Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, began self-assured – even more arrogant than usual – when he appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning to announce that he was hopeful of a deal to keep Britain in the European Union (EU) by next month.
Speaking to the BBC host, he declared: “I’m hopeful of a deal in February, and if we get that, we can go ahead and hold a referendum.” This would effectively mean a referendum of the British public this summer, perhaps as early as June, just a month before the release of the sequel to one of my favourite films of all time: Independence Day.
The Prime Minister’s language is not that of a man who expects, as so many of us have ourselves expected, to return from the European capitals after months of negotiations with nothing.
Hardened Eurosceptics will know that his wish-list isn’t really that compelling: four broad points which allow for much wiggle room from the EU-elite, which in themselves fail to go to the heart of Britain’s disillusionment with the European project:
- Keeping Britain in the ‘single market’ for trade;
- Reducing red tape;
- Exempting Britain from the “ever-closer union” rhetoric and practicalities of Europe’s constitution;
- Restricting welfare for EU migrants to Britain.
As it stands, he may be able to find support for, and declare victory on at least three of these points. The “ever closer union” ideal is one that Europe’s leaders are unlikely to give much ground on.
But these issues hardly speak to the source of Britain’s frustration with European Union membership. This is set to be a referendum about sovereignty, liberty, and the rights of freeborn men. It’s not about tinkering around the edges, fixing a few split ends. It’s Britain’s chance to stand athwart history and yell “stop!” – this global, power-elite governance, with its grey men in grey suits has gone too far.
As recently as November, it looked like Mr. Cameron would struggle on almost all his “renegotiation” points. To be a member of the European Union, the EU chiefs would say, is to be a member in full, or not at all. It’s not a buffet cart, you can’t pick and choose.
But since the Paris terror attacks, the German migrant rape scandal, and even the continuing fall out of Poland electing a right-wing, anti-EU government… Europe is getting desperate. Britain leaving at this juncture would no longer be a serious step backwards: it may indeed be fatal.
For patriotic Britons, the European Union embodies everything that is wrong with the globalised world: an unelected, power elite taking decisions in a foreign capital; a left-wing, multi-culturalist agenda combined with the worst excesses of crony capitalism (corporatism and greed); and an almost gratuitous lack of transparency, pitched side-by-side with an incompetence the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jimmy Carter was president and James Callaghan was Prime Minister.
This year’s showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may take second billing in the news cycle to an impending ‘Brexit’ (British Exit) vote. If Britain votes to leave the European super state, it would mark one of the biggest shifts in global politics since the Sons of Liberty took to Boston harbour in protest of foreign-rule and overbearing taxation. The act that precipitated the American Revolutionary War, and a Declaration of Independence for the British colonialists in America.
And as time draws on, the ‘In’ campaign of this referendum are beginning to realise their lofty, pompous claims over Britain’s economic security are simply not hitting home. More than ever, Britons believe, as they rightly should, that the United Kingdom can indeed “go it alone”.
But there’s nothing “alone” about leaving declining economic area and looking to the wider world. Did you know, for instance, that under EU rules, Britain is not allowed to negotiation its own trade deals outside of EU frameworks? If we left the EU, this would be a day one priority. As many an ardent Eurosceptic puts it: even Iceland has its own trade deal with China. Does Britain? Nope.
Mr. Cameron talks about a “huge prize for Britain, if we can deal with the things that drive us up the wall about Europe”. His language is clever. British people like Europe, but they don’t as much like the European Union. Conflating the continent with the political project is important for the “stay in” crowd, of which Mr. Cameron is the highest profile campaigner.
And he talks about things “driving us up the wall”. Just a few seconds after he masterfully recalled Shakespeare, unscripted, live on the BBC this morning, he was employing the lingua franca of Britain’s pubs and parks: things that “drive us up the wall!”
Again – very clever. But he’s betrayed by his insincerity. The promise of “huge prizes” is both patronising, and, in an increasingly insecure and unsecured Europe: totally see through.
He talks about the “best of both worlds”. He talks about international terrorism. He talks about the British parliament currently being sovereign. In a sense, Mr. Cameron is as much in denial about Britain’s role in the European Union, and the European Union’s role in Britain – as the Democrat Party of the United States is about the role of radical Islam in global terror.
In 2016, the biggest news story in the world should no doubt be Britain’s membership of the European Union. In fact it could be the biggest moment this decade, if the British public declares with one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night, we will not vanish without a fight”.
If we do vote to leave, as I hope we do, we should indeed publish a Declaration of Independence from the European Union, and we should absolutely declare the day of victory to be Britain’s very own Independence Day.
Just let it sink in just how remarkable that moment would be. Not just for Britain – but for the world. To send the global elite running for the hills as the demos decides that we still matter. Our livelihoods still matter. Our freedoms still matter. And our nations still matter.