The sound of Euro-silence

Phil Parry says the parties have avoided discussion around Europe in the run up to the election.

The one area we have heard almost nothing about at a UK level during this election campaign is Europe. Yet the issue of a referendum on our membership of the EU is of paramount importance and affects Wales perhaps more than any other part of the UK.

The leaders’ TV debate in Wales covered the subject but it needs much more coverage.

For the Tories Europe is a ‘third-rail’ issue – and they leave it well alone.

For Labour the proposed referendum is a ‘distraction’ but best keep quiet about it.

For the Lib Dems continued membership of the European Union is a given, and they assume everyone knows that, so they don’t talk about it.

For Plaid Cymru and the Greens it is important yet they say little about it.

Only UKIP bang on about it, and they are deeply opposed to Britain’s membership of the EU.

Yet a recent CBI survey found that 400 businesses favoured staying in the EU. As Wales is poor we get a lot of money out of being a member. We receive £163 per head compared with £128 per head from the UK Government. According to figures five years ago, Wales stands to lose £207 million in structural funds and £209 million in agricultural funds if Britain leaves.

Those in favour of staying also say it is a fundamental tenet of democracy that the elected Government is allowed to sign treaties. The European Economic Community (as it then was) treaty was signed by an elected Government in 1973 and major changes like Maastricht were ratified by an elected parliament.

On top of that a referendum was held in 1975 which endorsed what had already taken place. For UKIP and others the treaties binding Britain to the EU, and erosion of British sovereignty, are different.

They are so significant that we should leave.

Both are valid arguments, but they should at least be heard.

The promise of a referendum under a Conservative-led Government is not just a gamble to fight off the Tory right-wing; it is an enormously important issue. It has huge ramifications for voters.

The ‘repatriation’ of powers is proving difficult. Many powers are in fact already devolved to EU member states.

I trawled through the party manifestos.

For Labour, Europe is on page 76, behind ‘global challenges’.

The Tories had it on page 64 behind ‘dignity in retirement’.

Plaid Cymru talked about it in Chapter Eight under the heading ‘reform, migration’.

The Greens discussed it on page 31 behind ‘stateless nations and minority languages’.

Even the Lib Dems, perhaps the most traditionally pro-European of them all, talked about “reforming the EU”.

The BBC’s ‘Manifesto Watch’ did not rate giving it a mention. Only UKIP boldly declared a BREXIT with a “roadmap to freedom”.

The media are little better (and I count myself in this criticism). They are obsessed with polling data which puts Labour and the Tories virtually neck and neck, and how the SNP will affect the final outcome.

The questions rarely focus on the party’s attitude to Europe.

It is a bit like a highly-controversial view of Islam.

Some commentators – perhaps Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the most prominent – believe there is something inherent in Islam which tends towards intolerance and violence.This may or may not be true but it should at least be discussed.

Yet the issue is deemed so sensitive it is rarely talked about.

So it is with Europe.

Perhaps we will hear more about it in the final UK leadership debate.

Or perhaps not.

Phil Parry is Editor of the investigative website Wales Eye.

14 thoughts on “The sound of Euro-silence

  1. I agree entirely that there needs to be much greater discussion/information about our membership of the EU,or the EEC as I voted for ‘staying in’ in 1975.The history of our (UK) involvement in the governance of part of Europe is very interesting,however the main drivers of integration were the French/Germans and we were in effect pretty marginal and late comers to the party.The ‘sell’ in 1975 was almost purely economic as the UK at that time due to powers of Trade Unions/’left wing governments was a ‘basket case’ and needed the cold shower of competition.The ‘drive’ of the EU for ever more powers/control of the UK was part of the Treaty of Rome on which it was founded as the late and very great,i.e Mr. Enoch Powell told us as he was one of the few UK politicians who had read the document. Its interesting that as I remember it a certain MP.i.e Mr. Kinnock of Bedwellty was violently opposed to the EEC as it was seen as a ‘capitalist’ body and peripheral regions would suffer as capital would migrate to the centre. Well things have changed as the ‘poacher’ has changed into a ‘gamekeeper’,and his and others contribution to Europe should be noted and applauded.There are huge issues involved in our current relationship with the EU,however it is not a one way street of OUR benefits,as clearly the UK is a massive importer of goods and services from EU members,and in particular the Germans have huge trade surplus with us and would be loathe to see us leave,as it would leave them with less support to deal with the ‘spendthrift’ countries.The EU has turned through its Parliament into a ‘socialist/green’ disaster which is very opposed to the City of London,which funds a great deal of UK wealth,and also its ‘energy’ policies are disastrous in economic terms. Lets have a free and frank discussion by our political parties on the benefis/costs of current membership,and necessary changes to free up markets/competitions in services and then have a VOTE in 2017.

  2. Phil Parry notes: “Some commentators – perhaps Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the most prominent – believe there is something inherent in Islam which tends towards intolerance and violence.This may or may not be true but it should at least be discussed.” Perhaps this theory could be transferred in order for us to ask if there is something inherently intolerant, and xenophobic, about the British nationalists’ position on ‘Europe’? This could partly explain the rise in UKIP support, primarily in England, and account for why most London-based parties run scared of debating Europeanism.

  3. Given that the calibre of the political class is probably the lowest I can ever remember they can hardly be expected to understand or talk coherently about anything complicated like the anti-democratic EU or the anti-democratic Islamic religion. Let’s face it, most of them are no longer credible in any subject area. This election campaign has been a stage-managed insult to our intelligence from start to finish.

    Aided and abetted by the media with their pathetic TV ‘debates’, politics has been dragged even further into disrepute. The lunatics are running the asylum and it shows!

