A Comment to Boris Johnson’s Speech on May 10
Georg Boomgaarden: Comment to the speech
(My comments are written in BLUE letters)
Boris Johnson: The liberal cosmopolitan case to Vote Leave
May 09, 2016
This morning Boris Johnson MP made the liberal cosmopolitan case to Vote Leave at the headquarters of the Vote Leave campaign.
The full speech:
**Check against delivery**
I heard the speech on BBC News but could not check it against this text. So my comments may not reflect last changes Boris made when speaking. So I also refrain from any music critics for his singing of the European anthem – only remarking that he said „Götterfünken“ instead of „Götterfunken“ which sounds a bit comical – and authentic Boris-like.
I am pleased that this campaign has so far been relatively free of personal abuse – and long may it so remain – but the other day someone insulted me in terms that were redolent of 1920s Soviet Russia. He said that I had no right to vote Leave, because I was in fact a “liberal cosmopolitan”.
As a democrat and another liberal cosmopolitan I would never deny Boris‚ right to vote for Leave. However his case does not convince me. Let us see if his speech could change my mind.
That rocked me, at first, and then I decided that as insults go, I didn’t mind it at all – because it was probably true. And so I want this morning to explain why the campaign to Leave the EU is attracting other liberal spirits and people I admire such as David Owen, and Gisela Stuart, Nigel Lawson, John Longworth – people who love Europe and who feel at home on the continent, but whose attitudes towards the project of European Union have been hardening over time.
For many of us who are now deeply skeptical, the evolution has been roughly the same: we began decades ago to query the anti-democratic absurdities of the EU. Then we began to campaign for reform, and were excited in 2013 by the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech; and then quietly despaired as no reform was forthcoming. And then thanks to the referendum given to this country by David Cameron we find that a door has magically opened in our lives.
We can see the sunlit meadows beyond. I believe we would be mad not to take this once in a lifetime chance to walk through that door because the truth is it is not we who have changed. It is the EU that has changed out of all recognition; and to keep insisting that the EU is about economics is like saying the Italian Mafia is interested in olive oil and real estate.
What a kitsch ! Soviet propaganda used the term of the “bright future” (svetloie budushie), I would not expect such a sentimental picture of sunlit meadows from Boris. Yes, the EU has changed as Britain has changed and we all have changed. But do not forget: Britain was a driving force for quite a considerable part of that change, for example the rather fast enlargement of the EU. It is not fair to criticize open borders for citizens of the new Eastern European member states if against many warnings Britain insisted more than any other country to go on with enlargement of the EU including by Turkey. Who, by the way insists that the EU is ONLY about economics, but who can doubt that it is in fact important for economics. The example of the Mafia is not funny: it is definitely interested in selling fake, poisoneous olive oil and in laundering money by real estate including in London.
It is true, but profoundly uninformative about the real aims of that organization. What was once the EEC has undergone a spectacular metamorphosis in the last 30 years, and the crucial point is that it is still becoming ever more centralizing, interfering and anti-democratic.
Let us see if Boris gives any proof for the EU being centralizing, interfering and anti-democratic.
You only have to read the Lisbon Treaty – whose constitutional provisions were rejected by three EU populations, the French, the Dutch and the Irish – to see how far this thing has moved on from what we signed up for in 1972. Brussels now has exclusive or explicit competence for trade, customs, competition, agriculture, fisheries, environment, consumer protection, transport, trans-European networks, energy, the areas of freedom, security and justice, and new powers over culture, tourism, education and youth. The EU already has considerable powers to set rates of indirect taxation across the whole 28-nation territory, and of course it has total control of monetary policy for all 19 in the eurozone.
What Britain signed up for in 1972 was explicitly including a dynamic, ever closer union – not a static body like the failed EFTA. All competences of the EU were given to Brussels by the member states. No transfer of competences could take place against the will of member states. There may be a debate, if some of the competences should be devolved to member states or even to regional assemblies or local government. But member states including Britain came to the conclusion that there is a value added in pooling power in Brussels instead of splitting it up.
In recent years Brussels has acquired its own foreign minister, its own series of EU embassies around the world, and is continuing to develop its own defence policy. We have got to stop trying to kid the British people; we have got to stop saying one thing in Brussels, and another thing to the domestic audience; we have got to stop the systematic campaign of subterfuge – to conceal from the public the scale of the constitutional changes involved. We need to look at the legal reality, which is that this is a continuing and accelerating effort to build a country called Europe.
Careful: a Foreign Minister was in the failed project of a constitution, it is not in the Lisbon Treaty – and Federica Mogherini as before her Catherine Ashton were even handicapped by not having any competence to execute a foreign policy if this is not agreed upon beforehand by member states.
Yes, Boris, some people believe that a country called Europe would be a wonderful perspective, but don’t kid the British people: this is far from any reality. France has never given up its idea of a Europe of fatherlands, most Eastern European countries are tending towards fierce nationalism only tempered by their will to stay in the European Union. I regret this development because I believe Francois Mitterand was right when he once said: “Nationalism kills!” – but to state that the danger is a European super-state is kidding the people – the danger is the rebirth of the ugly face of nationalism.
Look at that list of Lisbon competences – with 45 new fields of policy where Britain can be outvoted by a qualified majority – and you can see why the House of Commons Library has repeatedly confirmed that when you add primary and secondary legislation together the EU is now generating 60 per cent of the laws passing through parliament.
