If Britain were already outside the EU – if we had had the sense to negotiate a Swiss-style free trade deal – it is hard to imagine many mainstream politicians campaigning to join it. But four decades of membership have created a large corpus of individuals with a stake in the current policy.I replied:
For a government to take on all these interests at the same time would, as Anthony Brown argues at ConservativeHome, consume its energies for at least a year. Anthony says he voted Conservative because he wanted tax cuts, deregulation and welfare reform: he could do without the distraction.
The flaw in his argument, of course, is that EU membership stands in the way of domestic reform. The reason that a number of Cabinet ministers are reported to have changed their minds on secession is not that they are obsessed by Europe, but that they have noticed that much of what they do at home is constrained by EU regulation.
I'm as Eurosceptic as anyone, but we shouldn't let our government off the hook.
Significant domestic reform is possible despite our EU shackles. A freedom-loving British parliament could:
- abolish most taxes
- simplify those that remain, and minimise the rates
- stop debasing our currency
- relegalise cannabis and magic mushrooms
- restrict non-EU immigration
- stop bailing out banks
- refuse to contribute to the IMF
- stop subsidising wind and solar power
- resist meddling in mergers of private media companies
- stop advertising jobs in The Guardian
- leave the BBC to fend for itself (without compulsory funding)
- end our wars in Afghanistan and Libya
- build up our armed forces for when we really need them
- set "free schools" free (as they did in New Zealand)
- abandon our Soviet-style approach to healthcare
- repeal the smoking ban, and generally stop nannying
- cut the propaganda budget
- balance the budget
- repudiate our national debt
- restore trial by jury
- repeal the vast majority of laws passed since WWII
- focus the police on real crime rather than thought crime
If you're aware of EU directives that prevent any of these reforms, please point me to them.
It could be that once we've radically reduced the size and scope of the British state, and repealed countless unnecessary laws, the EU would ask us to add some things back, but at that point we would have the option of :
a) ignoring them (as the French seem perfectly happy to do)
b) legislating the bare minimum, and enforcing even less
c) making a principled case for withdrawal from the EU
If government ministers are feeling constrained by the EU, they should say this loudly and clearly, rather than quietly surrendering to Sir Humphrey, and they should look for creative solutions to work around the problems in the meantime.
The fact is that our government restricts our freedom far more than the EU requires. Until we see evidence that our government is pushing up against the limits imposed by the EU, there's no reason to believe that an independent Britain would be a free Britain.
If I get a response from Daniel, I'll post an update.