On December 30th I got a call from LBC, asking if I could appear on their breakfast show next day at 8:30 on the 31st to comment on ex-Commission President Barroso’s recent remarks about Britain in Europe. Then in the morning (as so often happens in this game) I was stood down because of pressure of other news. But I’d given it a bit of thought, and made a few notes, so I thought perhaps I ought to share them with you.
If you missed Barroso’s remarks, he said that Cameron had “lost influence” in Europe and the world by floating the idea of an EU Referendum and Brexit; that where President Obama would have called London first, now he was more likely to call Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Given the opportunity, I would have said:
I am astonished by the bare-faced cheek of this former Portuguese Maoist, who presumes to pontificate about Britain’s place in the world. He is saying that Britain would have less influence as a great and independent global trading nation than it has as an off-shore province in a dysfunctional EU. Yet some of us believe him. We in Britain tend to undersell ourselves. OK, we’re not top nation any more, as we arguably were in Victorian times. But we’re a top-ten global economy; a top-ten trading nation; even (despite the coalition’s cuts) a top-ten military power.
We’re one of the most globally-connected countries in the world: UN Security Council; OECD; OSCE; World Bank; NATO; Commonwealth — the list is endless, and the idea that we’d be “isolated” if not ruled from Brussels is both offensive and absurd.
There is no question of being more influential as an EU member. We have very little influence within the EU, which has a structural bias against northern “Anglo-Saxon” countries. Any voice we have is filtered through the Brussels Bureaucracy. British interests are submerged under the interests of 27 other member-states. We have no direct representation on the WTO, where we are “represented” (or not) by the EU.
As for President Obama (not the most pro-British of American Presidents) the issue is not that he calls Merkel rather than Cameron. The issue is that the USA has chosen to look West, to the Pacific, not East towards Europe, in this 21st Century. And they’ve done that because America can see what the rest of the world also sees: a Europe in long-term relative decline, partly for demographic reasons, but largely because of perverse political decisions on the €uro currency and monetary policy; on energy policy; and on social and employment policy, which are condemning the EU to economic failure, and which Brussels seems constitutionally unable to address.
Through our membership of the EU we are tethered to a corpse. It’s time to cut loose.