I don’t think there was anyone who ever actually thought that David Cameron would return empty-handed from his so-called negotiations with what he likes to call “our European partners”.
He was always going to adopt the Blue Peter strategy and have a, “here’s one I prepared earlier” option to put on the table whenever Donald Tusk, president of the European Council (one of those fancy pants positions we were assured during the 1975 referendum wouldn’t ever exist!), waggled his finger or shook his head.
Cameron doesn’t want to leave the European Union. He was never going to lead a Leave campaign. He has spent the past few months visiting EU leaders and begging them to give him something, anything in fact, that he could sell as a success.
All that stuff from him over the weekend – “I don’t love Brussels” – was pure nonsense. He may as well have said I don’t love cabbage or carrots.
Cameron’s problem is that he has flirted with Eurosceptism since he became leader, just to keep backbenchers and grassroots quiet; but he has always been a Europhile. He didn’t want a referendum and only offered one to throw a spanner into Ukip’s campaign. He truly dreads a vote in favour of Brexit: understandably so, because he wouldn’t have a clue what to do afterwards.
Yet all he has produced is the granny flat solution. We remain in, but on our own terms, or so he thinks. And while the other members do their own thing on currency, adding to the overall membership, building an ever-closer union, reaching collective agreements on foreign policy et al, what do we do?
We were assured in 1975 that red tape wouldn’t increase; that there wouldn’t be a single currency; that the Euro Parliament wouldn’t interfere in domestic affairs; that there wouldn’t be the building of a super state; that there wouldn’t be what amounted to EU foreign policy; that national sovereignty wouldn’t be swallowed up; and that the United Kingdom’s rights as a nation state would always be protected.
Yet time after time a UK prime minister (Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron) has had to trot over and rearrange or renegotiate because something that wasn’t supposed to have happened has happened.
And it will continue to happen because at the heart of the EU project is a desire to continue building and consolidate super state structures. It has been a work in progress since the mid-1960s and it will not stop.
The UK will not stop it and if we remain – as I suspect we’ll be suckered and scared into doing – then we’ll sit in our granny flat while the Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dem and Scottish Nationalist parties develop a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Meaning that we’ll reach the point at which either we can’t leave, or the super state builders at the heart of the EU will have so weakened and emasculated us that they won’t give a toss if we leave.
And isn’t is interesting that the anti-Brexit lobby is now peddling the line that leaving the EU will hasten the break-up of the United Kingdom. Seriously! Does anyone really think that staying in will silence the SNP demands for independence, or dissuade Sinn Fein from trying to win its own border poll campaign further down the line? Of course it won’t: so please, please don’t play that card.
Yet the oddest thing is that after 43 years of membership and 41 years since the 1975 referendum, the In campaign seems to have extraordinary difficulty in setting out a glowing vision of the EU project. They seem really pushed to come up with the sort of evidence that should make the case for them.
But Cameron spent most of Saturday and Sunday rubbishing the Leave campaign rather than setting out his personal vision for the future of the EU. Oh, that’s right, he can’t do that, because so weak is his position that his price for remaining is sidelining the UK in the granny flat and pretending he can ignore the things he doesn’t like. Why didn’t he just come out of the closet, so to speak, and tell us what he really believes?
Here’s the question for Cameron: why do millions of UK citizens – and this was long before the refugee crisis (and I’m not happy that EU membership is being linked to that issue) – not like the EU or recognise the supposed benefits? We have to stay in for ‘security’ reasons. We have to stay in to ‘better protect’ our own borders. We have to stay in because ‘it’s a tough world outside the EU’. We have to stay in because of ‘all the financial benefits flowing from the EU’ – even though it’s actually our own money coming back. We have to stay in because ‘we’d have to negotiate new trade deals’. Dear me, how did we ever survive before 1972?
I would have preferred an unambiguous in/out debate, not a manufactured debate built on Cameron’s ‘better deal’. But we’re not going to get that debate: all we’ll get is a ding-dong between opposing camps trying to scare the bejabbers out of the voters. But here’s the fundamental question: why are we in the European Union? It’s not what we joined in 1972 or endorsed in 1975. It’s not just about trade, business, currency and immigrants. There are many big questions to be addressed – but we’re not addressing them. I will vote to leave because I believe the EU is taking us somewhere we do not need to go.