The same spurious argument keeps turning up like a bad euro

Those of you who have earned my gratitude by reading this blog regularly have seen me make the same counter-argument over and over.

Reiteration is of course the essential tool of polemics, just as repetition is the mother of learning, but excessive repetitiveness can become very boring indeed. Hence I generally tend to eschew it, and would do so in this instance – except that the idiot fringe keeps mouthing the same nonsense in exactly the same words. The best one can do in reply is to paraphrase one’s own response, without changing its essence.

Here is the nonsense popping up in today’s Telegraph, this time enunciated by Andrew Gilligan. The opening passages of his article The EU: Where Did It All Go Wrong? show an unfortunate tendency towards platitudinous thinking, but at least they are broadly correct.

Gilligan comments on our economic grievances against the EU and by and large he doesn’t say anything objectionable. The gist is that back in the sixties and seventies Europe looked like a good club to join. It was doing so much better than Britain in every economic category that the Brits were losing all national self-confidence. Jumping on the bandwagon seemed like a better idea than being run over by it.

However, things have changed, and the British economy now looks more robust, largely thanks to our staying out of the euro. So it’s only with a jaundiced eye that the Brits look at any attempts to draw the country any deeper into the clutches of the EU.

All this is only partially true, and Gilligan’s forays into economics are too superficial to be utterly convincing. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that he, along with so many others, tries to reduce the whole issue to its economic aspect.

For obvious reasons those residing in the idiot fringe can no longer pretend that the EU is a rip-roaring economic success. But even if it were, and even if further integration would make us prosper beyond Rumpy-Pumpy’s wildest and wettest dreams, I’d still oppose it with the same venom as I do now.

The real argument against the EU is that it is by definition bankrupt historically, philosophically and, above all, morally. It constitutes an attempt by a corrupt, ill-educated, power-hungry and usually marginalised elite to expunge two millennia of European history by destroying everything that has gone into it: religion, culture, nationhood, ethnic differences.

The European slate is supposed to be wiped clean of all those, so that the self-appointed elite can then scribble upon the slate its own subversive message, largely based on the defunct socialist dream of a single world government. A total calamity is the only possible outcome of such an endeavour.

A house built on termite-ridden foundations will ultimately collapse, with an economic decline the most visible but far from the most significant disaster. Reducing the whole cosmic complexity of the disease to its economic symptoms is like using laxatives to treat stomach cancer.

Judging by Mr Gilligan’s corpus of work, he is a man of modest abilities who can’t be expected to grasp any serious issue in all its ramifications. But it shouldn’t be beyond even him not to write the sort of harebrained drivel with which he ends his piece:

‘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.’ This is a rehashing of the idiot fringe’s tired old argument, so I can’t help rehashing my response.

True, if we left the EU, we’d no longer ‘have any role in setting’ its laws. Neither do we have any role in setting the laws or rules governing the USA, China, India, Switzerland, Brazil – in short, all our partners outside the EU that collectively account for 60 percent of our trade. This doesn’t prevent us from doing profitable business with them.

Britain doesn’t have to become America’s 51st state or Switzerland’s 27th canton in order to exchange our whisky and financial services for their computers and wristwatches. Nor do we have to accept foreign, and distinctly alien, laws or God-awful Social Charters in order to trade with the EU. Surely even Andrew Gilligan must see this?

It’s a sorry state of affairs when columnists writing for our supposedly conservative papers fail to understand the elementary truths that even Jacques Delors has got his head around. All knowledge being, according to Aristotle, comparative, my new affection for old Jacques is growing by the minute.

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