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Lord Pearson again

Posted by Helen Saturday, December 11, 2004

[Health warning: this posting is going to be nice about somebody.]

Opinion polls come and opinion polls go. It is always a mistake to place too much reliance on them and it is certainly a mistake to think that a campaign can be conducted entirely by pointing out that all the opinion polls are on our side. For one day they might not be. Then what will the Vote – No campaign say? (Woops, no, they were not the ones I was going to be nice about. Anyone who wants to attack me because of my lack of friendliness towards the Vote – No campaign, feel free to do so.)

Another ICM poll, conducted for the European Foundation (I shall be nice about them when they stop repeating the mantra about what a good thing the Single Market is. It is not.) shows that 58 per cent of the country would like to see the existing EU treaties re-negotiated and turn them into simple trade and association agreements. (No, dear, the Single Market is not simply a trade and association agreement.)

Apparently, this percentage is even higher among young people, rising to 68 per cent in the 18 to 24 age group. That, of course, is not all that surprising. When you think about what it was that made people of some generations support Britain’s involvement in the European project, none of those conditions apply to the younger generation.

To them Europe, especially western Europe, is not glamorous or exciting. France is the place you go to for the week-end if you can think of nothing more interesting to do. Spain is where most of one’s friends go on holiday every year. School-leavers, taking a gap year before deciding what to do next, head off to the United States, Australia, China, India. The world, not the EU, is their oyster.

Nor are they too worried about a possible war between France and Germany, the likely cause of much of that integrationist ideology. To most people under the age of fifty it is impossible. Therefore, the idea of creating an ever more complicated and oppressive raft of regulations in order to prevent a war that is never going to happen must seem plain daft.

Before anybody jumps on me about being too optimistic about the unlikelihood of a war between France and Germany, let me go into a short historical peroration. The three wars that destroyed Europe, and whose results we are still living with (witness the mess in Ukraine and Belarus, not to mention Russia and the former Yugoslavia) all took place within the space of just over 70 years, from 1870 to 1945. The period since then has been almost as long. Since 1945 many other international problems have emerged. So why are we still going on about that brief historical interlude and using it as a spring board for future plans? Clearly, people in their twenties are not going to be interested in that.

Radio Free Europe quoted the opinion poll and interviewed a spokesman for UKIP, rightly explaining to the international readership of its website, that voters have been deserting the Conservative Party for UKIP because of the former’s rather incomprehensible stand on matters European.

RFE also interviewed Lord Pearson of Rannoch, now an independent Conservative peer. Readers of this blog will recall that he, together with Lord Willoughby de Broke, a member of one of the most illustrious Tory families, and Baroness Cox, whose work on behalf of many suffering people in the world has been tireless, were deprived of the whip in the House of Lords, after calling on people to vote for UKIP in the European elections.

Being deprived of the whip may not sound too much. But the peers in question did stand up to some rather nasty treatment from their own party and certain other europhile peers. People who are about to rush in to comment about those wonderful highly paid Conservative MEPs (no, I am not going to be nice about them either) might like to recall that these did not stand up to the slightest frown on the party leader’s face.

So, there we are, this posting is being nice about the peers who have stood up for their beliefs and principles. And just to add to the general feeling of Dickensian good will, let me quote a couple of paragraphs from the interview with Lord Pearson:

“I think the European project was an honorable project at the time. I think the people who invented it thought they were doing the best thing to prevent war in Europe. But it excludes the people from the decision-making process, and I think you are beginning to see signs of great discontent. The whole European project should be abandoned. Europe should be a Europe of collaborating democracies, trading freely and linked through NATO. That way lies peace and prosperity.”

“All of our industry and commerce, all of our social and labour policy, all of our environment, agriculture, fish, and foreign aid, are already decided in Brussels, completely bypassing the national parliaments. The national parliaments are a rubber stamp for all those areas. And, furthermore, if the governments agree unanimously a new law in Brussels, in common foreign andsecurity policy, and in justice and home affairs, Parliament again has to rubber-stamp it.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself.