We will vote to stay in

David Melding says both unionists and nationalists face contradictions when confronting membership of Britain and the European Union

I welcome the Prime Minister’s initiative to have a referendum. I believe that the United Kingdom faces a big constitutional moment. I am not sure that that was faced in 1973 or in 1975, because the EU, undoubtedly, has an economic and political dimension now. I believe that it was always implicit that the EU would have a political personality at some point — it was what the founding fathers desired.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising, given the experience of the European states in the Second World War, when the classical state concept — which was fully developed in the 19th Century — was destroyed in Europe. Most states could not even defend their own borders. They have looked at the whole political space and asked some fundamental questions.

Our experience was very different in that our state did survive and indeed had one of its most glorious moments. However, we live in this moment and what we decide will affect generations to come. This is not just a debate for us here today or in five years; we have to really reflect on what we are going to do.

I want to say a couple of words about the implications for unionists and nationalists, which is key as we consider Europe and as we approach another big constitutional moment in the Scottish referendum. I say to Eurosceptical unionists that you face a very severe question if you are not careful. On all these issues, you will be arguing on the one hand that the Welsh and Scottish nations can prosper in a British union, when you are also saying that Britain cannot prosper in a European union. That is a fundamental contradiction in unionist thought.

Unionism has always been an expansive ideology, which believes that countries can join together to create wider constitutional and political entities. That is what unions are all about. We do not have to say that nations and states must necessarily be coterminous. There are other options for us. Nor will Britain ever survive, in my view, by being the last place in the British Empire. We will only survive by helping to shape the British political space.

However, I also think that nationalists have to ponder quite a difficult question. You could end up saying that Wales, and indeed Scotland, can prosper in a European union, but somehow, that this nation building cannot go on in a British union. That is also a fundamental contradiction. Nationalism would risk losing some of its hard-won liberal credentials if that sort of argument gets advanced.

I believe, in all of this, that we have a constitutional, fiduciary duty to take these constitutional moments very seriously. Constitutions are not fashion accessories. What we do in the next few years could affect the destiny of Britain, whether indeed Britain survives, and also the manner and character of the European political entity that is now emerging. This will be determined for 40, 50, 60 years and beyond, so we need to reflect very seriously on these questions. However, there is one basic principle that I will come back to all the time: trust the people. I would be very surprised if 60 per cent do not vote in favour of the EU whenever that poll is held.

David Melding is Conservative AM for South Wales Central and Deputy Presiding Officer in the National Assembly.

5 thoughts on “We will vote to stay in

  1. No – we will not vote to stay in but only because we will not get a vote. Cameron has already lost the next election for much the same reasons he lost the last election despite having a wide-open door – because he is on a semi-permanent collision course with the core Tory voters on the EU and sundry other issues. Because of this the combined UKIP + BNP + Others vote cost the Tories around 40 otherwise winnable seats last time out and I would expect that to increase to 60 or even 80 next time.

    Don’t expect disaffected Tories to come running back – Cameron has seriously blown it now…

    From my own point of view I would rather see a socialist PM wearing a red tie than a socialist PM wearing a blue tie. Much the same applies to socialist AMs wearing a blue tie. Some of you seem to be in the wrong party, but that much was evident 10 years ago.

    We will have a better idea after the European ‘Parliament’ election in 2014 – don’t be surprised if UKIP retain their MEP in Wales – or even make it two!

    But, we must not forget that the EuroZone’s financial worries are far from over despite numerous attempts to kick the can down the road – Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Cyprus are in a bad way with France not too far behind. I have left Ireland off the list because they can, and probably will, export their way out of trouble. The EU may yet implode in chaos long before we get a referendum in the UK. I would rather negotiate an amicable withdrawal through Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty but I will take chaos if I have to.

    As for Alex Salmond – about all he has demonstrated so far is that he knows as little about how the EU works as Cameron!

  2. Why don’t you want to stay in? You don’t say. Surely the Germans aren’t too socialist for you? They have a more successful capitalist economy than the UK does.

