Why is the government so afraid of the EU?

It is pathetic to receive confirmation from today’s government spin that this government is more afraid of appearing to be the awkward member of the EU Council of Ministers than it is afraid of being out of sympathy with British electors.

Throughout this government’s time in office they have been humiliatingly compliant with Brussels wishes. They have failed to develop and promote a distinctive UK agenda for a freer more open less intrusive and less expensive Europe. They have waited to see what measures Brussels wants, and have then said that is what they want so they can appear to be in mainstream. They have the audacity then to argue they have influence, when most of the time they accept what they are given. They have, it is true, occasionally said they want CAP reform, only to fail to deliver.

Today we are told they are pleased to go as the latest country to ratify the much hated Constitutional Treaty. They will use the fact that the Lords wrongly voted for it so soon after the Irish people vetoed it, to show they are “good Europeans”. It is all part of the unsubtle pressure being placed on the hapless Irish government, who stay drifting in office after their main policy proposal to the Irish electors has been soundly rejected! People of honour in such a government would have resigned, as they clearly do not agree with the people they claim to represent.

Britain should be ashamed of its government for behaving in this way. Surely now is the time for at least one major government in the EU to seize the agenda, and explain in simple terms to this collection of politicians and grand officials just why their centralising out of date power grabbing project is so unpopular with so many people across the Union? Instead of trying to cobble together new ways to steal the Constitution through against so many people’s wishes, they should announce its death. They should say they will work instead at restoring democratic powers to member states in more areas of life, hold a bonfire of EU regulations, and usher in the winds of freedom to the musty and secretive corridors of the Charlemagne building.

Why is there no Pitt or Wellington or Nelson building? They did much in their day to save the freedoms of many peoples and nations. Why are all the heroes and models ones of people who tried to unify a Europe which is happier as a series of individual nations with their own governments? Will no government speak for the peoples of Europe rather than for themselves? Why isn’t Mr Brown more afraid of the British people, and less afraid of EU bureaucrats who are meant to be there to serve us?

Does he really believe his own spin that the Tories were brought down by being too Eurosceptic in 1997? I seem to remember it was being too pro European which brought the Tories down, thanks to the common agreement with Labour that joining the ERM would be good for our economy!

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17 Comments

  1. David H
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    What a truly depressing sight this government is. How many months do you think it will be before it insists that the pound joins the euro, with no promised referendum?

  2. Posted June 19, 2008 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    The bureaucrats are terrified of the people, which is why they refuse to give them a say. In reality the Irish vote was fairly close but in other countries the margin of defeat for the EU would be much greater.

    EU leaders know that their only chance of implementing further integration is to streamroll over their opponents. Many British voters are now starting to see this for the first time.
    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  3. Posted June 19, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    The contempt that I hold for these people, their processes, and their derision of democracy is impalpable!

  4. Freeborn John
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Why is the Conservative party so afraid too? There is still a sense that it would be doing the same thing as Labour if in office; that the carefully crafted ambiguity of ‘not letting matters rest’ is nothing but an EU-sceptic dog whistle from a party likely to accept the post-Lisbon status quo.

    I read of some reports that Ken Clarke may be offered a position in a Cameron cabinet, something that suggests a Cameron government will be pro-EU, or at least would be inhibited by internal splits from doing anything about Europe. Perhaps some might say it s better to have him inside the cabinet keeping quiet rather than undermining UK-EU negotiations with unhelpful comments from the back benches, but I am still highly doubtful that a Conservative party leader thinking to include Ken Clarke in his 1st cabinet would grasp the EU nettle and enter into serious negotiations to change the nature of the UK-EU relationship to one of trade rather than political union.

    Reply: Nonsense. A Cameron led government will be Eurosceptic, like the party that sustains him.

    • Freeborn John
      Posted January 21, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      You are certainly correct that January 19 was "a disastrous day for the UK". With Ken Clarke in the shadow cabinet what price renegotiation of the UK-EU relationship now? If a Cameron government that includes Ken Clarke does not act on the EU in his first term, then why would he act later? It has been 30 years since the last incoming Conservative government and it may now be another 30 before we get another one prepared to address the central issue of who runs this country; Westminster or Brussels?

      I would rather see another 5 years of Brown than wait an entire electoral cycle for a Conservative Prime Minister with the will to resolve this matter.

      Reply: Mr Clarke is not going to change the Conservative policy of No to the Euro, No to Lisbon, yes to a referendum and yes to repatriation of powers.

  5. Elizabeth Elliot-Pyl
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Dear John,
    I gather that the Czech government is saying that it wont ratify the treaty, so there may be some hope there.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. Posted June 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    This would be a moment where the government could, as you suggested previously, decide to only replace half of civil service retirees. That would cut its size 2.5% in a year & have a greater deflationary pressure & therefore send a stronger signal to markets than any 1/4% interest rate rise while not threatening a house price catastrophe.

