Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

Britain’s Clouseau-esque twitch about the EU.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 5, 2013 in British Politics, European Union |
Did someone say "Brussels"?

Did someone say “Brussels”?

Remember those scenes in the old Pink Panther movies where Inspector Clouseau’s boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (played by the underrated Herbert Lom) would hear Clouseau’s name, and immediately develop a tic, twitching his eye nervously, and eventually ending up in an asylum ranting and raving about Clouseau, and trying to kill him?

That’s British euroscepticism right there, wrapped up in an inability to approach the European question rationally. Instead, a blue flag with gold stars or a trigger word “Brussels” usually sets the ranting off, and off it goes, sometimes for days on end. It’s that irrationality, displayed by David Cameron’s fear of returning from an EU summit with anything approaching “compromise” that has Britain in its odd position now.

In recent days, Cameron and Osborne have been trying to staunchly defend Britain remaining in the EU, an organisation that they spend most of their time if not belittling, then certainly not defending. Nick Clegg gets lambasted, with his actual Britishness called into question, for suggesting that the EU is actually quite useful for Britain. Where will it all lead? That’s a tricky question, but one thing is clear. The events of recent days now means that any compromise by Cameron will be met with cries of “traitor” by the eurosceptics, because for them the ratchet only goes one way, and that is out.┬áThe more the EU is belittled, and the more aggressive the attitude becomes, the more likely that a vote will be held in the near future on British withdrawal from the union.

There’s nothing inherently undemocratic about that, except for the fact that most British politicians seem to want to keep Britain in the EU. But how can you sell such a bill of goods to your voters when you’ve spend years denigrating the product? It could prove impossible to get the anti-EU minky off their backs.

1 Comment

The Oncoming Storm
Mar 10, 2013 at 10:59 am

Good article, it all of course should have been so different, Britain could have been one of the founders of the EEC, Schuman and Spaak were strong Anglophiles and wanted us to be in from the start. However fate meant that the task of responding to the Schumann Declaration fell to Herbert Morrison, the number 3 in the Atlee Government who in the back of a London restaurant, rejected it because “The Durham Miners wouldn’t like it…” Churchill’s Government was equally dismissive apparently because he thought Summits should be about nuclear weapons and world peace rather than steel production and fishing quotas.

I think the real turning point was the aftermath of Suez, the French political class became highly suspicious of America and was determined to plot an independen course, but ours came to the opposite conclusion and began the myth of “The Special Relationship,” in contrast to the French we based our nuclear deterrent on American technology, until then we had been way ahead of the French in aerospace but we have it up because the Americans kept dangling an offer of their latest breakthrough which on closer inspection wasn’t as good as it seemed. That also made De Gaulle highly suspicious of British attitudes to Europe leading to his vetoing of our first applications to join the EEC, from what I understand British public opinion on Europe never got over the perceived indignity of being snubbed by someone who we’d helped so much in WW2.

When we finally joined in ’73, Heath sold it as being purely a free trade area and as a “magic bullet” that would solve all our economic problems, in reality he’d cut a poor deal on entry meaning we’d sacrificed our fishing industry and ended up with contributions far greater than our economic strength justified. The immediate post accession years were the nadir of post war Britain with three day weeks, stagflation, IMF and the Winter of Discontent, little of this was down to the EEC but it wasn’t what the public had been told to expect meaning that attitudes to Europe began to harden. Thatcher was far more pro-European than people realise but her big mistake was not realising that the bit about “Ever Closer Union” was for real, Major won a diplomatic triumph at Maastricht but destroyed his Government with his hubris over the ERM which resulted in the Tory Right feeling that they’d been vindicated and becoming more and more hostile to Europe as an issue, finally you had Blair and Brown first promising a referendum on the EU Constitution and then trying to pretend that Lisbon was a completely different issue so they weren’t bound by that promise.

Apologies for the thesis but the debate in Britain is a result of blunders and outright lies told by the political class for over 60 years, they’ve also completely discredited themselves with things like MP’s Expenses and their general failure to run our economy properly since 1945, we’d have been far better adopting something like Gaulist Dirigisme rather than Fabian Socialism. UKIP is simply the public being fed up of the established parties and wanting an alternative, their rise has actually little to do with Europe as an issue, the last poll I saw had it ranked at 13th as an issue, but is down to unhappiness over the economy, education, immigration and other issues, UKIP is the monster that they’ve all created by failing to respond to legitimate concerns because of their obsession with “the centre ground.” I consider myself a Eurosceptic because I disagree with the idea of political union and because of the fact that whoever comes out of the imminent Papal Conclave will need to win more votes to get his job than Barroso and Van Rompuy needed to get to win theirs, but I don’t hate Europe and I certainly don’t support Brexit, some of the hysteria you see from UKIP followers on Twitter makes The Birthers look sane, for example they criticise the British government for not being harder on Islamic radicals at home but when Cameron sent two C-17′s to help the French fight Islamic extremism in Mali they opposed it because the EU was involved, they also claim Britain’s defence cut aren’t a result of the MoD stuffing up just about every major project over the last 20 years but because of the need to size the British Army so it fits into the force structure of the proposed Euro Army (facepalm).

I support Cameron’s referendum because if its done right its a chance for a reboot of Britain’s relationship with Europe, had referenda been held over Maastricht or Lisbon then the debate wouldn’t be as poisonous as it is today, but in order it to work British politicians will have to beak the habit of a lifetime and start being honest with the electorate.


 

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