Spending a week on foreign policy has stimulated a lot of replies. Many have commented shrewdly on the problems the UK faces, and many have agreed we want a new relationship with the emerging United States of Europe.
A few have defended the EU and claimed that we will have to follow their laws anyway, so we might as well stay in to influence them. This is a misreading of the position. We do will not have to obey their laws here in the UK unless we stay under full EU control. We do not have to follow US or Indian laws here in order to be able to trade with them. Of course exporting companies have to meet customer requirements, including any requirements necessitated by local laws in the country to which they are exporting. International trade agreements and law is designed to prevent any country or regional grouping making these anti competitive or unfair to exporters.
It has always been a nonsense that pro EU campaigners have implied we have to stay in and go along with the EU’s ways in order to be able to trade with them. Germany wants to sell her BMWs to non members of the EU as well as members. It has also been misleading to say the EU has kept the peace in Europe since 1945. The peace has been kept because the main western countries are now all peace loving democracies, and because the US army and missiles were stationed in the centre of the continent.If there had been no EU, Belgium would not have invaded Holland, and Germany and France would have lived in peace together after the bruising experiences of three wars. The EU did not keep the peace in eastern Europe.
Many have used this opportunity to demand that we leave the EU altogether.Some seem to think it is my fault that we do not! As I voted “No” in 1975 when some of my current critics voted “Yes”, I think they are more of the problem than I have been. I tried to persuade Margaret Thatcher to only surrender vetoes over single market matters for a temporary period and for specified measures. I fought within the Major Cabinet for free votes and a referendum on Maastricht. I voted against Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon in the Commons. I have continuously and consistently made the case for sticking with a common market relationship which the people voted for, and against any move into the federal union. I helped make the case against surrendering our currency, and am pleased to say we won that crucial argument. As a democrat I accepted the vote of the people for a Common Market. I was a good loser. I do not think it was a vote for a federal EU. I would like a new vote on our relationship with the EU, preferably after a renegotiation.
The small band of UKIP supporters tell us all would be different if Conservatives would now join them. They are wrong. UKIP has spent years and two failed General Elections setting ever higher Eurosceptic hurdles for Eurosceptic Conservatives to jump, instead of wooing Lib Dem, Labour and Green voters to their anti EU cause. In European elections they have been able to split the Eurosceptic vote sufficiently to win a few seats, but in General Elections splitting off a small bit of the Eurosceptic vote just helps the federalist Lib Dem and Labour parties more.
Some of these UKIP supporters live in a dream world. They think there is a majority of the British people who agree with them, yet that same imagined majority just never get around to voting for them. They think the best attack is to target and seek to undermine the most Eurosceptic Conservatives in the most Eurosceptic areas, wrongly thinking them the problem.
Just for the record, I am not following a secret pro EU policy to stay in with some secret cabal within the Conservatives that wants a federal outcome. I do not have to change my Eurosceptic views in order to keep my pension entitlements. Nor am I planning a leadership bid, as one correspondent suggested. I am urged to speak out on the European issue. That is what I do regularly, as this website shows. The views get into the older media, as on Any Questions recently. This site is not irrelevant, nor some Conservative party approved humouring of the Eurosceptics.
I understand the frustrations of some that whatever we do or say EU powers have increased, are increasing and ought to be diminished.How will the tide be turned? By mobilising public opinion. How can that happen? By those of us who think the EU has too much power striving to explain to our fellow voters why it matters and how it can be changed. It will not be changed by very Eurosceptic people complaining that other Eurosceptic people are not Eurosceptic enough. You do not create a majority by detaching some votes and MPs from one large party to a party which has failed to make any electoral impact at Westminster.For MP s there is nothing to join. If you are elected as a Conservative you should not switch to a defeated party between elections, as you have promised to serve as a Conservative. If an MP did decide to switch parties to one defeated at the previous election, they should resign, and fight to win back the seat as UKIP or whatever. How do you think that would work out if anyone tried it?
I cannot take UKIP seriously, as when I need other MPs to vote against EU powers, there are no UKIP members to do so. Politics is about numbers and tides of opinion as well as about having the best policies and the most telling arguments. When you ask me what can you do to advance the cause I say spread the word and support all of us who make the case in Parliament and on the public airwaves. If Eurosceptics keep arguing amongst themselves, you should not wonder that the cause lacks political influence or the numbers to make a difference to our laws.