.

The first President of the European Commission, Dr. Hallstein, was previously member of the “National Socialist League of Protectors of the Law” and addressed a Nazi rally in early 1939 on unifying the legal system in territories under German control. Much of his post war activity was spent in “harmonising” the legal systems of EU member states.

Perhaps one reason people think politicians of the main parties are “all the same” arises from their leaders, until recently, all being enthusiasts in the common cause of subjection to the EU – effectively a one-party state with a deceptive choice of flavours.”

So the “nice” people don’t look quite so nice now, do they? Kenneth Clarke was fascinated by Mosley and fascism as a young man and certainly retains Mosley’s euro-fanaticism. Clarke hoped to see the day when Parliament was reduced to a mere “council chamber in Europe” – and he could have become Prime Minister. Just imagine the fuss, if somebody of his background had been prominent in the independence movement!

The Nazis, of course, were heirs to earlier German plans for domination of Europe. On 9th September 1914 the First World War was over a month old and the Imperial German Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg, thought he had better get some war aims. Here is an excerpt from his memo.

Russia must be thrust back as far as possible from Germany’s Eastern frontier and her domination over non-Russian vassal peoples broken…..We must create a Central European Economic Association through common customs treaties to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary and perhaps Italy, Sweden and Norway.

The association will not have any common constitutional supreme authority and all members will be formally equal but in practice under German leadership and must stabilise Germany’s economic dominance over central Europe”.

The unique thing about the EU is the addition of that “common constitutional supreme authority” –  the EU Commission – the true legacy of Monnet, Schuman & Co. It has not prevented the continuing “Drang nach Osten” – the process of EU enlargement to the East in the interests of German economic domination. The proxy wars in former Yugoslavia in the Nineties and in the Ukraine today testify to that and also give the lie to the EU’s myth of uniquely peaceful intent. Few people realise that British soldiers are already stationed in the Ukraine – effectively to defend Germany’s sphere of influence.

The peace of Europe would be much better secured if the German ruling class forgot expansionism – even if it is wrapped in an EU flag- and recalled Bismarck’s great dictum on foreign policy. “First make a good treaty with Russia”.

* To get the full translation Google “The European Union’s Evil Pedigree” . This is on the website www.freenations.net .

Brexit – the mood at grassroots level eight weeks on

Away from the debate between politicians, businessmen and campaigners  about the best exit route, eight weeks after the memorable result of June’s referendum, life for ordinary people has settled down remarkably quickly.

In fact, it soon became apparent within a matter of days after June 23rd that life was carrying on as normal for much of the country. I recall a trip to London during the final week of June.  Walking down the south bank of the Thames, it struck me how little effect the referendum result  was having on day to day life. A long queue of people of all nationalities were waiting to buy tickets to the London Eye and the restaurants were full – in fact, my train home was even fuller! In short, you wouldn’t have thought we had just taken a major political decision only a few days ago.

Initial statistics suggest that life did indeed carry on much as normal during the first full month after the Brexit vote.  The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits fell by 8,600 in July. It had been expected to rise by around 9,000. The fall was the first since February this year. Other data showed that the employment rate in the UK reached a record high of 74.5% between April and June this year. Retail sales also grew by 1.4% during the month. The vote to leave the EU has not deterred people from spending money.  Furthermore, for all the uncertainly generated by David Cameron’s decision to call the referendum, London attracted more venture capital for start-ups than other major European cities. According to an article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, it attracted €1.5bn in the first half of the year, well ahead of its nearest rivals Stockholm (€1bn), Paris (€674m), and Berlin (€520m).

Significantly. although the rate of UK consumer price inflation jumped to 0.6% in the year to July followin the Brexit vote, it was only slightly up on the 0.5% recorded in March and still well below the 1% threshold which triggers a letter from the governor of the Bank of England to the Chancellor explaining why inflation is so far below the 2% target!

BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interesting programme on Wednesday Evening where two groups of people from the most pro-leave and the most pro-remain areas of the UK met in separate rooms to discuss their feelings following the Brexit vote. Two Rooms, hosted by Fi Glover,  was another fascinating insight into how quickly life has settled down. The leavers, from Boston, Lincolnshire, were the more optimistic of the two groups, expressing great hopes especially for the UK’s trade prospects. The remainers, from Brixton in South London, talked of their shock when the result was announced. They were concerned about possible loss of access to the single market and expected an economic downturn.

Both groups,  however, accepted the result. Indeed, one person used the phrase “now we’ve left”, even though we haven’t even invoked Article 50 let alone come out the other end! Interestingly, both groups saw Brexit as a long overdue opportunity to re-boot our democracy and to decentralise power to a local level. For all the initial horror of some Brixtonian remainers, there were no calls for a second referendum. They may not have wanted a leave vote, but Brexit as far as they were concrned means Brexit.

Such attitudes at the grassroots level should not come as a shock. For four month’s David Cameron’s decison to call the referendum  thrust the issue of EU membership into a prominence it had never previously enjoyed.  A year ago, just before the General election, a survey by YouGov placed “Europe” as far down as 7th in its list of voters’ priority issues, well behind housing, welfare and health. Anyone who has ever stood as a UKIP candidate will have known the frustration that in general elections, the EU was never widely viewed as the most important factor in determining how people would vote.  After its moment in the spotlight, it is therefore unsurpisingly again receding into the background.

