In sp!ked, Rob Lyons explains that it’s not just the neanderthal throwback Tories who are questioning whether the UK should leave the European Union:
Over the past week, there has been the most serious discussion about Britain leaving the European Union since it first joined in 1973, and since the British electorate voted in its only referendum on EU membership, under Harold Wilson’s Labour government, in 1975. This discussion a good thing, because it really is time we made a collective dash for the exit from the EU.
[. . .]
The EU doesn’t only elevate technocrats in the economic sphere. More and more political and social policy is also effectively being guided from Brussels. Consider an opinion piece [in the] Guardian this week, by the head of policy at Friends of the Earth UK, Craig Bennett. Bennett argues that the ability of the EU to impose rules and regulations on Britain has improved our health and environment. To be explicit: Bennett thinks it is better that people outside Britain impose these things upon us, even over the heads of our elected representatives. Where a national government might have to balance costs and benefits, and take into consideration the stated desires and priorities of voters, regulations and directives from Brussels can be imposed free from such consequences and accountability. From the point of view of NGOs and lobbyists, this is great news. Why try to change popular opinion when you can simply get the green light from some unelected body of technocrats?
To be anti-EU does not mean being anti-Europe. True, there is a fair degree of parochialism and anti-immigrant sentiment among many of those in Britain who want out. But those of us who believe in having closer ties with Europe and greater freedom of movement across the continent should also be opposed to the EU. Because, thanks to its anti-democratic institutions and its imposition of draconian policies on unwilling citizens, the EU is now doing more harm than good for the cause of creating a sense of European common interest. It might be uniting national elites, allowing them to take refuge from their electorates in the citadels of Brussels, but it is disempowering and even dividing the peoples of Europe — Germans vs Greeks, for example, or enlightened Western Europeans against allegedly backward, racist Hungarians.
Despite the creation of the European Parliament in 1979, there is no meaningful European demos. But the ability to move and trade freely is a good thing — something we could surely retain without the bureaucratic honeypot of the EU’s institutions. It’s time for all Europeans to reimagine how we might live and work together — and Britain marking a sharp exit from the anti-democratic, pseudo-unifying mess that is the EU could be the perfect catalyst for that.