You can be outvoted in any club you join – if you want an organisation to be efficient you need majority vote – but even here the EU has a very sophisticated voting system where you need 60% of the countries and 60% of the populations for a qualified majority. You have a strong protection against being outvoted if you are not the odd man out who is protagonizing positions that have near to everybody against it and if you are unable to organize alliances. Boris deeply and timidly underestimates the skill of British diplomacy to organize such alliances.
The independence of this country is being seriously compromised. It is this fundamental democratic problem – this erosion of democracy – that brings me into this fight.
Which country is independent if a financial crisis rages throughout the world, who is independent against global climate change or security risks ? It hurts to learn that no country in the world can cope with most of our global challenges alone. So the difference is only if you decide to win together with others or fail alone.
Boris could argue that a sovereign Britain with a vote in the Westminster Parliament should then join with others in an intergovernmental way. But that means that instead of following agreed rules you negotiate each single issue separately when it comes up. And why do you so much detest the European Parliament ? Intergovernmental activities have no common control at all – and you will need ratification by each of the partners in each case for your intergovernmental decisions. The common structures of the EU are the result of experience. They answer to the challenges of complex decision making. Only populists kid the people suggesting that everything could be so easy.
People are surprised and alarmed to discover that our gross contributions to the EU budget are now running at about £20bn a year, and that the net contribution is £10 bn; and it is not just that we have no control over how that money is spent.
No one has any proper control – which is why EU spending is persistently associated with fraud. Of course the Remain campaign dismisses this UK contribution as a mere bagatelle – even though you could otherwise use it to pay for a new British hospital every week. But that expense is, in a sense, the least of the costs inflicted by the EU on this country.
That there is no controls just wrong. It is there and it is rather effective. Yes, we hear of fraud and abuse, but that is because it is discovered and sanctioned.
However there is one error in most calculations of the cost of the EU: it is compared to a zero-cost-alternative. But the House of Commons knows quite well that the money now spent by the EU would have to be adjudicated to the national budget for doing things the EU is doing now and the British administration would have to do in case of Brexit. This money could be used for hospitals only if taking over policies from the EU is cost-free. That is kidding the people.
It is deeply corrosive of popular trust in democracy that every year UK politicians tell the public that they can cut immigration to the tens of thousands – and then find that they miss their targets by hundreds of thousands, so that we add a population the size of Newcastle every year, with all the extra and unfunded pressure that puts on the NHS and other public services.
It has been a deeply embarrasing habit that in Britain immigration from EU-countries and from non-EU-countries has always been mixed up. I am myself critical of the lack of control in the immigration policy of some EU member states towards third countries. However when promoting enlargement Britain perfectly knew that this includes the freedom of movement for EU citizens – by the way many British pensioners benefit from that living in Spain, many British workers benefit from it working and living in France, Germany and other EU countries.
In our desperation to meet our hopeless so-called targets, we push away brilliant students from Commonwealth countries, who want to pay to come to our universities; we find ourselves hard pressed to recruit people who might work in our NHS, as opposed to make use of its services – because we have absolutely no power to control the numbers who are coming with no job offers and no qualifications from the 28 EU countries. I am in favour of immigration; but I am also in favour of control, and of politicians taking responsibility for what is happening; and I think it bewilders people to be told that this most basic power of a state – to decide who has the right to live and work in your country – has been taken away and now resides in Brussels.
The greatest number of paying guests at excellent British universities come from China – not really a Commonwealth country since the Opium Wars failed. A rising number comes from EU countries. And who rejects brillant students from Zimbabwe recommended by the elite around Mugabe, who rejects Canadians or Australians who may even prefer their own universities which are also quite brilliant ? It was the Conservative government since 2009 which had the brilliant idea to put quota for immigration nonwithstanding of criteria like brilliance – the EU never rejected any brillant student who wants to study in Britain.
And, as I say, that is only one aspect of a steady attrition of the rights of the people to decide their priorities, and to remove, at elections, those who take the decisions. It is sad that our powers of economic self-government have become so straitened that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to go around personally asking other finance ministers to allow him to cut VAT on tampons, and as far as I can see we still have not secured consent.
I take the democracy argument very serious. But there are two pitfalls: first the erosion of democratic decision making by facts outside of our control are as difficult to manage for any national or regional government as for the EU Commission. And second you cannot avoid the Arrow paradox that there is no logical way to combine individual priorities into a common decision. Voters know this dilemma: voting for a party you get their priority list, not yours.
Is the VAT for tampons really the new priority ? Before it was the working time directive, before that the angles of cucumbers: don’t you see that these examples are not at all reflecting the daily work done for us by Brussels – also by the great number of brillant British staff of the EU ?
It is very worrying that the European Court of Justice – Luxembourg, not Strasbourg – should now be freely adjudicating on human rights questions, and whether or not this country has the right to deport people the Home Office believes are a threat to our security; and it is peculiar that the government is now straining at the gnat of the Convention and the Strasbourg court, whose rulings are not actually binding on UK courts, while swallowing the camel of the 55-article charter of Fundamental rights, which is fully justiciable by the European Court in Luxembourg, when you consider that it is the rulings of this court that are binding and that must be applied by every court in this country, including parliament.
