How big should government be? Or what is the best natural unit for a sound democratic state? There are those who have long hankered after some kind of World Government nirvana. Erewhon was Samuel Butler’s idealised society. (Its “nowhere” spelled backwards, albeit with the ‘w’ and ‘h’ transposed to make it pronounceable.) Others have long argued for transnational empires of one sort or another- the Romans, we Brits, the Nazis, and the Soviets. There have been plenty of brave attempts. None have been as long-lasting as Nation states. Some think that man-made organisations (UN, EU) are capable of trumping our love of our own nation.
For me, an island with 65 million people on it, with one history and language and culture, makes a sound basis for government – and run not from Brussels, nor even Edinburgh, but from Westminster. So I had hoped for a fundamental renegotiation of our terms of membership of the EU. It should be a trading mechanism amongst free and independent nation states. That’s what we signed up to; and that’s what we want for the future, with our everyday governance coming from Parliament. Yet I fear that Mr Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ looks like being a bit of a damp squib. His four initial negotiating demands were, in the words of my friend Jacob Rees-Mogg,”pretty thin gruel.” And it looks as if he can’t even achieve one of the most basic: restricting in-work benefits to EU migrants for four years after their arrival here. Well, all of that makes it more and more likely that I for one will be campaigning and voting to leave the EU at the Referendum in 2016/17.
Supra-national organisations like the EU are flawed from the start. You cannot take 500 million people spread from the Greek Islands to the Orkneys, with a myriad different histories, cultures and traditions and force them into one straight jacket. It just cannot be done, and nor should it. People should be free to have their own Nations, their own democratic institutions, free of interference by - in this case unelected- bureaucrats from some imaginary State in the Sky.
All of that was brought home to me by the torrid EU Summit which the Prime Minister is enduring today, and it’s comparison with the Climate Change negotiations which concluded in Paris last week. Albeit convened by the UN, that was 190 free and independent nation states agreeing through bi-lateral negotiations to limit their CO2 outputs and in many other ways for the collective benefit of all. It was not some supra-national organisation laying down how it would happen. It was 190 free and independent governments agreeing amongst themselves to give up certain things for the collective benefit of all. And that is exactly how the EU should be.
It can only succeed and survive if we were to sweep away the ever-burgeoning bureaucratic mountain; the loss of our freedoms, the domination from Brussels. Those things are no longer acceptable to the British people. And if they cannot see that, then Brexit seems to me to be inevitable.