It’s the return of the Tory Hokey Cokey – only problem is they don’t know if they’re in or out at the moment. Europe was the death of the them in the 90s and it could be about the split the party again with UKIP and Labour sitting on the sidelines laughing.
Seventy MPs have supported an amendment to the Queen’s Speech about referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. This is a ‘win-win’ move claim the so-called rebel MPs because they are claiming to support it strengthens their position and if it loses because Labour vote against again it will strengthen their core vote. But I think it’s actually a ‘lose-lose’ issue because if it goes ahead ultimately they are rejecting their own party’s Queen’s Speech as it was which makes no sense and if it fails they have just shown themselves up as being divided and uncertain.
My position on Europe is the same as my position on the UK and Scotland – I would need to see the evidence to support leaving because at the moment we are protected by being in the EU through laws and trading relationships which are covered by our membership. It always comes down to the pound in your pocket and until someone can prove that the alternative is better I’m all for the status quo. It’s not that I don’t like change because if the change is positive and considered then I’m willing to try it – but ill thought out knee-jerk reactions to try to ease the minds of the grassroot Tories that are fearful of the rise of UKIP is not the way to go. Nigel Farage and his band of misfits are the new protest vote. With the Lib Dems in the pocket of the Conservatives through the coalition unhappy blues have no other option. If their recent 23% share of the vote was replicate in a General Election they would achieve no seats in Parliament.
Politics is too reactionary these days and needs to consider longer term goals rather than appeasing the grumpy old racists in their ranks. When Bill Cash, Teresa Gorman, John Redwood and company rose up against John Major’s position in Europe all it achieved was a disintegration of their hold on power – the same could happen now with two cabinet ministers, Michael “Pob” Gove and Phillip Morris, both saying over the weekend they would vote to leave the EU. It’s not as simple as walking away – it’d be like a messy divorce where we’re all fighting over custody of Brussels and The Netherlands.
The other issue that the Tories can’t seem to see is that if the UK renegotiated instead of withdrawing we’d still have a degree of power and a front seat at the table instead of shouting from the outside in. Again I’d point out that in an ever shrinking world of communications and trade why do we want to put up barriers to prevent these things. People speak about the success of Switzerland but with respect to that country it is not in the G20 or one of the most powerful countries in the world – the UK is the 4th richest and most powerful partly down to trade agreements and the stability of the EU over the last half century. Why would we take a risk to jeopardise that stability because Nigel Farage is beating the racism drum?
The treaties and laws that we have signed up to in Europe have given us cleaner water, working rights, disabled rights, supported farming and fishing, better food labelling, funding to support jobs, working time directive, child protection, conservation, education treaties and even the cost of a mobile phone call while in Europe. It’s not perfect – far from it – but we benefit much more than we realise and if we left then the government would have to find money for the shortfalls in these types of areas – and what’s the one thing we don’t have just now?