Lord Lawson has today published a powerful article, "I'll be voting to quit the EU" (07.05.13), arguing that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. My own views on this matter have turned round completely in the last decade. I began by being in favour of the EU on the grounds of affection and admiration for Europe; the same grounds now lead me to conclude that the EU is a threat. Lord Lawson's article makes the point well:
This has nothing to do with being “anti-European” [...] The issue is not Europe, with its great history, incomparable culture and diverse peoples, but the European Union. To confuse the two is both historically and geographically obtuse.
Curiously, the 'issue' with Europe is not so much its strength, but its overall weakness, which makes it harsh and bullying in those areas where it does in fact have some control. I tried to make this point in a letter to The Times (published 06.11.09):
In the United Kingdom much public anxiety about the European Union mistakenly revolves around its supposed intrusive and unbridled strength. On the contrary, the fundamental cause for concern is that the EU is in practice far too weak to protect the interests of its member states.
Indeed, the EU bureaucracy, for all its bluster, cannot effectively exercise even a small part of the power currently sought by the executive. The contrast with the United States is sharp and instructive. But this weakness cannot be remedied through any Lisbon or other treaty fiat. Power of a Federal kind can only be built incrementally, and with the consent and approval of the member states, who will cede actual authority when it is justified by an increase of security and wellbeing, and not otherwise.
Until the EU deserves respect and earned the right to rule we will need national governments to order and defend our societies.
In practice this is precisely what is occurring, as witness the gulf between the increasingly pragmatic national approaches to energy and climate change, and the infeasible and counterproductive mess that passes for European Union policy on these matters.
I still believe this to be the case, and my experience of visits to the European Parliament have reinforced this feeling. Consider the motorcades of Washington, which for all their grandeur, star-spangled banners, and outriders, simply carry elected representatives in the dignity that the American people believe fit; it is demonstration of public self-respect. Compare this with the aggressive convoys that force their way through the traffic of Brussels, their windows blacked out and only the yellow and blue commission flags and the sheer arrogance of their sirens to identify them. The passengers are unknown, unknowable, and unelected. It is a ceremony of pure oppressive power. There is no denying that it is authentically European, such is the history, but it is not a Europe that deserves resurrection.