Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

“No one under the age of 52 has had the chance to vote on the EU”

So runs the argument of increasingly prominent anti-EU Tory, Daniel Hannan MEP – still advocating a UK referendum despite the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

This is, of course, very true. Since the 1975 referendum on EEC membership, the British people haven’t had their chance to vote on being part of the EU system.

But when was the vote on constitutional monarchy, an established Church, Cabinet government, a two-chamber parliament, parliamentary sovereignty, a supreme court, the first past the post voting system, our membership of NATO, the UN, the WTO, etc. etc. etc.?

Why the insistence on a public say in one (really rather small) part of the UK’s governance, but not all the rest?

Why the complaints about the unelected European Commission, but no murmurs of dissent about how no one in the Cabinet is elected to that post? (Not to mention the UK civil service…)

Why the complaints about lack of democracy in the EU when the House of Lords remains unelected?

Why the complaints about EU law when most domestic legislation is passed via statutory instruments without so much as a glance from an elected official?

Why the hysteria over the largely powerless Presidency of the European Council, when Her Majesty the Queen retains the right to dissolve parliament and veto any legislation, whenever she likes?

How about, in other words, we put our own house in order before preaching about governmental perfection – and how about we stop with the double-standards? Want the people to have a say in how they’re governed? Fine. Let’s give them a say in all the other areas as well.

But don’t abuse referenda – generally reserved purely for extraordinary constitutional changes – for party political purposes. That way lies the destruction of the very system of government that the EU’s British opponents profess to hold so dear.


  1. Frank, I admit that you have a point if the UK liberates itself to practice so called social dumping (which seems to be the main Tory aim). On the other hand, one should perhaps weigh in the EEA budget contributions and the lack of representation in the institutions (Council, Commission, European Parliament).

    Do you see that Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway on the one hand, Switzerland on the other hand, have unfair advantages?

    By the way, formally the English language would be upheld mainly through the EU membership of Ireland, if the UK makes the “grand opt-out”.

  2. Nosemonkey,

    The problem you outline is is seen as a problem for EUrophile you and then a problem for EUrosceptic me. I know that the ECHR is seperate to the EU (but linked stronly) and the EUs own court is the ECJ. Would I be right in saying that the colleagues of the project actually like confusion about the respective responsibilies of EU and allied institutions – until we get EUrosceptically confused.
    Lately it seems the press have been more EUrosceptic, but not too long ago the EUrosceptic side of the argument was dismissed and ridiculed before any consideration was given to the issues raised. Have we reached the stage pointed out by Ghandi -“first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they argue with you, then you`ve won “.? It seems that the first two hurdles have been passed and EUrophiles cannot rely on Glittering Generalities and tired old cliches ,it only remains to show the status quo can be changed.
    I`ve admitted to you that some EUrosceptic arguments have been dubious but I wont counter them because of the deviousness of EUrophiles in other areas.Fairs fair there isn`t it ?

    Frank Shnittger,

    Welcome to the debate which by it`s very nature should have input from people outside the UK. In a dichotermous way though, one of your posts points out the problem. We dont want 26 other countries ruling Britian even if we have a say in it. As an Irishman I`m sure you`ll see the point in that.
    The elite of Britian was previously enthusiatic about the EU project, but as you point out, some nowrealise it was not the way that they could take the reins and rule the world and be on equal terms with the USA and USSR. Now scales fall from their eyes and they know they are outclassed by all the other nationalities functionaries.
    You mention a racist aspect but then printed a stereotype of a Brit abroad. I know they exist but is that all you see ?
    If we do leave the EU and there is the breakup of the UK,that would not be the end of the world.Pre 1922 many thought Ireland leaving the UK was a catastrophe. No offence but a couple of decades later we had our “finest hour”.If the break up happens the Ulster Unionists may see a better future in a united Ireland (Perhaps Ireland can rejoin the Commonwealth so they can swear loyalty to the Queen but pay their taxes and accept rule rom Dublin – EU excepted from this scenario of course.Whatever it takes to ease them in )
    Just think. Without the UK there would be no whinging Poms.

  3. Robin – “Without the UK there would be no whinging Poms.” As you know that is an Aussie term of endearment and applies principally to the English as opposed to the Scots/Welsh/Irish as far as I am aware… So without the UK the Poms would have even more to whinge about!

    Yes I know the fish&chips&warm beer is a stereotype which I used to illustrate the famous English (British?) inability/unwillingness to adapt to local conditions but noted that even those who might seem to conform to that stereotype is some ways seem to have no problems with the EU when living abroad.

