for generations ‘Europe’ has failed to make the case for British membership

When Britain joined the European Economic Community as it was back in 1973, it's safe to say that those who took us in never foresaw even in their darkest nights of the soul that membership  of the EEC's successor (fully envisaged but not much spoken of at the time) would still be such an uncertain proposition more than forty years later.

By now "Europe" was supposed to be nailed down, the arguments for ‘being in’ made six political generations ago long-crystalised and unarguable. Indeed, had the thing worked the custom and practice of  all the old nation states should by now be mere local colour - so much charming, regional veneer over a centralised, European core whose wise and benevolent writ runs seamlessly from Dublin to Nicosia.

But it's not like that, is it?  A very large minority of British people, if not a majority, wants out.

And, for all the huffing and puffing of the business interests who wouldn't like it, the idea that such a large economy cannot survive outside the EU is  as palpably ridiculous as it was then. An economy bigger than India's? An economy bigger than Russia's?

THE European project has always lacked a great unifying figure, a philosopher king who could sell it across the continent

Let's be charitable for a moment. You only had to listen to the likes of Denis Healey - a centurion in the pro-European old guard - to know that the conviction of a generation who endured World War II to bind Europe together and make a rerun impossible was genuinely felt.

But their reach tragically exceeded their grasp. Always did.

It might have helped if they could ever have found a decent salesman.

The European project has always lacked a great unifying figure, a philosopher king who could sell it across the continent. And that, when we look back, really ought to have been a warning. Where is the European Union's Churchill? Where is its Lincoln?  Is there really no one of charisma and intellect who can flog this thing? God help us, Tony Blair once thought he could fill that permanently vacant seat.

Right now it seems that Ireland, Goldman Sachs and poor old Wolfgang Schaeuble (who doesn't want to be left alone with the French) are begging Britain to stay in.  You're not going to clinch it, boys.

We still don't know when the referendum will come, and we still don't know who is going to win it. But the fact that it is happening at all so long after Britain joined is the real sign of Europe's failure. The EU has had a very long time to make its case, and it hasn't. Indeed it hasn't even found anyone who can make it. At least not to the British.

How much longer does it need?

More about the author

About the author

Born and raised in Swansea West, one of the safest Labour seats in the country, David is perhaps unsurprisingly a High-Tory, Euroskeptic Royalist Libertarian with an unhealthy adoration for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. As a result he is seldom pleased by anything that ever happens, and always on the verge of quitting the whole jamboree. A former Special Writer at the Wall Street Journal, he knew the crash was coming when he saw a piece about Louis XVI reproduction furniture "for your Winnebago."

Follow David on Twitter.




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