By Don Quijones of Mexico and Spain. Originally published at Wolf Street
As a Europhile British ex-pat who has spent most of his adult life living on “the continent,” as we Brits are fond of calling the non-British part of Europe, it might seem rather odd to be encouraging my fellow Brits to vote to leave the European Union.
Not so long ago — perhaps a decade or so — I believed that the interests of Britain would be best served if the country was a full-fledged member not only of the EU but of the euro zone. I was wrong, but it was a different time and I was a different, more innocent me.
By the time the sovereign debt crisis hit Europe in 2010, the full extent of the EU’s ambitions was clear: to slowly, almost imperceptibly, weaken nation-state institutions to the point of total dependence on Brussels; and then have them supplanted with EU institutions. As I wrote in a 2014 article, it is the financial equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. The EU’s weapon of choice was the single currency.
Luckily for Britain, its government had not joined the euro. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at the turn of the century, Gordon Brown, knew that sacrificing the pound would have been electoral suicide. Preserving the national currency has provided the UK with some measure of economic independence and flexibility.
For many other European countries, their economic independence and flexibility died the day they joined the euro. As Spain’s economy minister Luis de Guindos recently put it, “the Eurozone is a club where you can check in but you cannot check out.” The main reason for this is that the euro is merely a means to a much more coveted end — political union, as Germany’s Finance Minister glibly admitted in a 2011 interview with Welt am Sontag:
Schauble: “We decided to arrive at a political union via an economic and currency union. We had the hope – and we still have it today – that the Euro will gradually bring about political union. But we’re not there yet, and that’s one of the reasons why the markets are distrustful.”
Welt am Sontag: “So will the markets now force us into a political union?”
Schauble: “Most member states are not yet fully prepared to accept the necessary constraints on national sovereignty. But trust me, the problem can be solved.”
As Schauble promised, the constraints on national sovereignty in Europe have been severely tightened since 2011. European banking union became a reality last year, transferring supervisory authority over the banking systems of the euro zone’s 19 economies to the ECB, an institution with even less transparency and accountability than the European Commission.
Manning the Borders
Now the EU is planning to use a brand new crisis to expand its powers – Europe’s refugee crisis. As the Financial Times reported on Friday, Brussels is set to propose the creation of a standing European border force that could take control of the bloc’s external frontiers — even if a government objected:
If the plan is approved by EU states, Frontex’s replacement will have a slew of new powers, including the ability to hire and control its own border guards and buy its own equipment. It will also be allowed to operate in non-EU countries — such as Serbia and Macedonia, which have become transit countries for people trying to reach northern Europe — if requested.
The new agency will be able to deport people who do not have the right to remain in Europe — a power Frontex lacked.
Even the pro-EU FT warily concedes, “the move would arguably represent the biggest transfer of sovereignty since the creation of the single currency.” After all, controlling one’s own borders is one of the core functions of a sovereign state.
Naturally, the country that will be piloting the new scheme is Greece, which is on the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis. Once border agents from countries like Germany and Poland have been dispatched there, the project will no doubt be swiftly extended to all other EU states. Even non-EU countries, such as Serbia and Macedonia, could soon fall under the EU’s “protective” umbrella – but only “if requested.”
Thanks to their opt-outs of EU migration policy, Britain and Ireland will not be obliged to take part in the scheme. For now.
Highly Choreographed EU Dance
Back in Britain the UK’s embattled prime minister, David Cameron, is desperately trying to convince recalcitrant British voters and euroskeptics in his own party that he is on their side. According to official accounts, he has been busy flexing his diplomatic muscles in Brussels in a last-ditch effort to deliver fundamental reform to Britain’s relationship with the EU. As City A.M.’s Brian Monteith warns, however, it is all an elaborate ruse, “a highly choreographed EU dance”:
It is a bittersweet fudge designed to fool the public into believing there will be worthwhile reform of the EU when the evidence of the EU’s Five Presidents’ Report demonstrates that it will only get more centralized, more expensive and more regulated.
In the coming months all manner of doom and gloom scenarios will be paraded to cajole British voters into voting the right way. Almost all of Britain’s elite institutions, including, of course, the City of London corporation, want Britain to remain in the EU. Even the US, Britain’s closest ally, recently got in on the act, warning London that if it leaves the EU, it would “be subject to the same tariffs, and other trade-related measures, as China, or Brazil or India.”
However, most Brits don’t seem to be buying it, just as a majority of Danes were able to drown out the establishment’s fear mongering before voting against forging closer ties with Brussels in a recent referendum. In the latest poll of British voter intentions, 52% of respondents said they would vote to leave the EU – up from 27% in June!
Granted, polls can be deceptive. No one knows that better than David Cameron himself who, in May this year, rankled Brussels by winning reelection on a manifesto of reform and referendum. However, trying to deliver meaningful reform in the UK’s relationship with the EU is an almost impossible task, especially given that what Cameron claims to want — a little less EU interference in British affairs — is completely at odds with what the eurocrats in Brussels want — ever-increasing EU interference in everyone‘s affairs.
Since joining the common market in 1975 the people of Britain have been repeatedly told by europhile politicians in Westminster and eurocrats in Brussels that the European project represents no threat whatsoever to British sovereignty or democracy. By now, such claims have lost all credence.
The EU is Not Europe
At this critical juncture of European history, it bears remembering that the EU is not Europe and Europe is not the EU. The EU is a primarily a political project run by an unelected elite, with the so-called five presidents at the helm. As the British blogger John Ward eloquently notes, this elite routinely ignores the individual, ignores State sovereignty, ignores debt mountains, ignores currency realities, ignores poverty, ignores its responsibilities and above all, ignores every legal and constitutional obstacle in its way.
At the advent of each new crisis — often a crisis it itself created — it launches a new grab for power. Customs union, monetary union, banking union, defense union, digital union, energy union, fiscal union, political union… there is no limit to Brussels’ lust for power and control.
In the coming year or two, the people of Britain will have a once-in-a-generation chance to elude its grasp, to preserve its sovereignty. As a europhile British ex-pat who once firmly believed in the European dream but now sees it for the dystopian nightmare it has become, I urge them not to waste it.
And suddenly, French investment bank Natixis sides with the rebellious islanders. Read… Stunning Blow to EU Scaremongers over Brexit