Sunday, 19 June 2016
Federalism is the positive case for EU membership - which is why no-one's making it
There's a positive case for the UK's membership of the European Union. Not the scattering of seemingly random words - cooperation, unity, stronger and so on and on - but a genuine case for us tying ourselves to 27 (and growing) other nations. But no-one - or at least no-one in the Remain campaign - is making that positive case.
There's a reason for this and its because of what that positive case is about. If we're better off as a member of the EU then we must also be better off if that union is stronger. And the way to make the EU stronger is to gradually diminish the nations that make up the union. This means a commitment to federalism as a future polity for Europe - something that the UK has always shied away from. It means, for all its problems, making the decision to join the Euro because being outside that single currency undermines the operation of the union. And it means accepting that taxes paid by the English, Swedes, Dutch and Germans will be used to pay Greek pensioners, to invest in Romanian infrastructure and to support the Spanish welfare system.
Instead of this positive case, because it isn't likely to be popular, we have an entirely negative case for retaining our EU membership. A case based on short term issues, on the selfishness of now. We're told to vote Remain because there might be a recession after we leave. We're told taxes might have to rise in the short-term. We're given threats about public service cuts - again an issue about now not our future. Nothing in the case being made to remain in the EU talks of a future ten years hence let alone twenty or thirty years ahead. Yet that is the decision we're taking. A decision Remain want us to make on the basis of what it will be like in 2017 not what Britain might be in 2037.
I don't support the idea of a federal Europe because the inevitable remoteness of such a government plays into the hands of separatists, nationalists and the emerging nativist right. But I'm prepared to listen to someone who thinks differently and can set out a cogent case for a stronger, more united Europe. That no-one dares make this case gives the lie to Remain's arguments about Britain being 'stronger in' - so long as the federal direction of the EU is denied by its advocates, the UK will remain marginal to the central decision-making of the EU.
If we accept Remain's argument then the UK is left as a semi-detached member of the EU, paying a huge price for the limited benefit of access to the single market. Unless, of course, Remain aren't telling the truth about the EU's future and Britain will subsume its remaining independence in working for a federal Europe, will join the Euro and will see Ken Clarke's prediction of Westminster's place that little bit nearer.