As you consider your decision on whether to remain in or leave the European Union on June 23, it becomes clear that it is not only a political, constitutional and economic issue – it is also a moral one.
In the minds of many Euro-idealists, the notion of a united continent stretches back at least to the times of Charlemagne and a united Christendom, and perhaps even earlier. It is essentially a theological approach imbued with a romantic message, but in reality it has always foundered on the tensions between church and state. It has been undermined by the contradictions between the greed and self-interest of those seeking power for its own sake, the inadequacies of human nature, and the grand vision of theologians and of the Catholic Church itself.
At many points in history, this country has often been the sticking point for a grand European vision. Its people may have been Catholic or, later, Protestant, but they were not subservient to European autocracy. In more recent generations, Napoleon, Bismarck and Hitler all found their European dreams ending at the Channel. We remain the stumbling block for that grand European vision of political union. The grand move to European Union simply has not worked for us in practice and we must vote to leave it.
That is why this historic EU referendum on June 23 is about the right of voters to decide who governs this country and how. The reason why Westminster must remain sovereign for the voters who elect it is that it simply cannot be subordinated to decisions taken by other countries and peoples, including unelected officials in the European Commission. If we remain in, it means that more than 55 per cent of our laws will continue to be imposed by Brussels and the European Court. Most laws are decided through the EU and other unelected bureaucrats behind
The European Community has its origins in influences, attitudes and struggles which greatly precede the ending of the Second World War, but its early objectives derived from the attempts – laudable in principle – to prevent any such conflict in Europe from taking place again. In practice, however, attempts to do this through the kind of EU political union which developed have not worked and will not work. My new book, From Brussels with Love, which I have co-authored, demonstrates precisely how since, the end of World War II, Britain’s leaders (except for Margaret Thatcher) have consistently acquiesced in and even appeased our German partner’s quest for European integration. In so doing, Britain has locked itself into the second tier of a two-tier EU dominated by Germany.
If we remain in that EU, there will be no hope of securing long-standing peace, security and defence, when we are simply faced with the Schengen system, which has been an open-border disaster, and an EU that fosters extremism. But if we vote to leave, the UK will decide on all security matters and border controls.
The moral failure of the EU project is part and parcel of the creation of an undemocratic and unworkable political union which usurps the decisions of the electorates of Europe. Such a political union has effectively bypassed the electoral will of the voters and their parliaments.
National parliaments, including our own, have been deliberately emasculated on the altar of European political union. And whatever happened to the much-vaunted doctrine of subsidiarity? During the passing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1990, the first time that I heard the word “subsidiarity”, I realised – having been brought up by the Jesuits and recognising it as a concept that comes from Catholic theology – that the concept of subsidiarity was a con trick. It is based on the assumption that there will be a hierarchy of norms, a hierarchy of government and jurisprudence that is perfectly well understood. The only problem is that one should not apply religious or theological concepts to matters of politics. The notion is no more than an elaborate ruse which pretends to disperse power to the local level, but which in practice concentrates power at the centre in all the areas of European government.
The European project simply did not work out economically. We remain hugely exposed to the eurozone crisis, with riots, protests and massive EU unemployment. It is an unmitigated disaster.
As for our EU trade and the single market, for which so much is claimed, in fact our colossal trading deficit in goods and services with the other 27 EU member states last year stood at £67.8 billion. Compare that with the UK trade surplus in goods and services with non-EU countries at £31 billion. Germany, however, runs a trade surplus in goods and services with the other 27 EU member states, including the UK, of £81.8 billion. What kind of single market advantage is that to us? And if we remain in, there will be no change to our £9.8bn net contribution to the EU. By leaving, we will have more freedom to trade outside of the EU, with more jobs and economic growth.
This is not only an economic and political issue, but also a moral one – the greatest of our times – not only for the United Kingdom but for Europe as a whole. A vote to leave on June 23 is not anti-European, it is pro-European. It is for European democracy. This vote is about the self-government of your country and you as electors – and your freedoms, for which people fought and died. It is not merely more risky to stay in the EU after June 23, it is positively dangerous to your democracy.
Sir Bill Cash is the Conservative MP for Stone. From Brussels with Love is published by Duckworth