Saturday, 7 May 2016

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report “Implications of the referendum on EU membership for the UK’s role in the world”

King’s College London has published a website about the UK’s position in a changing Europe, an academic platform to speculate about the future.

Crispin Blunt spoke about EurIn as part of an announcement of his Committee’s report.

Blunt’s covering speech

Blunt spoke as Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, headlining the Committee’s report Implications of the referendum on EU membership for the UK’s role in the world.  Blunt’s message was to sketch the range of evidence within the report, rather than to draw a conclusion.  From Blunt’s speech, it is quite clear that, for the most part, the choice of Brexit of EurIn (or “Bremain” as Blunt put it), is potentially a false choice.  There are as many perceived advantages from Brexit as there are for EurIn.  For example, a ‘trade-off’ in trade policy would be the case in a EurIn world, just as it would in a Brexit world, being different ways of getting to broadly the same outcome (with relatively minor differences in scope).

However, Blunt’s speech also noted:

“It is unlikely that in the coming decades the UK is going to be prepared to fully sign up to the political integration which could underpin a more effective EU foreign policy and defence, including a European army.”

This is a pivotal argument that Brexiteers need to answer.  Leaving the European Union to allow Europe to become its federalist dream is politically satisfying, because no-body would then obstruct the federal dream any more, and Britain would be free to do its own thing.

But if federalism results in a European Army, then the equation changes unpredictability.

Centralised power - centralised enforceable power -  tends to attract power-hungry egomaniacs, a truism that packs European history to the rafters.  At the same time, few European countries have yet lived with democracy for more than 100 years (the Scandinavians, British & Irish being the notable exceptions).  So the notion of a European Army should worry all of us.  Therefore, is it best for British interests to be EurIn so that we can continue to sabotage the federal dream and kill the prospects of a European Army from the drawing board?

The Committee’s report

Referring to the Committee's report, section 4 (“Stay or go? The world in 2040”) is a valuable contribution to the Brexit debate.

For example, paragraph 47 - an introduction to section 4 - says:

“The balance, ultimately, will depend in part on events over which the UK and the EU may have little control, including global economic trends, the future trajectory of current “rising powers”, and political developments in the USA, Russia, China and elsewhere.”

Given that the Europe Union appears to be relatively pointless in regard to the development of global governance, this paragraph amounts to saying that the European Union has no useful predictable purpose at all.  In turn, this answers the question as to why the European Union has never published a strategy for Europe (it proposes to do so in June 2016).  Which in turn means that the base purpose of the European Union is solidarity, the negative self-sacrificing variant amounting to a cartel of the political class against the outside world (including its own demos).

For example, paragraph 72 - in connection with impact of an expanding Eurozone following a British vote for EurIn - says:

“This [an expanding Eurozone] poses somewhat of a paradox for the UK inside the EU. On the one hand, an effective, high-performing and sustainable eurozone would be likely to benefit the UK economically. On the other hand, the reforms proposed for the euro area, including more economic, financial and fiscal co-ordination would, if implemented, represent a substantial deepening of integration between those states. This has led to concerns that the UK could be left on the outside of an ever-tighter decision-making majority, which, by voting as a bloc, could introduce measures that threaten UK interests in the single market.”

This underlines the futility of Cameron’s deal of 19Feb2016.  A two-speed Europe is incompatible with the federal dream; UKGov’s mid-air position is ultimately unworkable and unsustainable.  In effect, Cameron has won agreement from 27 other governments that Britain wants to nail jelly to the ceiling.  “OK,” said the 27.  “We’ll sign up to watch you do that…!”

But, ultimately, the choice of Brexit v EurIn is a zero-sum game, substantially a false choice.  About a future inside the European Union, paragraph 77 concluded:

“In a volatile and multi-polar world, membership of a secure, globally-engaged and democratic EU could benefit the UK well into the future. Yet the EU is currently beset by crises. If these crises go unresolved, the EU could face ever-decreasing relevance on the world stage, with concomitant damage to the UK and all other Member States. If the UK chooses to remain, it will need to play a leading role in ensuring that the EU survives its current crises and faces up to the need to remain competitive and outward-looking with a relevant institutional framework and appropriate democratic oversight.”

European history over the past centuries - including history since 1945, foreign and socio-economic policy histories in particular - shows that there is no crisis the Europeans cannot worsen.

The net result, whether Brexit or EurIn, is Britain’s constant firefighting to minimise the damage that the European Union can (and probably would) inflict on itself and on Britain.  

What a bleak choice.

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