|Caroline and I|
We were discussing the upcoming election and the policies of our two parties. There were obviously some disagreements between Gold and Blue especially when discussing our proposed immigration amnesty.
We lapsed into silence for a moment and then she said in a slow testing voice;
Chris, please tell me... you don't think... we should be in the Euro do you?
I don't remember my answer but it was a flowery politicians one, the sort of answer Nick would be proud o that placated but did not answer the original question.
Chris. [It hadn't] Do you think we should be in the Euro?
My answer caught in my throat - deep down I knew she knew my answer.
Yes... I stammered.
I knew she was cross and that maybe I had disappointed her as she walked away trying to order her response which ran a long the lines of;
Chris, you work for a place that commemorates those who fell to keep this country separate from European rule and you are telling me that you want to hand the power over to a European parliament?
My counter argument at the time was weak and I won't share it here, needless to say that we had a healthy debate and have since decided that for the duration of the Coalition we will agree not to talk about politics that could be contentious.
Needless to say that Caroline, as always appears to have been right and I'm true to form and wrong!!!
The point to this anecdote is that I understand constructive arguments to do with anti EU feeling and not just the not just the arguments that are put forward from the Daily Mail and popular misconceptions such as "The EU say our Banana's are the wrong shape" or "The EU want to ban Chocolate in the UK".
The Europe debate is clearly one that people feel passionate about, it is not like electoral reform which found vast swathes of the population disinterested. On Europe everyone has an opinion.
This opinion is not always founded in fact as sometimes fiction is more compelling. Also when it comes to dealing with out European cousins it is easy for the British people to slip into casual xenophobia. Stereotypes are easy to throw out and everyone seems to be overly obsessed with the past. How many times have you heard: "Two world wars and one World cup!" sung at the Germans? In fact Britain's obsession with the Second World War still paints the Germans as a vicious aggressor that has to be defeated (as they were before) and the French are not to be trusted... All of these are opinions and falsehoods that shouldn't be thought in these modern times.
After all when you talk about Germany people think Nazi, or picture the German war machine pouring across Europe, never great writers like Von Goethe or Schiller, the wine, the music, the culture or the beauty of the Rhineland.
It would be the former image that elements of the "No" campaign would clutch to.
However I do believe a referendum is necessary at some point. It is important that the British people get to decide on such a big issue like their fellow citizens in Europe who have voted especially on the subject of the Euro.With this growing crisis with the Eurozone, now may seem like the best time for a referendum as the UK is asked for more money to help bail out Greece. However an in/out referendum would be wrong at this time. The world economic crisis requires a global solution and a fractured Europe will not help this at all. For example should the French economy crash then Britain's economy will suffer a hit of $2-3 trillion dollars! [Figure quoted by Sharon Boles MEP at the Kent Liberal Democrat Conference 22/10/2011]
It would be irresponsible for us to pull out now and leave the whole continent to collapse financially and if Germany collapses then we're all in trouble. Like it or not we are one continent and despite the 22 miles of Sea between Dover and Calais we have to help each other and the best way to do that is through the EU and its parliament rather than soldiering out on our own, we don't have an Empire to back us up anymore.
As the party shy's away from the debate and people through out the tired line of;
Lib Dems U-turning on another pledge!
I'd like to remind you that the actual pledge was that we would have put forward a motion for a referendum IF the nature of the relationship with Europe was to change .
I don't think it is.
As for the Conservatives bringing this to the floor? Well theoretically they are honouring a pledge to debate the issues brought up in e-petitions that the public have sent in. However it also reminds me of the debates in parliament in my youth, I remember one of the factors that struck the Major Administration were splits over Europe that fractured the party, is this something they want to revisit?
Also is it not completely irresponsible to distract the nation at this crucial time, the hardest hit to our economy since the 1940's, with an superfulous debate on Europe? Dangle something juicier infront of the media and populous and they will forget all about the rise in inflation and the rising unemployment figures?
An EU referendum is an important debat to be had, but it has to be had sensibly and openly with none of the dirty tricks or fibs that were told during the AV campaign. Also now is not the time, it should be done IF our relationship with Europe was to change or in a more economically stable situation
But wait there's more.