    The good news is that across the EU, and the rest of Europe, civic nationalist parties are slowly but surely coming to the front, if you’ll forgive the pun… If the current trend continues, in a few years the only discussion the political class will be having about the EU is what to do after the EU? On May the 8th I suspect you will find that a lot of people have voted for the closest thing the UK has to a civic nationalist party and they are going to do that whether the tranzi-loving anti-British parties talk about the EU during the general election campaign, or not.

  4. Everyone is scared of the EU debate because it can’t be had without UKIP. For Cameron this is particularly difficult. Should he get an overall majority or lead a coalition of the Euroskeptic willing he will have to hold a referendum in 2017. For him to be able to campaign to keep us in Europe as he wants to do he will have to wring concessions from Brussels, but concessions on what? In 2012 to great fanfare Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that a team of civil servants would examine the extent to which Brussels interfered with the governance of the UK. They explored 32 areas of governance and their findings were made known a few months ago, to no fanfare whatsoever. Why? Because they didn’t find anything around which Cameron could build a case for renegotiation. In none of the 32 areas did our own civil servants conclude that Brussels unduly intervened.

    So should Cameron win outright he will have to take us into a referendum in 2017 about nothing. Whatever he comes up with in the interim wil be laughed out of court by Brussels, based on the findings of our own civil servants. This is what happens when you kick the can down the road to accommodate the Euroskeptic Right rather than keep the debate honest. How many of the 100+ business signatories to the letter in the Telegraph will be as enthusiastic about Cameron when faced with the prospect of an undignified exit from the EU?

    Little wonder everyone is keeping stum.

  5. This is a piece about nothing. For there is nothing to say on the matter. The UK is either ‘in’ or ‘out’ and it isn’t really a big deal either way. Not to us nor to any other European nation. We’ll all just try to muddle along as usual.

    But what is important is that the days of the Barnett formula are coming to an end. The much vaunted policy of ‘English votes for English laws’ will see to this. And with the loss of generous transfers from the English taxpayers Wales will increasingly look to the EU to make good the shortfall.

    I wonder how the EU will react to such demands?

  6. It is hard for a Welsh person whose nation has been part of a larger political entity for over 500 years to understand this English hysteria about EU treaties. The UK is in the United Nations, pays a subscription and is supposed to abide by UN declarations of human rights etc. Why don’t we have a referendum on the UN? We’re in NATO, which imposes obligations on the UK. Did the British people vote on that? Why not a referendum there then. And what about the World Trade Organisation? That has rules and can fine governments. I never voted for it but the UK signed up. Now they propose to let companies sue governments the way Philip Morris is suing Uruguay – for discouraging smoking. Why not a referendum on the WTO? The UK freely entered into treaty obligations with other EU states because it saw a rational interest in doing so. No-one’s freedom was compromised. Welsh people voting for UKIP are voting to payfrom their own pockets for other people’s neuroses.

  7. It’s very easy to sum up the Europe debate. It comes down to just two words, “suppremisism” and “English”.

    For English Imperialists challenging their superiority, or being equal with foreigners (particularly us), is anathema.

    Eurosceptics would support Europe 100% if England ruled it like it does Britain. UKIP would not exist and French sepperatists would be called “evil” and “dangerous” to a successful and beneficial union (only from England’s viewpoint of course).

    The EU is a co-operative enterprise of equals for their mutual benefit. The UK is not. Which is why they hate the former and love the later.

  8. John – as civic nationalism is a belief in a non-xenophobic form of nationalism believing in freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights, that would clearly exclude the anti-immigrant, anti gay-marriage, anti-multiculturalism, far-right party, led by someone who does not want to live next door to Romanians and feels uncomfortable (his word) when he hears anyone speaking any language other than English while on a train. As for those other civic nationalist parties across Europe you speak about, do you include UKIP’s ideological partners in France the Front Nationale in this list?

    One last question John, do you see yourself as a “Civic nationalist”? If so does holding the belief that Islam is “anti-democratic” form part of this “civic” outlook?

  9. The really interesting dimension is how a European referendum would accommodate the interests of the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Before the Scottish referendum Scots were assured they were a valued member of a’ family of nations’. Now Scotland’s governing party is being demonised by Establishment politicians and their media allies. Nicola Sturgeon makes a valid point in insisting that an anti-European vote by England should not result in Scotland and Wales being dragged out of the European Union against their will. The UK looks increasingly past its sell-by date.

  10. Anne’s words, ‘Handouts are not worth our freedom,’ should be inscribed in letters of gold as possibly the wisest thing ever written on this website.

    That is the whole point. It is not just about money. After all, most of us in our private or business lives have been offered opportunities to make more money if we did something we would not otherwise want to do – and most of the time most of us have refused. We refused because we chose freedom over money. If that is true of our private and business lives, we should apply the same standards to our political beliefs – and in particular to our relationship with the EU.

  11. “suppremisism” (?) “English” “”Imperialist”……just guessing you aren’t a fan of our nearest neighbour Gwyn. Am I right?

  12. J. Jones.

    I have no problems with English nationalism or England. But English “Euro-sceptisism” and “Unionism” are quite different.

    These ideas are about forced rule of others rather than working together as equals and respecting the rights of other nations, whatever their size. This nasy authoritarianism is why they like the UK (ruled by England) and hate Europe (Governed as equals).

    A Conservative MP said, only a few years ago “What are we doing being governed by Europeans when we should be governing them?”

    I’m just standing against injustice. Do you stand for it?

  13. “Anne’s words, ‘Handouts are not worth our freedom,’ should be inscribed in letters of gold as possibly the wisest thing ever written on this website.”

    Is Anne referring to Wales or the UK?

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