Wednesday 24th February
At last it is here, after all the promises and excuses, the prevaricating and the negotiations; we are actually going to be voting on Europe. And although I am all for greater democracy, I fear that there will be more mis-information and confusion than clarity and common-sense in the ensuing four months. Actually the whole re-negotiation was nonsense, smoke and mirrors, a media event – in reality hardly anything has changed. There is even confusion as to whether the ‘changes’ will require treaty change or if a couple of sentences can be tacked onto the existing treaties and all will be okay. And Cameron cleverly sidestepped questions about exactly how the benefits would be phased in (or rather, gradually withdrawn) from new immigrant workers, because nothing has been agreed so far. Despite this, and the French insisting that the opt-outs for the City of London meant nothing, I am afraid there really is no alternative to the European Union. It is certainly imperfect, and in need of constant reform and adjustment but it is possibly the single greatest achievement of the last Century.
We had two dreadful World Wars, both started in Europe, millions died, economies were ruined and whole cities razed to the ground. That we have had peace in Europe, despite the messy break-up of Yugoslavia and the current problems in Ukraine is down to the creation of the Common Market and the determination of post-war politicians to bind old enemies together in, and yes I know it is only words but, ‘an ever closer union’. And sadly the British have always only been half-committed to Europe; rather than work with other countries, we have always wanted special treatment. It is a testament to the patience of the other 27 nations that they have bent over backwards to give first a rebate to Mrs. Thatcher, then exemptions to the Lisbon treaty to John Major and now even more concessions to another Conservative Prime Minister.
I voted to stay in 1975 and will vote again to stay now. Unfortunately this may well help Cameron to a victory, but the issue is far too important to play party politics with.