I must admit that I’ve thought that the EU was flawed, and have done for some years. I won’t get sidetracked by going into the details, but I’m broadly in support of Tony Benn here. Whose views are all over the web. I don’t accept Benn’s premise that the UK system is at all better than the EU system – the UK has just as many flaws – but I agree with Tony’s analysis, as far as the things that are wrong with the EU. To the point where I’d happily be out of it. I have European friends and think the idea of some pan-European organisation where we all practise brotherly love toward each other is a great idea. But I don’t think the EU organisation is it. Yanis Varoufakis’s writings add to my belief, although his conclusion is to remain and reform. I don’t think the EU will reform, so therefore I’ll walk. I don’t particularly fear a rise of nationalism, because I think you argue the issue. I don’t see the EU as a buffer to prevent future conflicts. I think where I disagree with my European friends is that they might. But then for a lot of them, their grandparents have either been occupied by a foreign power, or have themselves been occupiers, so my friends’ perspective will be different to mine.
After the referendum, my view on the EU, frankly, became irrelevant. What then became relevant was how we were governed – whether we were governed by a beast which listened to the population, or whether we were governed by one which thought it should dictate. Certainly, for me, government is consensual. We pay our taxes, we (mostly) don’t break the law, because we recognise that our society is the better for it.
I can understand May’s deal. She’s basically no more than a go-between. She’s playing devil’s advocate, and presenting what she thinks is the “best” deal that the UK will get from the EU. And the EU have agreed with her. Whether the UK Parliament will subsequently agree that the deal is a good one is another matter.
But I harp back to the 52:48 nature of the referendum vote. To me, I think if you have a vote which is that close, you have to come up with something pretty diluted in order to try and reconcile these two factions. The majority might well have said “Leave”, but I think we need to recognise that 48% of our countrymen wanted to stay in the EU. I can see where many Brexiteers are coming from, because they live in a world where it’s right that 50.1% of the vote gives 100% of the power, but I don’t agree with it.
I think that you have to compromise. The most we can hope for is to reclaim governance (and this might be where May’s deal falls down). Plus, you also need an acceptance that things might become clearer with the passage of time. We’ve been fifty years getting intertwined with the EU so I don’t for a minute think we’ll finalize the precise relationship we want with the EU in just two or three years. So, there are bound to be things where we either want to be closer to, or further from, the EU, so we need to not tie the hands of our successors. To hear things like “the UK can’t withdraw from something unless the EU member states agree” seems unacceptable. We all need to be able to withdraw from X, in the knowledge that the other party might do Y as a result.
I do think that what I’m hearing from the politicians, btw, just exacerbates the situation. From Labour we hear no more detail that “the deal is a shambles”. Why? From the government, we hear that the deal delivers on Brexit. Again, why? More specifically, it might deliver Brexit but how does it affect trade and jobs? And, there seems to be acknowledgement that people voted to leave because of concern over immigration (I didn’t), so how have you satisfied them? You come to the conclusion that most politicians are just toeing the line, saying what they’ve been told to say. That they likely don’t fully understand the deal either. At least with somebody like Jacob Rees-Mogg I’ve heard some kind of reasons why he doesn’t like it. I mean, there’s probably little on which Mogg and I would agree politically, but I think he’s gone some way to adding clarity to the debate here.