Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Would the EU retaliate if we left?

A no vote should continue to mean no

Would Britain’s exit from the EU set off the disintegration of the United Kingdom, pitting England against Scotland?

It is a very big risk, and perhaps the biggest single reason for sticking it out in the EU – if you admire the Scots as I do, and view the Act of Union as a great blessing.

The fall-out would depend on the exact circumstances of Britain’s exit, and the relative votes by the Scottish and English electorates in any referendum. Perhaps Scotland is not quite as pro-EU as people suppose.

Would we have to swallow the Acquis -- like Norway -- if we wanted to continue trading with the EU?

Absolutely not. We could aim for the Swiss model -- quite different from Norway’s settlement. (Norway has adopted 97pc of the EU Acquis, although – nota bene -- it has kept its fish and will keep its oil and gas. That extra 3pc is the crucial bit).

The Swiss have a looser arrangement. It is true that the EU is trying to throttle them – threatening capital controls four years ago – but I doubt it would dare to treat Britain in such a way. The mere fact of British withdrawal would change the strategic picture. Fifty years of ever-closer union would be thrown into reverse. New game entirely.

It is possible that Brussels would try to retaliate in the heat of the moment. I suspect that wiser heads would soon prevail, so long as Britain did not behave in a petulant fashion.

The Netherlands, Scandinavia, Ireland, Portugal, the Baltics, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia would all press hard for a sensible modus Vivendi with the UK. If the Franco-German axis refused to listen, it would make its own life very difficult. I think Berlin would hunt for an arrangement that kept us sweet.

Am I wrong in thinking that Brown will be forced to call a referendum? Maybe, but I reject the assumption that Downing Street will get away with an EU stitch-up simply because it has always done so before. The spell has been broken. You cannot over-estimate the volcanic effect of the French and Dutch no votes.

Why are Holland and France not holding referenda? Well, we’ll see about that. There was a very interesting piece in the NRC Handelsblad on Aug 30 for those who read Dutch, revealing quite a fierce debate about this in The Hague.

As for France: the French courts have ruled that EU treaty conflicts with the French constitution, so any change must be passed by a super-majority in the Chamber of Deputies. This gives the Socialists a blocking minority. The French Left is, of course, riven by factions, demoralized, and leaderless. Sarkozy is all-powerful. That may change, but probably not in time.

If the French people chose to accept this disgraceful rehash after already having voted No, shame on them. I am not sure I wish to share a Union with a nation that proves itself so supine, and so unwilling to defend its democracy.

(I distinguish between the French No in May 2005 after a huge national debate, and both the Irish No to Nice and the Danish No to Masstricht – which were reversed on a second vote. There was almost no debate in Ireland the first time round, while Denmark was offered four opt-outs on Maastricht, including the euro. The Irish and the Danes made defensible settlements. Furthermore, they were each left totally isolated at the time. Small nations do not always have the luxury of defiance).

On the break-up of the euro -- as the Latin and Germanic blocs pull further apart -- I stand by my position. These fissures take a long time to do their damage. The Spanish property bubble has begun to deflate, and Italy’s growth was just 0.1pc in the second quarter, not far off recession. I imagine it will take another two to three years for this to unfold.

The timing and severity depends on the actions of the US Federal Reserve, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan. If they turn the spigot back on, they can perhaps reignite the global credit boom for another two years (as after the LTCM crisis in 1998). I doubt that will happen, but it is all a question of degree.

If I have missed anybody, please excuse me.

By the way, so there is no misunderstanding: I adore France; Italy is my favourite spot in the world; my wife once worked for the European Commission; I have friends who still toil with high-minded idealism for the EU institutions; I don’t view pro-Europeans as “traitors”; I am not ashamed of having been “on the fence” on Europe for fifteen years. A large part of the British nation has also been on the fence, for very good reasons.

However, the EU has finally crossed the Rubicon by over-riding the Dutch and French `No’ votes. There comes a point when you have to take up political arms to defend Parliament.


All of the Tri-Axis parties would bind us closer and closer to Eurabia, until finally Our Country would be completely strangled to death. Only the British National Party would withdraw from the new embryo marxist Eurabia within 24 hours of forming a government.

We can never get back the billions and billions of pounds that they have stolen from the British People but the BNP would make sure that the huge amounts saved by quitting the EU would be spent on the people who really matter. The True Brits who have have been persecuted for too long.

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