I share your criticism of the European judiciary. But I cannot refrain from criticisizing the national judiciary of Britain, Germany, France, Belgium or other countries in exactly the same way. We have a problem because modern judicial doctrine understands the independence of the judicial body to include independence even from the elected parliament. Behind this is the opinion that there are some principles (call it law of nature) for example in human rights that are inalienable and even not under the scrutiny of a democratically elected parliament. My view is that judges must be absolutely independent in applying the law, careful in interpreting the law, and keep absolute restraint in making the law. This is a problem independent from the level of the judiciary, be it European, constitutional, national or local. We must go back to the doctrine that parliament must have the right to clarify the law in a binding way if they believe that the interpretation by the judiciary is wrong.
It is absurd that Britain – historically a great free-trading nation – has been unable for 42 years to do a free trade deal with Australia, New Zealand, China, India and America.
It is not at all absurd, that a free trade deal with countries so convinced of freetrade like China, India and even the US is extremely difficult to get – and even more difficult for a medium power with limited clout against the non tarriff barriers that abound in all the countries mentioned.
It is above all bizarre for the Remain campaign to say that after the UK agreement of February we are now living in a “reformed” EU, when there has been not a single change to EU competences, not a single change to the Treaty, nothing on agriculture, nothing on the role of the court, nothing of any substance on borders – nothing remotely resembling the agenda for change that was promised in the 2013 Bloomberg speech.
I was in the room when Prime Minister David Cameron held his Bloomberg Speech. And I share the view of Boris that the speech raised expectations of the kind he is describing. But to be fair the Prime Minister was very wise not to promise any specific change, because he knew perfectly that you cannot win a negotiation if you start with unrealistic proposals. I admit that there is some ambivalence in raising expectations on the one hand and keeping negotiating positions open on the other – but Cameron did exactly this.
The EU is a permanently changing and self-correcting system. If Boris wants changes on all the issues he mentions, he should not have started his speech with complaints that the EU has changed so much – my personal criticism would be that its mechanisms of change may be too slow – like a tanker. And this is quite natural after an enlargement to 28 member countries. So, dear Boris, go on fighting for best solutions (would you ever admit that others may have better solutions than you do ?), but do not believe that this is a walk on a sunlit meadow.
In that excellent speech the Prime Minister savaged the EU’s lack of competitiveness, its remoteness from the voters, its relentless movement in the wrong direction.
He was free to propose how to get more competitiveness, European and national, more cosyness with the voters, European and national, or saying which is the right direction – which is put to the voters in elections. It is not the fault of the EU partners if these problems are not resolved by pure decisionism, but can only be resolved by a steady effort of reforms.
As he said –
‘The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy. In its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point.
‘More of the same will not see the European Union keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same – less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs.
‘And that will make our countries weaker not stronger.
That is why we need fundamental, far-reaching change.’
He was right then.
The problem of David Cameron in his Bloomberg Speech and of Boris Johnson in his recent speech ist that there are very diverse views on what is necessary to promote competitiveness, growth and jobs. The Conservative manifesto on these questions will differ considerably from a Labour manifesto on the same issues. So why make the EU responsible for the fact that in any democracy you will have different opinions on the right policy. If Boris is so convinced of knowing the right answers why not fight for that in the European Parliament – giving that body more competences so that everybody in Europe will benefit of the wisest proposals. I dare say that may be even Boris has the right questions, but no answers at all.
We were told that there had to be “fundamental reform” and “full-on” Treaty change that would happen “before the referendum” – or else the government was willing to campaign to Leave.
And that is frankly what the government should now be doing. If you look at what we were promised, and what we got, the Government should logically be campaigning on our side today.
We were told many times – by the PM, Home Sec and Chancellor – that we were going to get real changes to the law on free movement, so that you needed to have a job lined up before you could come here. We got no such change.
We were told that we would get a working opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights – which by the way gives the European Court the power to determine the application of the 1951 Convention on Refugees and Asylum, as well as extradition, child protection and victims’ rights. We got nothing.
We were told that we would be able to stop the Eurozone countries from using the EU institutions to create a fiscal and political union. Instead we gave up our veto.
Boris may be right in saying that David Cameron has sometimes promised changes that were never realistic. That was an error and the Prime Minister has corrected that error and hence got the best possible outcome. The answer of Boris Johnson is persisting in that error.
The Five Presidents’ report makes it clear that as soon as the UK referendum is out of the way, they will proceed with new structures of political and fiscal integration that this country should have no part in, but which will inevitably involve us, just as we were forced – in spite of promises to the contrary – to take part in the bail-out of Greece. They want to go ahead with new EU rules on company law, and property rights and every aspect of employment law and even taxation – and we will be dragged in.
Nobody „forced“ Britain to take part in the bail out of Greece. There were a number of countries, I only name Finland, that were very critical of that bail-out, and in the end refrained to veto it – although this was possible because it was not voted on qualified majority. If Germany, Finland and Britain took part in this effort it was because they saw the consequences of Grexit be strategically more damaging than going on with Greece inside the Euro and the EU. I am of the opinion that for Greece it might have been better to suspend their membership in the Euro as well as Schengen for as long as they are not able to cope with their problems, but the Greek-French alliance strongly insisted that a bail-out would work. So why did Britain, Germany or Finland not veto where they had the right to do so: Germany because it wanted to keep France in the boat, Finland because they got securities and Britain because it saw a strategic problem if Greece starts to lean towards Putin and orthodox Russia.
To call this a reformed EU is an offence against the Trades Descriptions Act, or rather the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive that of course replaced the Trades Descriptions Act in 2008. The EU system is a ratchet hauling us ever further into a federal structure.
