In my previous article I outlined some of the reasons offered as to why it might seem desirable to remain within the European Union. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but let us consider exactly what it is that these enthusiastic Remainers are in favour of.
1. The European Union is profoundly anti-democratic, and this on two counts:
Firstly, its stated goal of political integration demonstrates that its aim is to dispose of national sovereignty, and transfer power to unelected EU officials.
In Britain we have recently celebrated the hundredth anniversary of women getting the vote. Having a vote is the central plank of any democracy, which includes the ability to get rid of politicians we don’t like. As far as I am aware, there has never been any suggestion that there should be a popular vote on the election of an EU president, or any other high-ranking official. Frequently stated goals are to have a common foreign policy and to create a European army. This presumably means that countries would be expected to supply soldiers, but would have no say in when and how they were deployed; instead they would be controlled by an unelected EU Foreign or Defence minister. It is hard to see how this could be acceptable to the British Parliament or people, and presumably other nations as well.
Secondly, in an attempt to appear democratic, the EU says, or at least used to say, that certain decisions have to be unanimous amongst all members before being implemented. In practice, however, this did not happen.
If we look at the history of the EU, there have been various significant votes. The first was when Denmark rejected the Maastricht treaty, which had transformed the European Economic Community (Common Market) into the European Union. In theory, that should have been the end of the matter, but instead the EU came up with the Edinburgh agreement, which granted the Danes four exemptions. In due course there was another referendum, in which they voted in favour of the treaty.
There was the same story in 2001 when Ireland rejected the Treaty of Nice in a referendum. Two significant qualifications were added and, following a massive campaign by the Establishment, the electorate were persuaded to accept the Treaty in a second referendum.
Later there was a proposal to adopt a European constitution, which would require unanimous acceptance. France and Holland both called a referendum on the issue, and voted against. Apparently President Chirac was expecting an easy victory, but instead a No vote was returned. Again, this should have been the end of the matter, but the EU’s solution was to propose a treaty instead of a constitution, which would not require the same degree of popular acceptance; it only needed to be signed by elected politicians. Thus the Lisbon Treaty was conceived. I cannot remember any pundit or commentator who at the time could find any significant difference between this and the previously proposed constitution; it was even nicknamed the “constitreaty”. As the Financial Times noted: “French and Dutch No votes in 2005 on the constitutional treaty were essentially ignored; the document resurfaced two years later as the Treaty of Lisbon” (my italics) (1).
It seems clear, therefore, that the purpose of this Treaty was to bypass any inconvenient popular votes which rejected it when it was called a constitution. A significant feature of this treaty was a move from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The EU had obviously learnt their lesson!
Also interesting is the case of Sweden, which joined the European Union in 1995. Its accession treaty subsequently obliged it to adopt the euro when it complied with all the criteria for convergence. However, in a referendum in September 2003 the electorate rejected joining the euro currency. The EU’s response was to accept the decision, which might appear democratic; you could also say that the EU will allow anything, even breaking the rules, if that ensures that countries remain inside.
It seems therefore that any time the people are actually asked to approve of the EU or its policies, they vote no. (The United Kingdom’s referendum vote was a further confirmation of this.) Does the EU care? Clearly not. It always finds a way to ignore the decision, and carries on with its scheme, indifferent to the expressed will of the populations of the countries concerned. If the European project is so wonderful, why don’t people vote in favour of it?
2. The second problem with the EU, although clearly related to the first, is the lies, either that they tell, or that our politicians tell on their behalf. The most significant of these is that we are told, in Britain at least, that if there is to be a major change affecting our constitution, or involving a major transfer of powers to Brussels, then there will be a referendum. Yet this did not happen at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, nor at the time of the Lisbon Treaty (which, as mentioned above, was in itself an attempt to bypass the popular votes in France and Holland).
A further lie was that we were told we were entering a trade agreement, the Common Market, also known as the European Economic Community (and this without a referendum, although there was a subsequent one, asking if we wished to remain). This was later turned into the European Union by the Maastricht Treaty, again without consulting the people in a referendum. Yet the intention from the outset was always political union, to create a United States of Europe (2), so why did we begin merely with this economic arrangement? The suspicion is that the people would have found the full package unacceptable, so that a preliminary step was considered necessary. It certainly appears that way. It is even debatable whether the EEC was a purely economic arrangement; it has been described as “a major stepping stone in the creation of the EU” (3).
Following the referendum in 2016 the BBC invited five commentators to reflect upon the result and the EU (4). On July 13th it was the turn of the philosopher Roger Scruton. Here is a summary of his argument, which, if correct, shows how the powers that be were trying to introduce the European Union by the back door.
He said that the Treaty of Rome, which established the EEC in 1957, did not guarantee sovereignty of its signatories; on the contrary it diminished it, with the ultimate aim of destroying it. It was a treaty against the nation state. Nations were not just surrendering the ability to tax goods crossing their borders, but surrendering borders too, also the right to make laws within them.
