It is so sad to see a cause I believe in very strongly being hijacked by those I dislike. Such a thing has already begun to occur in the up-to-now quite straightforward Eurosceptic camp; back a while ago it was (after the earlier socialist incarnation which hated the idea of freer trade), us verses those who favoured the political union of states, supported by increasing levels of sovereignty erosion and the messy coming together of vastly differing economies under the rule of a single currency. This was backed-up by the inevitable swathes of bureaucracy which haunt such superstates.
We (the free market anti-Europeans) have history on our side, with Paul Kennedy’s monumental book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers providing enough of grounding in the idea that increased state spending and centralisation makes the economy less efficient and leads to decline and eventual fall. This book was even written before the end of the Soviet Union, which proved to be a case in point, with the military-industrial complex of the USSR and the hugely damaging decades of throwing state money at problems which proved to be reasons for its downfall as well as strong evidence for this theory.
None of this evidence has left us, and it is still as true as it ever was, but the new generation of Eurosceptics have taken after the originators, the old socialists who saw any common market as a serious threat to state socialism and to the international metaphors pseudo-communists liked to toss around. Now the major members of anti-European groups want to go back to social conservatism such with less worldwide economic freedoms, without the ability which the single market has provided us of having fewer checks on the movement of capital and labour, and thus a more open and Classically Liberal financial framework. These people want a protectionist, isolated Britain with all of the now famous Mail-reading dislike for immigration, and a new BNP desire to have a cultural hermetic seal on the country.
There were good reasons for people wanting the predecessor of the EU to exist, and the freedom pro-EU supporters have to wheel out those who wanted early co-operation, such as the always-in-the-wings Winston Churchill shows both how ubiquitous the arguments for and against have become and also how those proposing them seem to not understand both the context of this early support and its proponents. There is also a certain irony in both the Pro-Europeans and the sceptics using Churchill for their causes; the former because of his campaigns for European unity and the latter because of his pugnacious Britishness and his perceived nationalism and association with what we see as patriotism.
But both sides have fundamentally got their place on Churchill wrong, and their use of his image and esteemed reputation is not only incorrect, but also shows a strong ignorance of their knowledge of the man, with no real attempt to break through the living barrier of the superficial, both in their mediocre choice of historical figures to use as endorsements, but also the arguments they employ too. Churchill transcended both party politics and also a traditional Left to Right dichotomy. He would have confounded the sceptics by his ever avowed principles to work towards a ‘United States of Europe’ with closer ties to other countries in the hope of building up trust, mutual co-operation and attempting to prevent another war in the region, so soon after the devastating one he had presided over.
But to class him as an out-and-out Europhile is also deeply unsatisfactory, with his strong links to America (personal as well as political; his mother was an American) as well as his rejection of the possibility of British subservience to a foreign leadership of any kind, and his lifelong commitment to free trade, which caused him to switch parties in the 1900s to the Liberals when the Conservatives, his ancestral home, had become more protectionist in embracing the policies of the decisive Joseph Chamberlain – father of Neville. So to categorise him as a man hungry for greater integration at any cost of sovereignty would be just as incorrect as the assertion that he cared nothing for the fate of Europe at large and only wanted a totally isolated Britain.
But it is more than ignorance which is affecting the issues and the way they are presented to the public. The dangerous conception of centreism and an unfailingly populist approach from all parties means that few people now stand up in a corner for the classical liberals amongst us; Nigel Farage is especially good at pushing all of the buttons he knows will whip up Middle England.
There is now a generally accepted feeling that the sort of immigration that a free, single market supplies is wrong, and the ‘mass immigration’ of the last Labour government was a wicked deed. Despite my dislike of both the Labour government and of the Union, I cannot help but disagree, and to do so profoundly. For although I don’t like the direction the EU has taken (and maintain that from its foundation it was in all probability set on that course; by its very nature) I still admire what it stood for in the early days; a simple common market, with less tariffs and freer movement of goods throughout the continent. Aside from the wishy-washy irrelevance of foreigners ‘enriching our culture’, there are very good economic reasons to support this immigration, the most obvious being the filling up of gaps in the labour market which lazy and pampered Brits (brought up on the ‘rights’-based diet of modern British education) don’t want to occupy.
This is the free market ideal, and even if the European experiment has ended so squalidly, with leaders declaring the death of the nation-state, and the dawn of trading blocs (which are just as anti-free markets as isolationist countries, just on a bigger scale) and community interests, I still believe in the idea of a single market, and of the immigration that will bring new expertise to old systems, as well as the properly free movement of labour around our ever-shrinking globe. I not would go as far as to say that the people opposed to immigration are racist (that was the old insult hurled at them by Quangos before such views silently became the consensus), but that they are opposed to economic progress which can only be guaranteed by globalisation and fluid movement of people and capital across the world.
And so, leaving behind the mess that Brussels has left us with, the billions of pounds deficit in what we pay in to the central command and what we get back; the saddling of British industries with uncompetitive regulations, British Parliament with foreign laws and British financial industries with the constant threat of a ‘Tobin Tax’ raid on our biggest industry to fund failing states. We should not be afraid of the possibility of leaving, with David Cameron’s on-off promises on an in/out referendum having the possibility to be the highlight of his premiership.
I favour, in place of a European single market, (with all of the unwelcome political accoutrements and heavy baggage of nationalism; racism, in the case of not allowing the Russians and the Turks to join, and the almighty fudge of a single currency; which has saddled richer countries with propping up the poorer ones, just for their own shared interests) an attempt at a worldwide free market, with more interconnectedness, smaller government and more choice which would result from this opening up of the world.
Communists and disaffected people of the Left; some of which miss the absence of any truly international movement ‘like a missing limb’ in the words of legendary Marxist Christopher Hitchens, should flock to this new idea, one of fairness, of a lack of racism and a breaking down of national divides through the only thing which can facilitate the improvement of the world as we know it, a fully international venture: trade.
The future for the European Union in its current incarnation is a bleak one – unless they disband the single currency, strip away the layers or redundant political centrality and return to the pure notion of free trade which was the battle-hymn of those who wanted ‘Yes’ in the 1970s, and will soon be that of those wanting a ‘No’ from now on.