Lib-Dems neither liberal nor democratic on Europe
Nick Clegg's displeasure that the British people are due for a vote on EU membership in 2017 is equalled only by his alarmism about the consequences should we vote to quit
It is possible that the headline to this article is redundant in two senses: First, the Liberal Democrats are not liberal or democratic on anything; Second, no-one, Lib Dem or otherwise, who supports the EU in its current form can possibly be committed to liberalism and democracy in any case.
The whole enterprise has turned into an anti-democratic mess, supported by people with little care for freedom who are quite unable to muster convincing arguments as to why Britain should stay in without truly radical changes to the EU's structure and governance.
Enter Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister, with a scathing, yet vacuous, speech today warning of the four horsemen of the apocalypse should we vote to leave.
Criticism of the EU by sceptics was "ludicrous myth-making." To leave would be "economic suicide". The Prime Minister's approach was "playing with fire" and in terms of our international standing:
"We simply will not be taken seriously by the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, all the big superpowers, if we're isolated and irrelevant in our own backyard."
This is a lesson in the techniques of the europhile. Notice how everything is phrased in the negative. Clegg and company cannot think of positive reasons to stay in, so they attempt to generate a climate of fear about the consequences of leaving. Where is the evidence that quitting the EU would be "economic suicide"?
Since the preferred option of many Britons is to leave the EU but retain a free trade arrangement, the obvious first consequence of leaving would be that Britain would get back the 20 billion euros or so it annually puts in to the EU budget. You could build quite a few hospitals with that, or cut taxes, or whatever you fancy.
Other consequences would be that we could negotiate our own trade agreements without being shackled to French protectionism of the type that is holding matters up with the EU's planned deal with the US. We'd also be free from regulations and red tape.
Doesn't sound much like economic suicide to us.
As to the notion we'd be isolated internationally, that is laughable. The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy is a standing joke across the world. If Britain quit the EU, we'd be as engaged or as isolated as the British people wanted us to be. The Commentator favours an energetic foreign policy, and we'd argue for one, just as we do now. But membership of the EU is neither here nor there.
In sum, Nick Clegg has only revealed the paucity of the case for remaining in the EU, even as he sought today to defend it. One suspects that what he's really frightened of is that a referendum on EU membership would provoke quite a lot of debate: debate that would expose the Liberal Democrats for what they are, and for what they are not.
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