  3. The late and great Mr. Enoch Powell MP was one of the people in the UK who read the Treaty of Rome and correctly forecast that the European enterprise was for political/economic unity,and not a trading enterprise alone. When Mr. Edward Heath was on his deathbed he confirmed that the process of political/economic unity was the original intention and that would in time go on to be completed. All well and good; however, when joining a club it is wise to fully understand its a)constitution; b)rules and regulations; c)costs, and d)unknowm obligations. The current set-up under the liberalising of market for goods and services means that vast number of Europeans, both good and bad, have free access to this country, and mayhem/fraud of welfare services continue at pace. Just wait till the Romanian/Bulgarian ‘travellers’ come here, and see a massive increase in crime. The ‘fiddle” is that they register as self-employed, and then collect BIG ISSUE and for that can them claim state benefits and even send them back to children in eastern Europe. Clearly we need to trade with our European neighbours, and the rest of the world, but it does not mean that we have to belong to the EU as full members. Its amazing that people in the UK who are opposed to the current structure of EU, and are called anti-Europeans when their fathers/mothers and grand parents lost a fortune in USA to fund the Second World War, and in effect save the French/Germans from themselves. There are a few who have benfited from the EU,and just look at Welsh Labour politicians who ENRICHED themselves by spending some time in Brussels and conning us that they were doing it for our good. I mention the MEP travelling second class on Eurostar from Brussels to London!!! The EU has still NEVER balanced it accounts!!!

  4. What?
    “Unionism has always been an expansive ideology, which believes that countries can join together to create wider constitutional and political entities.”

    Unionism is about subjugation and exploitation. It has always been about English rule and authority.

    The UK and EU are opposite types of unions.

    The EU has members who are equal and who have joined from their own volition. The only memers of the UK are Scotland and England and the latter forced the former into it againt it’s wishes. Just another form of conquest. Wales is not a member of the UK. England’s ruling class likes to think that Wales is part of England.

    The UK is an unjust union and is NOT a contradiction to Welsh and Scottish “nationalists” but it is a contradiction for Unionist nationaists who prefer the imposition of the UK to the co-operation of the EU.

    Tells you how unpleasant Unionism is.

  5. It’s only a contradiction superficially. The dividing line is essentially about which union to belong to, and the kind of politics each one promotes. I doubt anyone seriously joins Plaid Cymru or the SNP because they want Wales/Scotland to build aircraft carriers. Logically there are some issues that are better off being sorted on a global/regional level. Another example – licensing of drugs – if a drug is safe and effective to treat a medical problem in Italy then it is also safe and effective in Wales. Within both the SNP and Plaid there is a recognition of this… it is just that the EU is preferred as the mechanism for doing this.

    The reason is essentially obvious – the EU has in place a political culture more conducive to the promotion of social democratic politics than the culture in Westminister. It has in place social protections for Workers, a long established court of human rights to protect minorities and a redistributional principle behind structural funds. Thus the SNP and Plaid would feel far more able to pursue the social democratic/Scandinavian style politics as independant states within the EU. Even more so following the Blair/Brown years that surely demonstrated that ultimately a labour party relying on Daily Mail readers in marginal English constutiencies will never be able to deliver Scandinavian style politics.

    The opposite of this coin is that right wing advocates of free market policies despise the EU for exactly the same reasons. The social chapter, human rights rulings and redistribution of funds to poorer areas are the aspects of the EU that they want the UK to have no part of. For them, such politics are always going to be easier to pursue within Westminister, with its far more Americanised political culture and two party system. Hence they can argue for Scotland and Wales to remain part of the UK and still advocate withdrawing from the EU.

    It’s about the outcomes of different political cultures more than anything. The real interesting question is where the grass roots of the Labour party in Wales and Scotland sees it’s long term future – is continuing with Westminister control of all the major aspects of people’s lives (still) really likely to create the kind of society they want? Because the SNP are proving that at least in part of the UK you don’t have to go down the road of ultra right-wing politics to govern with Scandinavian principles. Most people recognise that in Scotland devo max would obtain 80-90% support against the status quo for these reasons. And it’s only through advocating devo max that Labour could possibly keep the union together in the long run. In Wales, the clear red water strategy is arguably the main reason why Welsh Labour have been able to retain power here for so long. Ultimately another decade of Blair/Brown style labour politics in Westminister would severely challenge the ability of welsh labour to retain it’s principled grass roots base and support.

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