Boris could not fail to put the catchword “federal” – once again: federal means devolving power to as near to the people as possible. To have a Scottish or a Welsh Assembly – that is federalism, the sheer opposite to any superstate. Look at the Federal Republic of Germany where police and schools are genuine affairs of the states not of the federation. Nobody there could do like the British government and rule into how meetings with parents at schools should be organized.
We have proved to ourselves time and again that we cannot change the direction. We cannot change the pace. We cannot interrupt the steady erosion of democracy, and given that we do not accept the destination it is time to tell our friends and partners, in a spirit of the utmost cordiality, that we wish to forge a new relationship based on free trade and intergovernmental cooperation.
Boris, why are you so timid, why so pessimistic: Britain has power inside the EU, it can change directions – if it does what it has done for centuries: forge alliances and look for opportunities. By the way I do not share the view of some who want to stay to avoid less cordial reactions. If Britain leaves the others will cordially welcome Britain to continue friedship, to continue the NATO alliance and to continue trade – only that all of this takes place on the rules of the game foreseen for non-members. Relations to Norway are excellent and cordial – it takes over the bulk of all EU rules into its national law and pays quite a contribution to the EU budget and is part of the Schengen agreement – it has quite good access to the single market, but no vote in a club whereof it is not a member.
We need to Vote Leave on June 23, and in the meantime we must deal with the three big myths that are peddled by the Remain campaign.
The first is the so-called economic argument. The Remainers accept that there is a loss of political independence, but they claim that this trade-off is economically beneficial.
The second argument we might broadly call the peace-in-Europe argument – that the EU is associated with 70 years of stability, and we need to stay in to prevent German tanks crossing the French border.
The third argument is more abstract, but potent with some people. It is that you can’t really want to leave the EU without being in some way anti-European, and that the Remain camp therefore have a monopoly on liberal cosmopolitanism.
All three arguments are wholly bogus.
The most important mistake is to think that there is some effective and sensible trade-off between the loss of democratic control and greater economic prosperity. The whole thrust of the Remain argument is that there is a democratic cost, but an economic benefit – that if we accept that 60 per cent of our laws are made in Brussels, we will see some great boost in our trade and our exports and in the overall economic performance of the EU. This is turning out to be simply false.
How many of the 60% laws allegedly made in Brussels would change a word if in the future decided in Westminster again ? I guess very little ! The so-called democratic cost would not really change. Most regulation and overregulation (which I criticize) comes from Lobbyists who urge Brussels to give their companies a better chance. Do you really believe this would be different in Westminster where Lobbyism will then center its efforts ? If a big investor let us say from Japan needs some rules otherwise leaving Britain, would a Prime Minister Boris Johnson kick them out and leave 40.000 Brits jobless ? And if Boris wants access to the single market he has to agree on less than a level playing field taking over or observing EU standards and rules, because he will loose equality with member states. If not complying he risks to be kept out of the market.
The loss of democratic control is spiritually damaging, and socially risky – and the economic benefits of remaining subject to the Single Market law-making machine, as opposed to having access to the Single Market, are in fact very hard to detect.
What the government wants is for us to remain locked into the Single Market law-making regime, and to be exposed to 2500 new EU regulations a year. What we want is for Britain to be like many other countries in having free-trade access to the territory covered by the Single Market – but not to be subject to the vast, growing and politically-driven empire of EU law.
Dear Boris: this is not on offer. Or do you think that remaining EU-governments will discriminate against their own companies by giving British companies access to the single market as a free lunch while keeping their own companies under the yoke of their own rules ? This really absurd.
There is a good deal of evidence that this is the more sensible position to be in. Take the two relevant 20 year periods, before and after the creation of the Single Market, in other words from 1973 to 1992, and from 1992 to 2012.
The world economy has changed and the two periods are not at all comparable. Some leftist dreamers want to go back to the good old times of the seventies. But there are new relations of economic forces in our world of today – so we have to adapt to that and not dream of the period before the single market existed.
Now when the single market dawned, we were told that it was going to be a great dynamo of job and wealth creation – 800 billion euros, the Cecchini report said, of extra European GDP. We were told that it was going to send exports whizzing ever faster across borders. So what happened?
There have been expectations to the single market that could not be fulfilled because the world has changed. The development of workers wages in the US stagnated for decades – worse than in any European country. I know that all economic prophecies are very risky. But remeber those in the City of London who still in 2007 said that the EU may fall out of time because the markets are now global and only global. Then came the crisis and the banks cried for national and EU bail outs and first aid.
Did Britain export more to the rest of the EEC 11, as a result of the Single Market? On the contrary, the rate of growth slowed, as Michael Burrage has shown this year. British exports of goods were actually 22 per cent lower, at the end of the second 20 year period, than if they had continued to grow at the rate of the 20 years pre-1992. And before you say that this might be just a result of Britain’s sluggish performance in the export of manufactured goods, the same failure was seen in the case of the 12 EEC countries themselves.
The rate of growth slowed – yes – but mainly because of the deindustrialiszation of Britain. There was less to buy here, less workers producing thing to be exported. How could exports of goods grow if production of goods was no priority of the Thatcher and Major governments believing that the so-called services are the only bright future of the country.
By the way sluggish exports might also be the result of a crisis of the clients of the exporter. Germany is also an EU member – even having the Euro – and is exporting much more than is good for the country itself. May be a conservative government should do more for professional training to foster competitiveness.
We were told that goods would start pinging around the EEC as if in some supercharged cyclotron; and on the contrary, the rate of growth flattened again – 14.6 per cent lower than the previous 20 years when there was no single market.