    Some of my best friends are English and I wish them no ill whatsoever. English Euroscepticism seems to me to be a profoundly sad derogation from the outstanding British achievements of previous centuries and the (sometimes over-) confidence which this created.

    Ireland has willingly pooled some of its Sovereignty with other EU members because we can see the logic of dealing with common problems in a common way. We must remember that all politics now takes place in the context of a globalising economy dominated by (mostly US) global corporations, and whatever chance the EU has of regulating them in the name of the common good, a small country like Ireland has almost none.

    The issues of energy, food, and physical security are common to us all, as are the issues raised by peak oil and global warming. Most of the more progressive social and employment legislation in Ireland has been EU inspired, and the economies of scale require access to common markets with level playing pitch rules. Even the US has now been forced to adopt a more collective, multilateral, and cooperative mode compared to the “we’ll show ’em” Bush Blair years.

    So no, I have no problem at all pooling some Sovereignty and think there are many things best handled at an EU level. That is the widely held view in Ireland, even though our inability to devalue our currency in response to the current economic crisis makes life even more difficult for us just at the moment.

    The bottom line is that the Celtic Tiger (for all its faults) simply wouldn’t have happened without the EU, and contrary to myth, EU subsidies were just a minor factor in this. Access to markets, the social reforms engendered by EU membership, good industrial policies, a good industrial relations system, a good educational system and low corporate tax rates were all more important factors in that development.

    Even now, our catastrophic economic problems were largely of our own making – a failure to regulate the banks, promotion of a property bubble, runaway inflation, and very poor property taxation policies – were far more at fault than the Euro or economic policies emanating from the EU.

    So if anything, Brussels rule is more popular in Ireland than Dublin rule in Ireland at the moment, and given our proud history of seeking independence, that takes some doing. Yes, som things are always managed/regulated from closer to home, and getting that balance right can be difficult. But if the Brits could get over their fixation with “straight bananas” and really studied the detail of what was happening, they might find Brussels a lot more effective than Whitehall. (Of course it is in the interests of Whitehall to maintain an industry claiming precisely the opposite and appealing to British Nationalism to get a free pass for their own idiocies).

    If I recall correctly, the “Brussels Bureacuracy” is smaller than Birmingham City Council. Although that may not be quite comparing like with like, the Brussels Bureaucracy is in fact remarkably small for it to have such a powerful )(positive or negative. depending on your point of view) influence on the Governance of 27 meber states.

    No, I not looking for a eurojob, nor EUphoric at a EUtopia, but I do remember the alternative: rampant nationalism throughout Europe leading to two World Wars and a small insular, provincial, backward, inward looking, poverty stricken, priest ridden, class ridden, child abusing, sexist, chauvinist, sectarian and strife ridden land…

    The EU hasn’t been sole responsible for changing all of that, but it has been the largest single factor – and one of the truly great political projects in the history of mankind. We will only truly appreciate it when it is no more.

  4. Frank Schnittger,

    Without the UK the Poms will have les to whinge about, because they wouldn`t be sending money to those regions, and those regions can rule and tax themselves .
    I`m a firm beleiver in giving any region or people independence if they want it, whether it be Scotland, , London , Cornwall (a county in Engaland ) or the Forest of Dean ( an area)or Brittany (not in my remit ).
    Part amicably and then get on is far better than a forced union.
    The fish and chips brigade probably dont take any interst in political matters and many people leave the UK for other areas of the world. Good luck to them althogh I would understand any country putting barriers to any immigration .
    Ireland may have had its problems, and may have been as bad as you outlined up to the sixties, but I`m sure it would have grown up anyway .One thing to learn is always respect an Irish businessman . The EU may have helped your country but that is your country, and circumstances are different for us.
    Our catastrophic economy is also mainly down to our establishments stupidity .But being in the EU and chucking much needed money into it definately doesn`t help .WE would pull out of the recession/depression sooner if we left the EU project .
    (I like Obama`s take on this – he will beleive that Amerca is out of recession when people are back in jobs and have confidence to spend.Not just about statistics ).
    The Brussels bureaucracy may be smaller than Birmingham`s but that is not the full picture. Civil servants in Birmingham (and London ,Dublin, Berlin Paris et al )take their orders from Brussels, not the other way round . I know that is a simplistic way of seeing it but that is the truth. Therefore Brussels bureaucracy is smaller because it delegates to the countries and the regions .So yes Whitehall is inefficient, but it is our inefficiency that we can rectify. Would you want London to overide Dublin on the grounds of efficiency ?

    In place of fish and chip eaters why dnt we call them Beans ?