Europe : The great debate : The press crusade for a narrow nationalism

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The Independent Online
The long debate about Europe has shown the Euro-sceptics to be the ones more attached to principle and to precise argument, and their opponents to be the ones who prefer windy rhetoric and resort to emotion. Looked at without any antagonism to foreigners, there is a serious difficulty about Britain's relationship with the rest of the Community. Our institutions and our interests are markedly different from those on the Continent. This is a practical reality, and it will not be wished away by saying how much one dislikes some of the people with whom one disagrees... It is not xenophobia which is depriving British farmers of their livelihoods, and it is not attacks on xenophobia which will restore them.

23 May 1996

When the German Chancellor calls on the British Prime Minister these days, one senses at once who is in charge. Dr Kohl's dominance derives partly from his long experience, his prestige as the creator of a united Germany, and from the weakness of Mr Major's domestic political position. It is also emphasised by Dr Kohl's huge bulk, prominently displayed in Downing Street yesterday. But these impressions of German superiority, which are not at all pleasant to a British mind, could not be sustained if they did not reflect reality. Why is Germany "top nation" in Europe, and what should be done about it?

Britain, still well behind in many fields, is now superior in labour adaptability, business taxes, lack of regulation, costs. It gains huge advantages from access to European markets, but suffers huge disadvantages from European rules, most of which are made for Continental convenience and according to French or German models. It is becoming clearer that what may well be good for Germany is generally bad for us.

30 April 1996

The evasion over Europe explains the muddle over everything else. It hangs over this Government like a great cloud.

22 April 1996

Although it is true that "Europe" does not feature high in the subjects raised by people on the doorstep, it is the key to the success or failure of this Government (and of the next government, even if it is Labour). When we choose a government nowadays, we elect, in effect, a delegation to go to Brussels and fight for this country's interests.

18 April 1996

The smokescreen engineered to surround European policy has engulfed much of what the Government is doing elsewhere. Ministers find it hard to make it clear to voters what kind of country this Conservative Government wants Britain to be.

9 April 1996

Mad Euro Disease: [Europe's] past lends itself to a German-dominated future. Almost every country in the Union has experienced invasion and occupation, or at best a craven and cautious neutrality. In a continent of victims, Britain is almost alone in having survived with honour intact.

The rest are jealous, resentful and baffled by our concern for sovereignty, our dogged determination to defend something which they no long have. All the signs are that we are now approaching a critical moment in our relations with this new Holy Roman Empire...

The time has come to test its institutions, its laws and its true purpose, if necessary to its destruction.

To do so, we must reluctantly learn to behave in the same way as our partners, ignoring the spirit of the law while sticking to the letter with Prussian rigidity...

Stop the Euro-Rot

22 April 1996

Twelve very good reasons - one for each star of the Euro-flag - why Britain had nothing to celebrate on Europe Day.

1. WE HAVE been lied to from the start. Back in 1975, during Britain's referendum on membership, the pro-Europeans told us the then European Economic Community was a free-trade area, embracing sovereign nation states. But the hidden agenda was ever-closer union, political and social.

2. OUR LAWS, once respected the world over, are now worthless. Fifteen judges in Luxembourg - only one a Briton - are now the supreme arbiters of British law... Irish and other European terrorist suspects can no longer be "excluded" from the mainland because the Prevention of Terrorism Act is held to infringe their rights to freedom of movement. Spanish fisherman are to collect pounds 30 million compensation because the court ruled that our Parliament was wrong to attempt to stop them registering in this country and exploiting our fishing quotas.

3. THE EU adds pounds 1,000 a year to each family's food bill. Under the crazy rules of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, pounds 30 billion of subsidies provided to Europe's farmers adds up to pounds 20 a week to the average British family's weekly food bill... so that farmers can be paid to grow weeds on millions of acres of "set aside" land.

4. THESE are the people who brought you Black Wednesday. The Exchange Rate Mechanism destroyed the jobs and home-owning dreams of millions of Britons.

5. THE EU is riddled with fraud. Even its own Court of Auditors admits that pounds 4 billion of its annual spending is "not properly accounted for'.