But not totally. News that over a million Eastern European migrants are now working in the UK will have served as a reminder to some people why they voted to leave, while the Daily Express has unearthed another story which will raise plenty of hackles:- a German-based agency called medaltracker.eu whose data is used by offical EU websites, has published a chart showing that the greatest number of medals in the Rio Olympics has been won by the EU! Nowhere is the UK to  be seen, which is  particularly galling considering the tremendous performances by Team GB. It seems that the Brexit vote has done nothing to change the mindset of the EU élite who opened a museum four years ago costing £44 million and called the “House of European History” which calls the Second World War a “civil war“, in spite of quite a bit of the action taking place in North Africa and the Far East

While it seems impossible to change this very selective and bizarre interpretation of history, hopefully, if our government and Civil Service can get their act together, by the time the 2020 Olympics begin in Tokyo, “now we’ve left” really will mean “now we’ve left” and the likes of Medaltracker will not be able to repeat their insult to our heroic athletes.

 

 

Schengen’s flaws are challenging the EU project as never before

The EU has traditionally excelled at using crises for its own ends  – in other words, to further integration. The flawed €uro project, which set interest rates for the benefit of Germany but not the Medterranean nations, is a classic example. The tragic recessions in Greece, Spain and elsewhere have provided the impetus for another treaty designed to surrender fiscal sovereignty of the €urozone member states and thus move an EU inner core closer to becoming a federal superstate. Even though treaty plans currently seem to be dormant, they are still on the longer-term agenda.

The flood of refugees into Europe, however, is proving challenging, not only in and of itself but also as far as turning it into a beneficial crisis is concerned. Member states are unilaterally reimposing border controls – in other words, pushing back the integration process. There is provision under the Schengen agreement for a temporal reimposition of borders in the event of an emergency, so putting back border controls isn’t necessarily breaking the rules,  but the migrant crisis has struck deeper into the heart of the European project than anything else for many years.

You can now find articles disussing the possiblility of ending the Schengen agreement altogether. The writer of the article in the link, like others, says that the implications of such a move for the whole EU project would be immense.  He does go on to say, however, that it probably won’t happen

For such optimists, a report by Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, will not make happy reading.  Frontex officials warned a that ‘staggering’ number of European citizens had become jihadists and were taking advantage of lax border controls. The organisation also stated that it had no idea how many illegal immigrants had entered the EU.

So far, concerns over these issues – or indeed, the aftermath  of the Brussels bombings – have not shifted poblic opinion in the UK towards withdrawal.  While most of those for whom migration is an issue are firmly on-side already, one might have expected the desire to distance ourselves from terrorists on the Continent to have helped some wavering voters make their minds up.

What may help provide a more favourable backdrop for the debate is the growing disillusion with the whole European project elsewhere. It’s not just open borders and immigration. Today the Dutch are holding a referendum  on a proposed pact betwen the EU and Ukraine, which is viewed by both sides as a prelimiary move towards Ukrainian membership. Expansion fatigue has been a factor in many older EU countries for many years, but without further expansion on the horizon to encourage the masses that the EU is marching ever forward, the threat of stagnation – and indeed of implosion – of the EU increases. The referendum is non-binding, but a “no” vote will send another powerful signal  to Brussels that disillusion with le grand projet is not confined to the UK.

The debate in this country appears to have moved on from the days when we were told that a UK withdrawal could see the whole EU project undermined. This is a shame as it can be so easily countered. The EU is already showing signs of fracture and UK withdrawal could prove the best way to achieve a peaceful dismemberment, rather than the disorderly collapses that has brought to an end many multinational entities from the Roman Empire through to the Soviet Union.

In other words, if the UK votes to withdraw from the EU, to quote William Pitt, “England has saved herself by her exertions and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example”

A good letter in the Daily Mail – EU coverage on the BBC

We have received a number of comments about media bias in the EU debate. This letter from Journalist Tony Slinn was sent to the Daily Mail and superbly debunks many of the myths being peddled by the “remain” camp.

 

Dear Editor

I timed the BBC in/out EU coverage on News at Ten tonight (02 Mar.2016)—two full minutes for stay-in, complete with sophisticated infographics, and just 40 seconds for such a distinguished man as Lord Lamont arguing out … with no infographics and, as usual, curtailed.

That’s a distinct 3 to 1 bias.

As a former maritime editor (Lloyds Register/IHS Maritime, now retired) I am very familiar with the power of infographics. Those shown by the BBC failed totally to register ANY realistic numbers regarding tariffs, just ticks and crosses with no supporting info.

If you want realistic numbers, read Dominic Lawson’s well-researched and sober column from Monday’s Daily Mail. I quote: “The average weighted tariff on goods from outside the Single Market is 3.5%. That’s much less than the currency fluctuation that exists between Sterling and the €uro.”

Precisely.

