When I describe myself as a ‘Eurosceptic’ I’m usually greeted with a look of surprise and a quick once-over to establish whereabouts I’m hiding the trademark ‘mum’ tattoo and my England rugby t-shirt. Not only does the phrase sound like some sort of foot fungi (though ‘Europhile’ hardly conjures up any nicer images), it has become synonymous with either rowdy bald racists, or Brandy drinking intellectuals with names like Theodore and Archibald. The term alone is toxic, and has quickly become one of the less desirable labels among political circles. It’s a bit like being a Tory in Glasgow. Or being Tony Blair.
However, if we were able to separate the debate on the European Union from the one on immigration, and examine the potential benefits of leaving the EU beyond ‘taking back control of our borders’ and stopping those ‘bloody immigrants stealing our jobs’, I believe that many pragmatic, socially democratic people would be leaning towards the Leave camp. People who pride themselves on being liberal and holding modern values are often quick to condemn eurospectism on the mere basis that if Nigel Farage advocates it, it must be wrong. Chairman Mao was an early supporter of feminism, but last time I checked the Polly Toynbee’s and Laurie Penny’s of the world weren’t exactly critics of that.
It may come as a shock to avid readers of the Guardian, but it is 100% possible to be both pro-immigration and anti-the EU, for I am exhibit A. Participating in a open-door immigration policy is an insignificant drawback in an institution that is wholly undemocratic, ludicrously bureaucratic, wasteful and stupidly expensive. I’d hate to sound melodramatic (and use another long word ending in ‘tic’), but complaining about free movement of people in a union which aims to completely submerge national borders and all notions of individuality is like going to Auschwitz and complaining about the quality of food.
When we voted to remain in the EEC in 1975 we voted for economic prosperity and better trade links, we did not vote to be part of a political union which spends its time and other people’s taxes banning vacuum cleaners and oddly shaped bananas. These laws insult our independence as well as our intelligence, and though their ridiculousness provides a reliable source of comedy and catchy headlines for the Sun, they demonstrate how desperate the Eurocrats are to chip away at national sovereignty and build a federal state.
I might not be so opposed to the EU’s war on hoovers and their blatant fruit-ism if such regulations were drafted, approved and implemented by elected representatives. But they’re not. 90% of all EU legislation is initially created by the unelected European commission. Yes, the token EU Parliament does theoretically hold the power to approve or amend (though not totally reject) the commission’s proposals, but this only happens once in a blue moon as a result of the system of majority voting. In 2013 just 64 out of 787 EU directives were subjected to debate in the EU parliament, and only 2, a mere 3% of those 64 were returned to the commission. To put this into context, last year everyone’s favourite democratic hotbed, the House of Lords, rejected 19 government proposals over the course of 188 parliamentary debates – amounting to around 10%. Britain’s Lords are hardly revered for their outstanding contribution to democracy (partly because most of its members can’t put their socks on unaided let alone make laws), so the fact that they’re statistically a more effective and prominent force than the elected European Parliament in their respective role speaks volumes about the lack of democracy and accountability within the EU.
Fortunately for the advocates of ‘Brexit’ (and unfortunately for the tax payer), the parallels between the European Parliament and the House of Lords don’t stop with their insignificance. To put it lightly, the current expenses system for MEP’s makes the pre-2009 British arrangement look like Mother Theresa’s bank statement. For being noble enough to turn up to their job like the rest of the working population an MEP instantly receives £300, allegedly for ‘travel expenses’, though they aren’t actually required to prove whether they’ve travelled to Brussels from Berlin or Athens, or by Megabus or private jet. Members also receive £29,000 a year in ‘staffing costs’ (a.k.a corporate lunches and spin doctors), on top of their £78,000 a year salary, and they can retire at age 63 on a pension of £39,000 a year. In total, it is estimated that each of the 751 MEP’s costs the European tax payer an average of £120,000 a year. When you consider the fact that the EU parliament only sits for 48 days of that time, and moreover that each member is only allowed to make 1 speech per sitting, which average at just 2 minutes (as every exchange requires translating into two dozen languages), an MEP earns an absolute minimum of £21 a second. Yep, that’s 100 odd quid for a sneeze.
If the EU’s complete indifference to money wasn’t highlighted clearly enough by that figure, the fact that the whole parliament constantly travels between Brussels and Strasbourg certainly should. This bizarre arrangement has absolutely no logic or reason behind it. It was thought up by the Eurocrats to appease both countries and their competing desire to be at the centre of the diplomatic stage. For me, this aspect of the EU completely epitomises the fundamental fault in its existence; the union is about politics. Not free trade, improved economic or social conditions, or even ‘ealth and safety; it exists to serve politicians, not people.
The Euro, though by far the most prominent, is just one of the many other examples of this shortcoming. Just about any economist on earth, or any GCSE math’s student for that matter, would agree that having a single fiscal policy for a collection of countries of different sizes – both geographically and demographically, different cultures, resources and national interests is completely and utterly absurd. The ‘one size fits all’ blanket approach to the economic well being of millions is beyond careless and will be looked upon by future historians with the same sense of bemusement we get when reading about witch hunts and rain dances. The Euro is a political tool in the shed of Federalism; it’s about uniformity and standardization, and if not for the anti-EU feeling currently spreading across the continent, I’d have put money on their being whispers about a ‘common language’ by now.
Some may interpret my rejection of the Euro as xenophobia (as mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan recently branded it on HIGNFY)… but aren’t the real xenophobes those who will vote to stay next year purely because they fear the changes that would result from a ‘Brexit’? I want to leave the EU because I love Europe, and because I love immigration. But if there is nothing to distinguish the French from the English, or the Spanish from the Poles, what purpose does immigration serve? What can be gained from experiencing Italian food, French accents and German technology if our cultures and economies become indistinguishable?
You might conclude from this article that I’m a closet Little ‘Englander, but I firmly believe that I’m a little ‘Europer. So vote leave,
take control protect roast dinners, French toast, Belgian chocolate and Danish pastries.