On Saturday evening at the Cambridge Union 200th anniversary debate on the EU there were signs of things to come. The pro EU side was to comprise 2 former continental senior politicians, and one unelected UK pro European in the Lords, with just one MP. One of the 2 continentals pulled out at the last minute. Clearly there is a problem finding people prepared to argue the pro EU case. The anti EU side fielded two MPs who have been Cabinet Ministers , a senior businessman and the Deputy Chairman of UKIP.
The pro EU side had to argue that the EU was a success. Not a difficult task you might have thought if you believe in it and want a united Europe. Instead they conceded that the Euro was a shambles and implied the UK was right to be out of it. They accepted it was causing economic damage in much of the EU. They volunteered that the borders and migration policy had failed and needed radical change.
Rather as communists used to argue in the days of the Soviet empire, who always said when we criticised the Soviet system that it was not proper communism as they wanted it, they held up a view of an ideal EU. The EU they sought was quite unlike the EU we currently have. In a sign of how the stay in side may argue in the referendum it appears the pro side will join in with all the Eurosceptic criticisms of the current EU. They conceded the EU was too regulated, that it was doing economic damage, and that it did not control its borders. Their main argument was that we now have peace in Europe. When we pointed out NATO, US forces present for much of the post war period and the outbreak of democracy in Germany account for that, they agreed they were important. When asked about the violence and conflict in the Ukraine and the Balkans a few years ago, they disagreed on the EU’s unhelpful role.
None of them owned up to the 5 Presidents report, none set out a vision for a united Europe, none had the courage to explain why political union was essential to the project. What are they ashamed of? Why can’t they speak out for the United States of Europe which they must secretly want? I will go on reminding people the EU is on a wild ride to political union. Will none of the pro EU people in the UK defend it?
The audience who included various people who worked for EU and government institutions or in EU law, voted strongly in favour of the EU.
This article was originally published on John Redwood’s Diary on 28 September 2015.