Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Churchill would have ratified the EU Treaty

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter’. Churchill’s famous dictum could be very helpful to British MPs as they engage into the latest row over the EU Treaty. Some of them have even formed a cross-party group which brands itself as the “I Want a Referendum” gang. Today their members, mainly Tories, Lib Dems and some Labour, as well as a bunch of campaigners formed a long queue by the Parliament, demanding a referendum before any ratification is implemented by the British Government.

A few weeks ago I used to believe in a referendum, mainly because of Brown’s incapacity to show any public transparency on EU matters. His stubborn continuation in the lamentable footpaths of former British Prime Ministers, who have always treated the EU as the “forbidden apple” subject, inspired a sort of quiet rebellion within me. Until today!

Churchill woke my senses up this morning as I was watching David Cameron pick the wrong fight during PM’s Questions…AGAIN. One does not need Einstein’s brain to see through the shallow Tory strategy of attempting to mobilise public support by employing cheap forms of populism. Blame it on Europe and get the average Brit excited about politics. Spit on Brussels and “Joe the six-pack” will vote in your favour…as he doesn’t have a clue! How can he/she understand when there is so little public awareness of Europe in the UK? The Brits still talk of Europeans as another ‘breed’ – such strange beings with organised manners and a relaxed approach to life. Such a threat to the shambolic ways of the Brits!

Westminster is today suffering from cheap politics and the subject deserves to be revisited properly. First of all, this is the wrong fight to pick. Cameron would strike better chords with the public if he attacks Brown where it hurts. Instead of a referendum, the Tory ‘Musketeer’ should concentrate on Joe’s real issues, such as why the UK ranks 17th in the Euro Health Consumer Index, still lagging behind European counterparts when it comes to basic healthcare…

On the other side, Gordon Brown should come out of his timidity and confront his opponents with passion, as this remains the miraculous remedy in politics. Remember Tony Blair? Brown’s Government has a responsibility to explain to the average voter that the EU Treaty will in effect simplify matters and will play in favour of the island’s electorate. Same responsibility lies with the Tory and Lib Dem leaders. They should first explain to their constituents what the Treaty is about and then ask them to vote in a referendum.

Have they told the average Brit for example of how the Treaty will get rid of the current rotating EU presidency and replace it with a President, who may even be Tony Blair? How the Treaty will give Europe a bigger voice in world affairs and that this will be complementary to the foreign policies of each member state? And how the average Brit’s representation in international politics will increase? Do they know that the Treaty will result in fewer EU Commissioners than there are today – satisfying precisely one of the primary concerns of the UK with the EU Commission? Does Joe know that the Treaty offers the UK an opt-out from European policies concerning asylum, visas and immigration?

Judging by Churchill’s famous speech in 1946 that ‘we must build a kind of United States of Europe’, the average Brit today would have continued with their beer drinking and Churchill would have swiftly implemented the ratification of the EU Treaty. Brown should do the same!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

With that sort of snobery, are you surprised people hate the EU?

So, what you're saying is that the people should only be able to vote on issues when 100% of the population understands the matter at hand?

As you suggested, the average voter is pretty thick. Therefore if we're not going to allow him/her to vote on referendums, why should he even have the right to vote?

Ignoring the people merely on the premise of the electorates "ignorance" is a recipe for totalitarianism and persecution.

Can you not see why people are cynical about government when they only put the vote to the people on issues that they'll approve? Blair only supported a vote because he knew Chirac would follow and likely lose.

Sure, your first Churchill quote is correct, but he also said it was the worst style of government... apart from all the rest.

Ralf Gjoni said...

Thank you for your comment. Far from "snobery", my argument is based on the necessity for a well-informed public opinion before a referendum is proposed. I would never suggest the average voter is "pretty thick" as you put it, however I am concerned by the lack of attention given to voting issues. Take France for example - its citizens cast a vote of confidence on the then President Chirac when they were in fact asked to express their opinion on the EU constitution. A clear example of a malfunctioning mechanism of democracy. The same people, showed no sign of resistance as Sarkozy implemented the "new" EU Treaty. Therefore, I believe that unless the public is informed on the issue, referendums can result in huge political costs to the country...

Anonymous said...

But the constitution wasn't just a vote of confidence on Chirac now was it? After all the Socialists supported it too. The constitution was rejected on the basis of 'Americanisation'. People believed it leaned to much in favour of globalisation.

You also claim that the government shouldn't have a vote because the public's ill informed. Does that mean that the people of Florida (2000) or Scotland (2007) shouldn't be allowed to vote because they didn't understand the system? If the government wants to inform the electorate what better way to do it by fighting for a yes vote?! It seems that you're obviusly coming from a very pro-EU angle so how can you then say that the British electorate are ill informed merely because they hold an opinion contrary to yours!!

Finally your Churchill quotation conveniently missed the latter part of his speech where he calls for this United Europe to be 'sponsored' by the Us, Britain, the Commonwealth and "I trust the Soviet Union." In essence he was calling for Britain to be separate from Europe. He called for these 'sponsors' to be "friends and sponsors of the new Europe, and must champion its right to live and shine." So, Churchill may have backed the Eu Constitution (I mean Lisbon Treaty) but not for Britain as we wouldn't be members in his vision in the first place.

As much as Churchill urged Europe to unite, he did this because he continued to believe in spendid isolationism where Britain acted to balance the emergence of a Europe hegemon.

You should also watch when you attempt to tar Brits as "Joe six pack". This is the rhetoric and stereotype that turns people against the EU in the first place... And will continue to do so. David Martin MEP once told me that when he campaigned he was shocked to see how informed the electorate was about Europe... Just because they don't hold your opinion doesn't make them thick. Even if many didn't have a clue of the constitutons contents, the desire to see your country pursue its own destiny is a policy in itself. Being informed is another issue as well. The EC spends billions on Eurobarometre that has been known to spin the outcome of polls to suit its agenda. It has also sought to implement policies because the majorit of EU 'citizens' want to see action. This may end up prejudicing the interests of a member state.

The sooner Europhiles like yourself learn this, the better.