  7. wonderfulforhisage
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Sadly I none to happy that a Conservative government would be any different with regard to this.

  8. paul coombes
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, if you would tell me who I should vote for in order to rid me of the anti-democratic, federalist EU then I would gladly do so. Unfortunately, I do not believe that your answer would be "the Tories".

    Reply: The only way to reverse the Brussels ratchet is to vote Conservative in a General Election.

  9. Eric
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Redwood:

    As I understand, the Lisbon Treaty must be ratified by all twenty-seven EU member states in order to be enacted.

    Given that Ireland will not be ratifying the Treaty, would it not be the case now that there is absolutely no reason for any other state to continue its own ratification process?

    If the Treaty is somehow 'pushed through' regardless, not just the EU, but the entire world will know that Brussels quite simply ignores the rule of law. In that sense, it will be even worse than the old Soviet Union which, loathsome though its policies were, did at least legislate and enact laws–evil though they often were–by which its government abided.

    If we have a superstate which quite bluntly refuses to play by its own rules, should not an MP stand up in Parliament and say so? As I recall, an MEP did so in Brussels, though his speech was shouted down….

  10. alan eastwood
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood. It is the politics of the playground. They have to be popular with their own kind. Brown is popular within the corridors of the EU, whilst at home he is despised.

    In the playground, children do not like to be 'outside' the group, so internal politics within the EU has been designed on these ridiculous lines.

    Sadly and worrying politicians are attracted more to keeping within the small group at the EU playground rather than being popular with their own people and, thus, unpopular within the EU playground.

    Now, with the Cecs saying the Treaty is dead and, like Ireland, being given time to consider their next moves! (as long as it conforms with the majority!) Surely the time has come for David Cameron to be unequivacable and tell the British People that a Conservative Government will hold a referendum on the treaty in the belief that Parliament should have consulted the people on this major issue. If you like agree to the Lib Dem suggestion, simply IN or OUT.

    A simple question whereby politicians, business people and all can put the case for IN or for OUT and let the British people decide. What could be more democratic?

    Hold the referendum on WATERLOO DAY!

  11. Susan
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I lost my first postwhen my pc crashed. The upshot of what I said is that I think you are completely right.

    You, Cash, Davis, Heathcote-Amery, Shepherd – please don't give up because English people will not give up, neither will the British.

    If the Lisbon Treaty goes ahead, as the EC will ensure it does by various measures, we will be encaptured.

    For better or worse, our Parliamentary sovereignty was lost eleven years ago & there is no lawful going back (given the changes to our Constitution by this govt). The only way to end this deceit is through the people themselves. The personage of the Crown seems oblivious to the petitions of her people. Democracy will defeat a totalitarian regime. I just need Cameron to speak louder. If he will not, then the people will speak for themselves.

  12. mikestallard
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    You raise a most fascinating question. I have thought long and hard about this.
    On the face of it, it would be much easier for Mr Brown/John Major/Mr Heath/Mr Blair to have simply gone along with the electors and been re elected. Then there would have been no need for lying and cheating his electors.
    I think the answer lies in the nature of what politicians actually are. They are, at base, people who depend on popularity for their job. they also are skilled negotiators. Put them into a room with other politicians and, I imagine but do not know, they all begin to make the same assumptions and to get on like a house on fire, don't they?
    If someone goes against the general will, they are in as much bad form as that Elizabethan courtier who farted in the presence of the Queen. He was banished from court for twenty years.
    Secondly, of course, there is the rapidly decaying Foreign Office. It has somehow got it into an accepted truth that if we are nice to Europe than it will be nice to us. That accounts, perhaps, for the gold plating.
    Add in a lot of politicians who have been trained to obey and do what they are told without question, and – bingo! – we have the present situation which you so rightly (and courageously) despise.

  13. anon
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    It seems that the description of Europa commentators is largely incomplete.

    At the moment everyone will recognise Europhobes, people who are largely against the European project (perhaps yourself?); and, Europhiles, people who are largely for the European project (perhaps Kenneth Clarke?).

    But there doesn't seem to be any discussion of Eurofags: people who are so sycophantic and unquestioning of the European project that they are damaging said project.

    Anyone who pushes for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty after the Irish referendum should be regarded as a Eurofag. An ignorant wreckers who bring the project into disrepute.

    My colours are nailed closer to the Europhile mast than the Europhobe one.