The official story was that the Treaty of Rome sought to regulate trade and commerce between the nation states, but in subsidiary matters, where the application of the treaty was not in question, national governments would exercise full sovereign choice. The directives of the European Commission were claimed to be purely technical matters, governing the management of the internal market. He claimed that this story is entirely deceptive (thus another lie), since all laws can be seen as bearing upon trade between the nation states; the scope of the treaty was therefore unlimited. He thought that the promise of sovereignty in subsidiary matters was completely empty, for who decides which matters are subsidiary? In effect, there was subsidiarity only if the European Commission permitted it.
He went on to say that the Commission is not elected and its legislation is neither publicly introduced, nor openly discussed. There is no organised opposition, no clear procedure for correcting mistakes, nor for rejecting those who make them. There is no way of rectifying these defects, since there is no we who can insist on another arrangement. All we can do is to get our governments to withdraw from the treaty.
He also addressed the issue of immigration within the EU. The rule of the Single Market is that there should be freedom of movement, which led to an unprecedented level of immigration, which was probably not foreseen originally. Now, however, there is no legal power to limit it, and no country can undo the provision, even if it is leading to a demographic catastrophe.
Also interesting was an article around that time by commentator Rod Liddle (5). Here are some of his observations:
“If we stay in the EU, we will be consigning ourselves to a future that, in political terms, resembles the old USSR: no dissent, no alternative point of view permitted. A supranational body run by authoritarian liberals. Now, there’s hyperbole for you – what seems, on the face of it, to be an exaggerated claim. Yet this is what the EU is doing right now, explicitly and brazenly. The unelected president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has recently made it clear that any country that elects a right-of-centre populist government will be stripped of its rights to make decisions within the EU, and possibly subjected to a loss of income. He did not hint at this, he actually said it. If Austria had voted its Freedom party into power, it would have had its decision-making capacity within the EU removed.
“The EU is currently applying the same sanctions to Poland, whose electorate had the impudence to elect a mildly socially conservative government. The Poles could face a total removal of their voting rights and economic sanctions – all for voting in the ‘wrong’ party. The European Commission gave itself these powers – to bully and ostracise countries that vote for policies that contravene Juncker’s own personal credo – back in 2014. This is not merely outrageous and scandalous, but genuinely worrying. No dissent allowed whatsoever from the socially liberal, fiscally conservative line. Because it is not only the right-wing populists who have incurred the wrath of Juncker and the rest of the commission. If you are Greek and vote for an anti-austerity left-wing socialist party, you will be bullied too. No dissent allowed. None”.
I understand that some people of a liberal persuasion (I include myself) may think that all this is a good thing, and that right-of-centre tendencies should be opposed at all costs. I’ll discuss that question in a later article. For the moment, I’ll just say that the current authoritarianism is too high a price to pay, for who knows where it will lead next? Is the European Union really as liberal as it seems?
I understand that the late Tony Benn, British Labour politician, had five essential questions for people of power. I’ll answer them from an EU perspective:
What power have you got? If not absolute power already, that’s your aim.
Where did you get it from? Certainly not from the people.
In whose interests do you use it? If in the interests of the people, they would support you. Presumably, therefore, you use it in the interests of the governing elite.
To whom are you accountable? No one.
How do we get rid of you? We can’t. We have to vote to leave your organisation, and then go through the nightmare of having to try to extricate ourselves.
If the aims and ideals of the EU are such a good idea, why can’t they trust the people to vote for them, instead of bullying the people and imposing the ideals? I repeat some remarks from the opening of this article: in Britain we recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote (they had to fight, and one even died in well-known circumstances). Having the vote is deemed to be a fundamental principle of democracy. So why are so many people in favour of an organisation which is devoted to making the votes of individuals meaningless?
An interesting example is the British Liberal Democrat Party, which is in love with, and totally uncritical about, this authoritarian organisation devoted to removing democracy. Is there some contradiction there? I have never heard any recent leader say a bad word about it – Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg, Tim Farron, Vince Cable, the latter openly campaigning for a second referendum, and insulting Leave voters (6). It is also reasonable to ask whether an imposed, authoritarian liberalism deserves to be called liberal.
I’ll agree then with Roger Scruton, in the programme mentioned above, who said that the real reason for voting to leave the EU in the referendum was voting for the right to vote.
(2) The idea and the plans were in the air well before the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Check out
Altiero Spinelli and his vision of a unified Europe. The date of his manifesto was 1942. Also
Winston Churchill was calling for it after World War II. So it was already being planned behind the scenes!
(3) BBC Radio4, Point of View, July 11-15, 2016
(4) Sunday Times Magazine, June 12th 2016
(5) He told the party’s 2018 Spring conference that Brexit was driven by the white nostalgia of the elderly, a longing for “a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink”.