Back when, I voted for the European Economic Community (EEC), not the EU. Why? Because I believe that trade is the way to closer understanding between peoples. Not politics nor religion, both of which have so often led us along the path of war for no good reason – the Mail’s current look at the Blair years, and what they’ve led us to, amply bears that out.

Also not because of the oft-quoted argument that the ‘EU’ has ‘preserved peace in Europe’—that’s just nonsense. Peace was protected when in 1949, the year I was born, NATO was also born via the Washington Treaty, signed by the most undamaged country (from WWII) and world power, the USA, along with Canada and ten Western European states—Britain, France, the Benelux countries, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Portugal. The key feature of that pact is a mutual defence clause: if one country is attacked, the others will come to its defence.

Key point: absolutely NO mention of an EEC or, heaven forbid, an EU: the former didn’t happen for 12 years.

The EEC? Spin forward those 12 years to 1957 and the Treaty of Rome – just six members who set up the European Economic Community that aimed to create: “A common market, a customs union, plus free movement of capital and labour”. To please France, it also promised subsidies to farmers, a burden most other EU nations suffer today.

No mention of any ‘defence’, so who did what to protect Europe in the years after 1945 and whenever the EEC/EU thought about it?

Please…

The road to today’s UK in/out vote began when Britain applied for EEC membership in 1961 – I remember it well; I thought it was a good idea and voted ‘yes’. French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed our membership in 1963. De Gaulle refused to back the UK’s application because: “The British government lacks commitment to European integration” (my italics).

If only we had!

Hang on, wasn’t it the ‘EEC’ we thought we were voting for? Who mentioned the ‘EU’? Certainly not Prime Minister Ted Heath who stated in 1972: “There are some in this country who fear that going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say,
are completely unjustified.”

It was not until 1973 that Britain (along with Denmark and Ireland) joined. By that time, seeing what the so-called EEC was all about, the Norwegians were bright enough to reject it in a referendum later in the year.

Slice by thinly cut and mostly unnoticed slice, the unelected bureaucrats within the European Commission slashed away democracy and achieved victory in 1991—the Maastricht treaty turned the EEC into the EU. It also paved the way for the disastrous €uro monetary union.

Happily, sense prevailed in the UK, we still have the pound not the €uro— just wait until Greece collapses again.

That treaty even includes a chapter on ‘social policy’, as if we’re all the same. Maggie Thatcher, as the Mail recently revealed and despite claims ‘agin it’, saw the dangers.

The UK negotiated a sort-of opt-out (anyone remember what?). But the treaty also introduced European citizenship, giving Europeans the right to live and vote in elections in any EU country, and launched European co-operation in foreign affairs, security, asylum, and immigration. As we can all see today, that’s really worked well.

Of course, Ted Heath’s lies, to quote the Daily Mail of December 2012, had: “Scarcely been mentioned at the previous General Election, and the British people had very little idea of what they were letting themselves in for, other than a trading arrangement that might make it easier for us to sell our goods to our Continental neighbours”.

In February 2014 the Daily Mail revealed the real truth, quoting unelected European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding: “Britons are too ignorant about Europe to vote in a referendum on the subject.”

The British debate about Europe is so distorted, she said, “that people could not make an informed decision about whether or not to stay in the EU.”

Hmmmm… ignorant? Sovereignty?

As Mrs Reding boasted: “70% of the UK’s laws are made in Brussels”. And she also rubbished David Cameron’s bid to curb immigration from Europe, saying it was incompatible with membership of the EU.

So much for that then.

Finally, what about me? I’m for a greater-Europe trade organisation, but totally against the EU. It’s not just the scandalous waste of money or corruption—auditors have refused to sign off EU accounts for 20 years running—but argue as Cameron and others will, it’s nonsense to try and create a homogenised federal ‘Unites States of Europe’.

We’re too old, have too many bad memories, too many suspicions, even too many prejudices, and too many laws that divide not just our sovereign nations, but each other.

The way forward is trade. It’s travel. It’s not mass numbers, it’s getting to know one another on a one-to-one basis that includes respecting the assorted religions we all have. If you like, it’s humanism, which has no place in the barbarity too often inflicted because you think your God or your political belief system is different or superior to mine.

That’s what the EU lacks. You can’t drive people together through politics or religion. Better you come together over a cup of coffee across a table and strike an honest deal, regardless of whether you sell a donkey or a car, that it’s on a national scale, cross-border, or global.

I look forward to that day, though at 67 I doubt I’ll live to see it, along with the end of regional wars that have displaced so many unfortunate people in the name of some-or-other religious, political or regional belief.

I also look forward to the collapse of the EU bureaucracy, the realisation that in the end, democracy with all its faults is really the only system worth living under. And the hopefully assured ‘out’ vote in June that will restore sanity not just to the UK, but to Europe.

I look forward to peaceful global trade that will let me visit those fascinating parts of my planet I’ve still to see, but which live under the threat of people with guns killing mostly innocent civilians for the sake of some God or some political belief.

Above all, I live in hope.

As so often in the past, Britain needs to lead—others will eventually see sense.

Yours sincerely

Tony Slinn

Maritime Journalist, NUJ member

Photo by stephen.spillane