Recently I have read articles by Conservative bloggers in favour of reform of the EU. (One good Example) In as much as there is any kind of official Conservative view on Europe, it is that we should try to reform it into something much more to our liking. Many others share a similar view, Open Europe, for example is a think tank devoted to this idea.
The argument generally goes something like this:Since 2004, and the redrawing of the EU map, the UK has been joined by new potential partners, whose view of what the EU should be is dramatically different to that of Old Europe. By combining forces with these nations, we can push for a completely different type of EU, more free trade and less politics. In 2005, for the first time ever, a major EU integration project was derailed by voters. As France and The Netherlands said no to the constitution, many commentators claimed that we had reached an inflexion point, that the EU would never be the same again. We now had a glorious opportunity for change. With the selection of Barroso as the President of the European Commission, we have at the helm a man who many believe to be far more trade oriented than previous incumbents. In fact few would argue that he is a massive improvement on previous leaders such as Prodi, Santer and most of all Delors. So faced with all these positive developments, the Better Off Out brigade are looking to leave just as the party is about to get going. This approach is very beguiling, but it is nevertheless an extremely dangerous one, because it fails to recognise the fundamental realities of the EU. It is for the following reasons that we can never hope to reform the Brussels Behemoth. 1) The EU’s reason for existence is political. Whether we like it or not, the EU’s founders deliberately set up a political project, of which financial and economic issues were just a part of the overall whole. Those working at the heart of the project are driven by this vision. Take it away and the very reason for the EU’s existence ceases to exist. As it is political aspects that most Brits dislike (hence the constant lies from our politicians about it being all about economics) we are faced with an immovable object. Why should the other side ever give up their reason to start the club in the first place? 2) An entrenched Bureaucracy Will Defend its Position The sight of Conservative MEPs going native is a particularly painful one for Eurosceptic Conservatives. However, with vast amounts of our cash available to buy the loyalties of those involved in the whole project, the prospects for MEPs not going native are poor. As this group is in the best position to keep us informed, this is a serious impediment to reform. Our new allies to the East are subject to a similar monetary pressure. Using our hard earned cash, the EU is bribing them to stay on side. After all what Polish politician would really wish to put billions of Euros of free cash at risk. The fact that like all free money, this cash is not really that beneficial to the recipient, is not a factor that would sway a politician who has the chance to spend it. 3) Resistance to the EU is often from the Left Whilst allying with Stalin to defeat Hitler was a pragmatic necessity, the aftermath was half a century of tyranny across half of Europe. So whilst we can vote, campaign and generally work together with other sceptics, those found in much of Europe are actually protectionists. Their vision for the EU is in many cases even worse than the current reality. They would in many cases reject our vision for a free trading EU more fiercely than they do the current setup. Therefore creating a coherent front against EU encroachment is next to impossible. It enables the other side to divide and rule. 4) Justifying Their Positions The many people who work for the EU, from the commissioners down (and don’t forget that we have far too many commissioners) need to constantly justify their positions. This involves inevitably the production of more rules and regulations. If the whole juggernaut were to stop, there would be thousands of people, both in Brussels and in the member states whose meaning of life would be taken away. This includes all the lobbyists and hangers on, as well as the eurocrats themselves. 5) Unstoppable Momentum When the French and the Dutch made rude noises at their betters over the EU constitution, we enemies of Brussels got a little thrill at the thought of the juggernaut coming to a halt. The reality has been however that as much as Mr Blair likes to pretend that the treaty is dead, much of it is being introduced piece meal As much as the reformist claim otherwise, every day, the creation of the new legislation takes us ever further away from the stated goal of reform. 6) Irreconcilable Differences Viewed from the prism of free market oriented Anglo Saxon philosophy, the EU is little short of ridiculous. Rules have to be made which describe in detail every little thing that we are allowed to buy, every transaction is subject to the permission of our rulers. The metric martyrs were a tragic example of rules overrides common sense. Unfortunately whilst we delight (or at least used to) in a legal system that allows everything that is not banned, our friends across the channel for the most part are disallowed that which is not specifically permitted. This simple fact lies at the heart of everything that is pathetic and useless about the EU. Our system, had we preserved it needs far less rules than Napoleon’s alternative. To us, the idea that in order to trade, we need to harmonise everything is a self evident stupidity. To the French, its just self evident. So like a Protestant living in a Catholic monastery, we are completely incompatible with the culture and rules around us, and more importantly, our chance of changing anything is zero.