The rate of growth is not the real problem. In a mature economy the rate will always be lower than in an emerging economy. The real problem ist how it is distributed. In Britain inequality grew very much – even more than in other developed EU countries. The difference between Greater London and the rest of the UK also grew. This was not the responsibility of the EU. National decision making did not guarantee better decisions.
So what was the decisive advantage to Britain, or any other country, of being inside this system, and accepting these thousands of one-size-fits-all regulations? In fact you could argue that many countries were better off being outside, and not subject to the bureaucracy. In the period of existence of this vaunted single market, from 1992 to 2011, there were 27 non-EU countries whose exports of goods to the rest of the EU grew faster than the UK’s; and most embarrassingly of all – there were 21 countries who did better than the UK in exporting services to the other EEC 11.
One size fits all is awful – on first sight. But try out the opposite: each county (not country – that is too much super-state) decides its own environmental, technical and quality rules – and at each border of a county you put a sentinel looking into your baggage for a little customs contribution to cover the cost because sales of goods which are not fulfilling county rules are not admitted. The border with remaining EU-countries would be easier to handle: there would be only one sentinel in Calais opening all baggage and confiscating everything which under EU rules is dangerous: toys or electrical cables, unsound mosquito sprays, all sorts of food because of veterinary quarantine, they take your dog away for a 6-month quarantine (as Britain did before the single market) and so on. What a wonderful world !
So where was this great European relaunch that was supposed to be driven by the 1992 Single Market? In the 20 years since the start of the Single Market, the rate of growth in the EU countries has actually been outstripped by the non-EU countries of the OECD. It is the independent countries that have done better; and the EU has been a microclimate of scandalously high unemployment. This year the US is projected to grow by 2.4 per cent, China by 6.5 pc, NZ by 2 pc, Australia by 2.5 pc and India by 7.5 pc. The Eurozone – 1.5 per cent.
It is not serious to take the numbers of one year and not the whole timeline, it it also not serious to compare the rich independents with an EU that for good reasons was enlarged by a number of poor new member states.
All that extra growth we were promised; all those extra jobs. The claims made for the Single Market are looking increasingly fraudulent. It has not boosted the rate of British exports to the EU; it has not even boosted growth in exports between the EU 12; and it has not stopped a generation of young people – in a huge belt of Mediterranean countries – from being thrown on to the scrapheap.
What has that corpus of EU regulation done to drive innovation? There are more patents from outside the EU now being registered at the EU patent office than from within the EU itself. The Eurozone has no universities within the top 20, and has been woefully left behind by America in the tech revolution – in spite of all those directives I remember from the 1990s about les reseaux telematiques; or possibly, of course, the EU has been left behind on tech precisely because of those directives.
The patents: why are patents from outside the EU be registered in the EU ? Because the inventors want protection inside the EU. This is no indication for the number of inventions made. Universities: these rankings are as good as the ratings of the financial rating agencies: worthless! Even inside Britain they overstate those who are commercially well off against those who produce Nobel Price Winners. Why are thousands of experts from Eurozone countries working so successfully in London – because their cheap continental state universities, who do not care about rankings, were so subprime ?
I share your view that EU directives could be better and our technical development should not be hampered by too many regulation. But I still believe that in a fully free pharmaceutical market we would have had much more cases like the Contergan scandal than in a well regulated market on the basis of deregulation where possible, regulation where necessary.
There are plenty of other parts of the world where the free market and competition has been driving down the cost of mobile roaming charges and cut-price airline tickets – without the need for a vast supranational bureaucracy enforced by a supranational court.
Free markets are fine – but there are evident market failures. Look at British railways, look at roaming charges which only come down under the threat of an EU regulation.
I hear again the arguments from the City of London, and the anxieties that have been expressed. We heard them 15 years ago, when many of the very same Remainers prophesied disaster for the City of London if we failed to join the euro. They said all the banks would flee to Frankfurt. Well, Canary Wharf alone is now far bigger than the Frankfurt financial centre – and has kept growing relentlessly since the crash of 2008.
How do you measure how big Canary wharf is comparde with other financial centres ? Do you count the assets of the bad banks still sitting on their foul papers ? Do you count the operations, where banks took up their old bad habits again ? Why is Deutsche Börse able to buy the London Stock Exchange for cash ? They are polite enough to call it a fusion.
As for the argument that we need the muscle of EU membership, if we are to do trade deals – well, look, as I say, at the results after 42 years of membership. The EU has done trade deals with the Palestinian authority and San Marino. Bravo. But it has failed to conclude agreements with India, China or even America.
There is nothing bad about Palestine or San Marino, but why do you not mention South Corea and other potent emerging markets where the EU successfully negotiated free trade agreements. And if it failed with others: Would you rate those as champions of free trade ?
Why? Because negotiating on behalf of the EU is like trying to ride a vast pantomime horse, with 28 people blindly pulling in different directions. For decades deals with America have been blocked by the French film industry, and the current TTIP negotiations are stalled at least partly because Greek feta cheese manufacturers object to the concept of American feta. They may be right, aesthetically, but it should not be delaying us in this country.
I share your kick against protectionists – but what about Americans who insist on as many exeptions as the French do ? TTIP is not popular neither in the US nor in many European countries. I am for TTIP – but do the British people want it ?
Global trade is not carried on by kind permission of people like Peter Mandelson. People and businesses trade with each other, and always will, as long as they have something to buy and sell.
