I spent last Saturday at a cross-party seminar featuring an alphabet soup of eurosceptic groups, each bristling with passion and leaflets.
Depending on the exact conduit of the passion and content of the leaflets, their ideas varied in detail but they were all united in, well, desperately seeking a referendum. I agreed with some, disagreed with others, but either way it was good to rub shoulders with likeminded individuals.
On Sunday morning we drove from our place in London to chez nous in north Burgundy. The plan was to stop in Paris for an early dinner and then, suitably lubricated, zip through the remaining 120 miles of the journey. That, however, wasn’t to be. North Paris was gridlocked by marchers protesting against same-sex marriage and, well, desperately seeking a referendum. France too has my likeminded individuals, I thought, veering off to Versailles.
Thus both London and Paris can pride themselves on having people who think as I do, albeit on different issues. But there was a salient difference between the two places.
In London my likeminded individuals, about 30 of them, met at a private club, perfectly civilised if fashionably integrated. In Paris my likeminded individuals, between 300,000 (official estimate) and 1,300,000 (unofficial one) of them, were out in the streets, braving police batons and tear gas. Much as I generally prefer the British way of tackling thorny issues, in this instance it was hard to escape the thought that perhaps the French were on to something.
For in both our countries, and possibly the rest of the West, the time for civilised discussion has passed. Those of the seminar attendees who talk about negotiating or renegotiating with the EU are clutching at straws, which as we know constitute the main ingredient of a pie in the sky.
For any negotiation to be meaningful it has to be conducted in good faith. This minimum requirement can never be met when Dave (or any other spivocrat) sits down to talk with Rumpy-Pumpy (or any other eurocrat). The spivocrat would be talking about repatriation of some powers, but his real concern will be the perpetuation of his own power, however curtailed by EU diktats. The eurocrat’s concerns would be essentially similar: the perpetuation and expansion of EU power and derivatively his own.
Cut as they are of the same cloth, the two parties would probably reach an agreement that would have enough PR appeal to mollify the restless natives, while strengthening the spivocrat’s electoral position. He could then do a Neville Chamberlain by stepping off the plane and waving a piece of paper promising something or other in our time.
Both the spivocrat and the eurocrat would know that at best the piece of paper would mean a temporary diversion, a bone tossed to the British electorate off the EU table. The electorate will gnaw on the bone for a while and, when there’s no more gristle left on it, will dump it into the bin on top of other similar bones already piled up.
None of the ideas kicked about at the seminar sounded as if they would work, and indeed their enunciators themselves distinctly lacked conviction. For what is at fault isn’t the transfer of this or that piece of sovereignty from London to Brussels – it’s the cosmic philosophical, moral, and therefore political, shift that made any such transfer possible or indeed thinkable in the first place.
‘Let’s not forget that the EU has done some good things,’ said one of the speakers, he of the Labour persuasion. Well, I for one can’t see a single one, and the venerable gentleman offered nothing to clarify my vision. Even had he done so, by mentioning some minuscule advantage brought by the EU, everyone present would still have agreed that the minuses far outweighed the pluses.
What some of them may not have realised is that the whole weighing exercise is spurious. The problem with the EU isn’t that it’s incompetent and not even that it’s undemocratic – the problem is that it’s based on evil premises, pursues evil ends and employs evil means. It is evil.
Hitler built those autobahns and put Volkswagens on them, Mussolini made the trains run on time, Stalin fixed the price of bread and vodka. Their apologists may mention those achievements till they’re blue in the face, but that would be missing the main point: those men and their regimes were evil. So is the EU.
Its purpose is to throw all European nations into a giant crucible and boil the mix into a uniform stew that would nonetheless accentuate whatever is rancid in each ingredient. The scum, ruthless bureaucrats with totalitarian aspirations, would rise to the surface of the amorphous concoction, and the stew would no longer be visible underneath. The bureaucrats’ power would then solidify for centuries.
Negotiate with this lot? But of course – if what we really want is to hasten their triumph. Munich, Teheran, Yalta, Potsdam (and the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, to mention a more recent example) should all act as reminders that totalitarians can use any treaty, whatever its ostensible content, to advance their own aims.
Nor is there any value to thinking that our self-serving nonentities, all those Cameroons and Milibandits, can possibly get a reasonable deal out of the EU even if – and it’s a massive if – we get a referendum and win it.
If we want Britain to get out of the EU, we must first get that lot out of Westminster. In the absence of any difference, as opposed to distinction, between the two main parties, even millions of votes cast this or that way won’t achieve this aim. But millions of people in the streets might.
Such rallies, ‘manifs’ as the French call them, never happen by themselves – they are carefully planned and meticulously organised. The group now in existence that has the public presence and authority to unite such organisation under its aegis is UKIP, the only one of the four main parties that calls for outright withdrawal from the EU.
The energies of other eurosceptic groups ought to be channelled into either building up the financial, electoral and communication strength of UKIP or coming together into another single group they feel could do the job better.
The chances of UKIP forming a government in the next several parliaments are slim. Its chances of reshuffling the political cards by renationalising the British political discourse are much stronger, and this, as things look now, is our only chance.
There’s so much more I could tell you about this, but I’m pressed for time. There’s a thick wad of leaflets I’ve got to read.