6. EU DIRECTIVES are crippling Britain's businesses... with 20,000 directives and regulations which have made Brussels the world's biggest law-factory.

7. IF THEY can't beat us one way, they simply try another. The Prime Minister is proud of the opt-out from the Social Chapter which he won at Maastricht. [But] now the Eurocrats in Brussels are imposing the same rules on us as a health and safety measure which our ministers have no power to veto.

Britain's three-pin plug has so far resisted the two-pin assault from the German regimentalisers. But for how long? London's red double-decker buses still run. But once again commissioners, prompted by Continental manufacturers who don't make double-decker buses, will enforce regulations that will drive them off the road.

8. THE EU has turned honest shopkeepers into criminals by banning our traditional weights and measures, on pain of criminal prosecution.

9. THE EU wants to treble our water bills by the year 2005. Just when we are told that we may not have enough water this summer... we are told we must pay out a further pounds 23 billion over the next nine years to comply with four new Brussels directives on water quality... Only Britain is falling over itself to comply.

10. THEY are taking our sovereignty from us. They are moving, under the leadership of Chancellor Kohl, towards the creation of a single currency... His unrelenting ambition is to forge it into a federal state in which that single currency, controlled by German bankers, would be the dominant force. For Britain to abandon the pound sterling would be an irreversible act of national abdication. ... Surrender that and real control over the destiny of our country would drain away from the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster to the financial nexus in Frankfurt.

11. RUNNING the EU costs us millions. Last year, the British taxpayers paid pounds 8.9 billion into the Brussels coffers and got pounds 4.8 billion back... And our trade with Europe is in the red, too. Since we joined, our deficit with the EU states totals pounds 87 billion.

12. THEY can't even get their flag right. The 12 stars do not represent the number of member nations, and never did.

The defence of British sovereignty, because it touches on the deep questions such as identity and security, may occasionally inflame passions. The fastidious may not care for the more raucous expressions of popular attachment to the nation and no government should pander to football terrace chauvinism. But it would be even more dangerous for politicians to govern without a feeling for the sinews of the State. In the last century, statesmen as various as Gladstone, Disraeli and Salisbury all recognised the importance of appealing to the vulgus to secure support for their statecraft... The success of the Euro-sceptics is, however, built on more than a reading of national character and an attachment to their native soil.

28 May 1996

More imagination is called for, now that Europe Day has been brought to our attention. There should be a competition for a flag to suit the Europe of today. A tricolour of suitably straight sausage, cucumber, and banana? The mad cow rampant? Or, best of all, a Union Jacques to accompany the EuroDelors.

9 May 1996

As we argued ad nauseam at the time, the Government should have consulted the people when the Maastricht treaty was drummed through Parliament: today's dissatisfaction stems directly from the sense that politicians have handed over the people's democratic birthright without having asked the people first.

24 April 1996

Jacques Santer, European Commission chief... blames the beef crisis on the Government's mismanagement, not Europe's chicanery.

What a cheek.

Santer is nothing more than a jumped-up civil servant. He has no right to lecture Britain on its politics.

He should be trying to solve the beef crisis, not inflame it.

Go back to your office, Mr Santer, and shut the door.

Then do the same with your mouth.

27 May 1996

It is full steam ahead for the Brussels gravy train. The worse-than- useless European Parliament cost a mere pounds 326m in 1991. By 1995 that had more than doubled...

The French and Germans, who seem hell-bent on wrecking their economies (and ours, if they have their way), are seeking ways to cut spending.

How about a start with... the biggest Euro-farce of all, the European Parliament.

Let's scrap it and save money.

23 May 1996

The Sun says "bullocks" to the EU today...

We have adopted a prime bullock called Sunny as our mascot to moo-ve into the frontline of the Cattle of Britain... aimed at giving the Germans a hefty kick in the panzers.

Sunny, a Charolais steer, has been provided as the Sun's mascot by the Asda supermarket chain, which is giving away two free British beefburgers to every reader.

23 May 1996

Research by Ben Summers

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