Sounds so easy – but without the EU or the government standing behind business there is no defence against unfair practises or even strong power play. If China is first stealing the intellectual property of an investor company and then kicks them out, the EU may be strong enough to defend British industry , would Britain alone be strong enough, or let them down ?
But it is notable that even when the EU has done a trade deal, it does not always seem to work in Britain’s favour. In ten out of the last 15 deals, British trade with our partners has actually slowed down, rather than speeded up, after the deal was done.
Is that because of some defect in us, or in the deal? Could it be that the EU officials did not take account of the real interests of the UK economy, which is so different in structure from France and Germany? And might that be because the sole and entire responsibility for UK trade policy is in the hands of the EU commission – a body where only 3.6 per cent of the officials actually come from this country?
In trying to compute the costs and benefits of belonging to the Single Market, we should surely add the vast opportunity cost of not being able to do free trade deals with the most lucrative and fastest-growing markets in the world – because we are in the EU.
A deal always needs two (or more). So what do you have on offer for China, India, the US and the rest of the EU ? Certainly China offers a huge market – the EU does, but Britain does not. What are the real interests of British economy that you claim and that must have been unknown to the many British officials in Brussels ?
When you consider that only 6 per cent of UK business export to the EU 28; and when you consider that 100 per cent of our businesses – large and small – must comply with every jot and tittle of regulation; and when you consider that the costs of this regulation are estimated at £600m per week, I am afraid you are driven to the same conclusion as Wolfgang Munchau, the economics commentator of the FT, who said, “whatever the reasons may be for remaining in the EU, they are not economic.”
Exporting to the US, business must comply with every jot and tittle of US rules, for China, Brasil or India you must comply with their regulations which might be more complex than you might believe. Westminster does no longer rule an Empire, where standards could be set independently by the British Parliament.
And so I return to my point; that we must stop the pretence. This is about politics, and a political project that is now getting out of control. To understand our predicament, and the trap we are in, we need to go back to the immediate post-war period, and the agony and shame of a broken continent.
There were two brilliant Frenchmen – a wheeler-dealing civil servant with big American connexions called Jean Monnet, and a French foreign minister called Robert Schuman. They wanted to use instruments of economic integration to make war between France and Germany not just a practical but a psychological impossibility.
It was an exercise in what I believe used to be called behavioural therapy; inducing a change in the underlying attitudes by forcing a change in behaviour. Their inspired idea was to weave a cat’s cradle of supranational legislation that would not only bind the former combatants together, but create a new sensation of European-ness.
As Schuman put it, “Europe will be built through concrete achievements which create a de facto solidarity.” Jean Monnet believed that people would become “in mind European”, and that this primarily functional and regulatory approach would produce a European identity and a European consciousness.
Monnet and Schuman were visionaries who dared to bet on peace where all spoke for continuing a narrative of 500 years of war – including German and British wars on the continent against France. This vision is history now. After Britain and some other countries joined the EU, pragmatism prevailed over visions. As long as politicians blame themselves for all success of Europe and the EU for all failures even of national policies, there will be no popularity for the EU. If there are enough political forces that do not want the European project to flourish, it will not flourish. These are already self-fulfilled prophecies. This is very sad – but true. So the solution is to fight for a common project and not denigrate it.
Almost 60 years after the Treaty of Rome, I do not see many signs that this programme is working. The European elites have indeed created an ever-denser federal system of government, but at a pace that far exceeds the emotional and psychological readiness of the peoples of Europe. The reasons are obvious.
I agree: the pace was too fast because it did not take into account that people were not yet ready for some of the progress. But is is politicians who did not convince their populations, it is not the EU that is responsible for the EU-bashing especially in Britain for the last 30 years.
There is simply no common political culture in Europe; no common media, no common sense of humour or satire; and – this is important – no awareness of each other’s politics, so that the European Union as a whole has no common sense of the two things you need for a democracy to work efficiently. You need trust, and you need shame. There is no trust, partly for the obvious reason that people often fail to understand each other’s languages. There is no shame, because it is not clear who you are letting down if you abuse the EU system.
That is why there is such cavalier waste and theft of EU funds: because it is everybody’s money, it is nobody’s money.
I am so sorry that you are right on the topic of trust and shame. But that is certainly not just a problem in Europe. The expenses scandal in the House of Commons, the greed of bankers after 2008, receiving shameless pensions for failure, the scandals about the eavesdropping of the Murdoch Press on parliamentarians and other institutions. There was no shame in the financial sector, in parliament, in the press – three pillars of democracy – and trust suffered severely – and no EU involved at all in any of the scandals.
If you walk around London today, you will notice that the 12 star flag of the EU is flying all over the place. That is because this is Schuman day. It is the birthday of the founder of this project, and the elites have decreed that it should be properly marked.
Do we feel loyalty to that flag? Do our hearts pitter-patter as we watch it flutter over public buildings? On the contrary. The British share with other EU populations a growing sense of alienation, which is one of the reasons turn-out at European elections continues to decline.
Decades of anti-EU propaganda do work – lamentably. The EU was traditionally very popular and the flag was held in high esteem together with national flags when countries wanted to join the successful club. But when egotism and nationalism overwhelmed Europe, when some policians said: “I want my money back!” the idea of solidarity was destroyed. So, Boris, you are right – this idea is no longer binding Europe together. But is is just here where I join Juncker: this is bad and has to be changed!
As Jean-Claude Juncker has himself remarked with disapproval, “too many Europeans are returning to a national or regional mindset”. In the face of that disillusionment, the European elites are doing exactly the wrong thing. Instead of devolving power, they are centralizing.
Instead of going with the grain of human nature and public opinion, they are reaching for the same corrective behavioural therapy as Monnet and Schuman: more legislation, more federal control; and whenever there is a crisis of any kind the cry is always the same. “More Europe, more Europe!”
What did they do when the Berlin wall came down, and the French panicked about the inevitability of German unification? “More Europe!” And what are they saying now, when the ensuing single currency has become a disaster? “More Europe!”
An in-deep analysis can prove that most crisis in Europe start with half baked solutions where resistance of some national interests stops a fully European solution. So the Euro ran into problems because member states were not willing to do what is self-understanding: that the responsibility to take up debts includes the responsibility to pay them. If national parliaments can decide how much debt they want to buy then it is also their responsibility to bear the consequences. And if you want more Europe in sharing costs you also need more Europe in sharing responsibilities. If you want a more open single market you also need more European rules for that market. So “More Europe” is not a cry on the fields of Agincourt, it is pure logic: everybody has the choice how much Europe should be there – but there is no option of having both: „more Europe“ in getting solidarity and „less Europe“ in giving it.
They persist in the delusion that political cohesion can be created by a forcible economic integration, and they are achieving exactly the opposite. What is the distinctive experience of the people of Greece, over the last eight years? It is a complete humiliation, a sense of powerlessness. The suicide rate has risen by 35 per cent; life expectancy has actually fallen. Youth unemployment is around 50 per cent. It is an utter disgrace to our continent.
That is what happens when you destroy democracy. Do the Greeks feel warmer towards the Germans? Do they feel a community of interest? Of course not.
Greece had the highest rise in average income during the first years after the Euro was introduced (based on deliberately fraudulent statistics). I understand that the Greek people are desperate – they elected Tsipras because they felt betrayed by the traditional parties – and are now betrayed by Tsipras doing exactly the same. But once again: you cannot have the Euro and let your debt be payed by the other member countries: it is already happening but that is not a stable solution. I would not answer with “more Europe” – but with: “Choose what you want – but you cannot have both: the Euro and a financial default“.
In Austria the far-right have just won an election for the first time since the 1930s. The French National Front are on the march in France, and Marine le Pen may do well in the Presidential elections. You could not say that EU integration is promoting either mutual understanding or moderation, and the economic consequence range from nugatory to disastrous.
This is true. But do you suggest that any of those movements has a solution to the problems of modern economies ? I do not believe that. Populism and nationalism work together to make things worse. Everywhere!
The answer to the problems of Europe today is not “more Europe”, if that means more forcible economic and political integration. The answer is reform, and devolution of powers back to nations and people, and a return to intergovernmentalism, at least for this country – and that means Vote Leave on June 23.
If reform means destroying the Union, Britain leaving might be the best solution for the remaining member states. I think reform is really necessary – but you will never get it as long as nationalism prevails in the debates.
And of course there will be some in this country who are rightly troubled by a sense of neighbourly duty. There are Remainers who may agree with much of the above; that the economic advantages for Britain are either overstated or non-existent. But they feel uneasy about pulling out of the EU in its hour of need, when our neighbours are in distress; and at this point they deploy the so-called “Peace in Europe” argument: that if Britain leaves the EU, there will be a return to slaughter on Flanders Fields.
I think this grossly underestimates the way Europe has changed, and the Nato guarantee that has really underpinned peace in Europe. I saw the disaster when the EU was charged with sorting out former Yugoslavia, and I saw how Nato sorted it out.
There is no “End of history” as Fukuyama once postulated. However a Brexit will certainly not be helpful in a situation of crisis. But I agree with Boris that with or without British membership there is a chance to have friendly relations with all European neighbours. And this chance should be taken whatever happens.
The EU had not been created to cope with security issues. It was pressed into that role because Turkey vetoed a cooperation with NATO in the lead. This shows that NATO can also be paralysed if you have members willing to do that. When Yougoslavia broke up, the EU was unprepared for such a challenge. The CFSP was the answer to that failure. So more Europe was necessary – those who do not want more Europe should not critisize it for not being given the means for such challenges.
And it understates the sense in which it is the EU itself, and its anti-democratic tendencies that are now a force for instability and alienation.
Europe faces twin crises of mass migration, and a euro that has proved a disaster for some member states; and the grim truth is that the risks of staying in this unreformed EU are intensifying and not diminishing.
Boris is right to mention the migration crisis. The answers of the EU merit criticism in my view. But Britain has not given any answer how to deal with it in a better way. Having the advantage of being an island, it is easy to critcize those who have long land borders – however the Channel is much smaller than the Mediterranean.
In the next six weeks we must politely but relentlessly put the following questions to the Prime Minister and to the Remain campaign…
1 How can you possibly control EU immigration into this country?
This is a non-problem, because it is mainly a benefit for Britain
2 The Living Wage is an excellent policy, but how will you stop it being a big pull factor for uncontrolled EU migration, given that it is far higher than minimum wages in other EU countries?
There are ways to deal with that by national legislation
3 How will you prevent the European Court from interfering further in immigration, asylum, human rights, and all kinds of matters which have nothing to do with the so-called Single Market?
By challenging the doctrine also held by British judges that parliament cannot change the interpretation of laws.