  14. William B.
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    When Labour won the 1997 election I feared a return to the bad old days when their antagonism to the very concept of personal wealth coloured everything they did. Of particular concern was the presence in Number 11 of a man who chose (despite earlier opportunities) not to stand for election to Parliament until his party fought on the Michael Foot manifesto. If that manifesto still represented his core beliefs then, I reasoned, we were in for destruction of the dynamic sources of wealth-creation combined with wasteful and unproductive use of such wealth as was created.

    To my surprise, and to Mr Brown's credit, his time as Chancellor did not dismantle the central planks of macro economic policy which did so much to encourage enterprise over the previous eighteen years. We can quibble about certain policies which affected that issue, but it cannot, I think, be said that the overall effect of his policies was to stifle the creation of wealth.

    Sadly one cannot say the same for his approach to how wealth should be treated. Tax and spend has always been the Labour mantra and it remains so today.

    If one believes that detailed intervention by The State is the only way in which a fair society can be created and maintained, it makes absolute sense to tax high and spend widely. Acceptance that one was in error in believing The State to be the best body to create wealth does not necessitate abandonment of an equally deeply held belief that spending by The State provides benefits which cannot be obtained in any other way.

    But having to abandon a major part of the beliefs you held for most of your life and, worse still, having to accept that those whom you have opposed tooth-and-nail for many years were right all along, must weigh very heavily; particularly for someone whose beliefs were not pragmatic but ideological.

    Despite his apparent acceptance of free market capitalism as the best means to create wealth, Mr Brown is still a dedicated believer that The State can and should have a huge influence in matters economic. Some would say that he is not a Socialist because he no longer appears to accept that The State should run the means of production. I am happy to accept that, if for no other reason than that the attaching of labels is irrelevant. But his continuing belief in big government is bound to affect his position on many issues.

    I have never believed the EU to be a Socialist or Communist conspiracy because I have seen no evidence of any such conspiracy. I am more interested in what it is in practice and what it seeks to be in the future; approaching that investigation with a mind clouded by a desire to find a conspiracy would not allow me to reach a view with which I would be comfortable.

    Mr Redwood, you ask "why is the government so afraid of the EU?" One could substitute "Mr Brown" for "the government" because on this, as on every issue, the two seem to be identical. I would suggest that Mr Brown is not afraid of the EU at all. The structures and avowed policies of the EU reflect very closely his present core beliefs in big government.

    We must all give Mr Brown fair credit for when he has been right, he has spoken out on many occasions against those in Europe who have hinted at a return to the state as the means of production. That is no longer on the EU agenda and it is due in no small part to his powerful interventions. But, as with the Labour Party so with the EU, micro-management of everything they see in front of them is the desired path. If he fears losing a general election in 2010 it is no surprise that he wishes to hitch the UK wagon to such EU policies, by doing so he will make it all the more difficult for a non-Labour government to change things.

    I attribute no ill-motive to his approach, I just happen to believe it to be as misguided as his previous unrestrained attachment to the Michael Foot manifesto.

    This highlights an aspect of the whole EU project which I find most troubling.

    I doubt that there is a single reader or contributor to this blog who has not changed his or her opinion on an issue when they previously thought their mind was made up forever. None of us knows everything, and only the very scariest people close their minds to the possibility that new ideas, new arguments and new experiences might cause them to change their judgments and opinions.

    National governments frequently change their minds when they are proved wrong – it has happened recently over the 10p tax farce and it happened also when Mrs Thatcher and Mr Major were Prime Minister, the ERM farce being one of the best examples. Along came Brian Rix, trousers were dropped, a change was made and we moved on. (Is any reader of this blog young enough to have to Google Brian Rix?)

    But where is the mechanism to change the EU's mind? What happens when a one-size-fits-all policy suits 26 member states but causes huge problems for the other 1? What happens when the people of one member state elect a new government which opposes an entrenched EU policy? The more fields the EU governs, the more times such problems are going to arise and the greater will be the democratic deficit.

    Mr Brown is not scared of the EU, but I am.

  15. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    And where is the evidence that Cameron will fight the EU, or that he is, even, mildly EUrosceptic? I can't escape the conclusion that Ken Clarke is running him. You ask for someone to stand up and be counted, yes please, bring him on. The three main parties are all in favour of the EU. Yes there are individuals who are not but they seem few and do not shout very loud. The party demands loyalty, I can understand that up to a point, but there are circumstances where that loyalty must be questioned. So, who is going to start?

    Reply: Of course David Cameron is not being run by KC. I remember when he was first an MP he invited me to Witney, his constituency, where I set out my views on the EU, and he gave a speech of thanks supporting me. He would not have invited me and encouraged tme to speak about Europe if he was a federalist.

  16. William B.
    Posted June 21, 2008 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    Please ignore my last offering, it was far too long, sorry.

    W.B.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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