Marc Cranfield-Adams was for 30 years a “One Nation” pro-European Tory. He has served as a Councillor in the Vale of Glamorgan and Richmond upon Thames, where he was the first openly gay Mayor. He is a member of the Conservative Party; between 2004 and 2008 he was a Liberal Democrat. He writes in a personal capacity
"It came as no surprise recently that the Europe Minister, a former work colleague, David Lidington, dismissed the case for 'Brexit' as “confusing, contradictory nonsense”. Au contraire, Minister! After six years in the Foreign Office we can be forgiven for concluding he has gone 'native'.
There are three popular myths in circulation. The first is the UK is better remaining in a “reformed” European Union (as the Prime Minister misleadingly refers to it). But, there will be no reform of the EU. Reform requires treaty change. The German President (Mrs Merkel) and senior officials in the Commission have stated in recent weeks that there will be no treaty changes to favour the UK.
In his 2013 Bloomberg Speech, David Cameron identified three challenges facing the EU: the Eurozone, competitiveness and democratic accountability.1 Yet his recent negotiations do little, if anything, to tackle these issues. The UK is not in the Eurozone so we have no basis for discussions on its future. The PM claims we have to be treated equally and there would be no threat to sterling. But in his letter2 to member states after the UK decision EU President, Donald Tusk, makes it clear those outside the Eurozone will have no veto or means of delaying urgent decisions. Mr Tusk has conceded more needs to be done in relation to competitiveness. But why has it taken the stark reality of 'Brexit' to galvanise the EU to address these issues? Why are we playing catch up with faster growing economies in other parts of the world? Even if China's growth is slowing down, it still outstrips the EU. Within the Eurozone not all member economies are growing at the same pace, or at all in some cases – ask the Greeks!
According to the second myth, to be at the table means we can shape the development of the EU. But we are frequently ignored. This goes to the issue of democratic accountability. The UK has been voted down 27 to 1 no less than 72 times in the Council of Ministers. In other words, we have no influence. The PM claimed in the House of Commons in February3 that the UK now had an opt-out from closer integration. In such circumstances how can we reform the EU, or play a part in that process in the future? Will EU member countries, who do not have an opt-out, take any lessons or advice from the UK?
Third myth: to leave the EU would be a leap into the unknown. This is nonsense. There are 193 member states of the United Nations, 165 of which function and trade with each other perfectly well outside the EU. The great unknown is the future of the EU. The migration crisis is hastening the end of the Schengen Agreement with borders now being closed, with more razor wire than we ever saw in World War II. Austria and the Eastern European members are tearing up the rule book. The EU is paralysed in its response. The Dutch people are now demanding their own referendum. Expect more rules, regulations and red tape.
To listen to those advocating 'Project Fear', you can be forgiven for concluding the world will come to an end on 24 June. A very clear impression is being given that every trade deal will collapse, every computer screen go blank, our telephones will stop working. We face economic, diplomatic and political armageddon; really? We're the fifth largest economy in the world. We are in our own right a member of the United Nations and NATO. To suggest the EU or European governments would stop working with us on security and terrorism issues is simply absurd.
Having a clear vision of the UK as a confident, independent and outward looking nation, open to global trade and with Europe, able to make its own laws and manage its own boundaries, with its own parliament sovereign, is not a leap in the dark. It is what made us the most successful and powerful nation in the world for 400 years. The future may not be so grand, but it is better than being shackled to a sclerotic, over-bureaucratic, artificially-created political construct which is on the brink of collapse."
1 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/eu-speech-at-bloomberg (23 January 2013)