4 Why did you give up the UK veto on further moves towards a fiscal and political union?
Because this right to veto never existed. Opting out means opting out of voting rights – which is very logic. You have no vote in a gentlemen’s club if you are not a member.
5 How can you stop us from being dragged in, and from being made to pay?
How to be a member without paying membership fees – an absurd question
The answer is that the Remain campaign have no answers to any of these questions, because they are asking us to remain in an EU that is wholly unreformed, and going in the wrong direction.
If we leave on June 23, we can still provide leadership in so many areas. We can help lead the discussions on security, on counter-terrorism, on foreign and defence policy, as we always have. But all those conversation can be conducted within an intergovernmental framework, and without the need for legal instruments enforced by the European Court of Justice. We will still be able to cooperate on the environment, on migration, on science and technology; we will still have exchanges of students.
Yes, you will still cooperate, but others will then also look at their interests and decide case by case where it justifies the nerve and cost of organizing a special regime for Britain or not. There will rather be a number of bilateral intergovernmental frameworks, the number of rule-books on the shelve may multiply – good for advocates looking for jobs, bad for citizens.
We will trade as much as ever before, if not more. We will be able to love our fellow Europeans, marry them, live with them, share the joy of discovering our different cultures and languages – but we will not be subject to the jurisdiction of a single court and legal system that is proving increasingly erratic and that is imitated by no other trading group.
We will not lose influence in Europe or around the world – on the contrary, you could argue we will gain in clout. We are already drowned out around the table in Brussels; we are outvoted far more than any other country – 72 times in the last 20 years, and ever more regularly since 2010; and the Eurozone now has a built-in majority on all questions.
The Eurozone has indeed a majority in the Council, but it never used it against Britain. Britain is outvoted because it loves to be isolated and is proud to be stubborn, because it is always right. I love this, but it does not help making allies.
We will recapture or secure our voice – for the 5th biggest economy in the world – in international bodies such as the WTO or the IMF or the CITES, where the EU is increasingly replacing us and laying a claim to speak on our behalf. If you want final and conclusive proof of our inability to “get our way” in Brussels – and the contempt with which we will be treated if we vote to Remain – look again at the UK deal and the total failure to secure any change of any significance.
Britain still has its voice in most of these bodies – but this is exactly the reason why Europe is often quite weak in these institutions. If Britain is leaving, the others may be free to really join forces to have a stronger voice.
Above all – to get to the third key point of the Remainers – if we leave the EU we will not, repeat not, be leaving Europe. Of all the arguments they make, this is the one that infuriates me the most. I am a child of Europe. I am a liberal cosmopolitan and my family is a genetic UN peacekeeping force.
I can read novels in French and I can sing the Ode to joy in German, and if they keep accusing me of being a Little Englander, I will. Both as editor of the Spectator and Mayor of London I have promoted the teaching of modern European languages in our schools. I have dedicated much of my life to the study of the origins of our common – our common -European culture and civilization in ancient Greece and Rome.
So I find if offensive, insulting, irrelevant and positively cretinous to be told – sometimes by people who can barely speak a foreign language – that I belong to a group of small-minded xenophobes; because the truth is it is Brexit that is now the great project of European liberalism, and I am afraid that it is the European Union – for all the high ideals with which it began, that now represents the ancien regime.
Good defence against those who argue against Boris ad personam, he has all right to do so – I know that he is a genuine European, but he does not mention that he wants to be Prime Minister. Why so modest ? It’s a gamble.
It is we who are speaking up for the people, and it is they who are defending an obscurantist and universalist system of government that is now well past its sell by date and which is ever more remote from ordinary voters.
I agree that the EU needs reforms – but when a liberal champion like Britain leaves, you really let reformers down. And: on the day of leaving you will need to reform Britain, which must then adapt the whole EU-legislation to national law. You may need two Houses of Commons to do that and four Houses of Lords to avoid errors.
It is we in the Leave Camp – not they – who stand in the tradition of the liberal cosmopolitan European enlightenment – not just of Locke and Wilkes, but of Rousseau and Voltaire; and though they are many, and though they are well-funded, and though we know that they can call on unlimited taxpayer funds for their leaflets, it is we few, we happy few who have the inestimable advantage of believing strongly in our cause, and that we will be vindicated by history; and we will win for exactly the same reason that the Greeks beat the Persians at Marathon – because they are fighting for an outdated absolutist ideology, and we are fighting for freedom.
Here Boris is just overdoing: It is a shame that he compares a Union where Britain is participating in all institutions, has full vote, has parliamentary representatives and a lot of people in the executive bodies, has all influence if it does not renounce on it voluntarily, with an absolute oriental monarch trying to make the Greek mainland part of his empire (he already had the Ionian Greek on his side!). I share the admiration of Boris for our Grreek and Roman heritage. But this is an abuse of history and grossly unfair.
That is the choice on June 23
It is between taking back control of our money – or giving a further £100bn to Brussels before the next election
Between deciding who we want to come here to live and work – or letting the EU decide
between a dynamic liberal cosmopolitan open global free-trading prosperous Britain, or a Britain where we remain subject to a undemocratic system devised in the 1950s that is now actively responsible for low growth and in some cases economic despair
between believing in the possibility of hope and change in Europe – or accepting that we have no choice but to knuckle under
It is a choice between getting dragged ever further into a federal superstate, or taking a stand now
A federal superstate is an oxymoron ! Either federal or superstate !
Vote Leave on June 23, and take back control of our democracy.
Sorry, you did not convince me.
With all the respect I have for differing democratic opinions