There has been a misunderstanding. I apologise, as it is my fault that you have got the wrong end of the stick. You have been labouring under the misapprehension that this whole brexit thing was an accident; the consequence of poor dialogue and badly calibrated decision making. In short, that a yes/no decision was a balance-of-probablities tactical decision seeking optimal economic outcomes. That this is a matter trade balances, calibration of welfare policies, complexity of customs arrangements, and that if the debate had better focused on these matters we’d have arrived at a more optimal decision.
It wasn’t. Rather, it is a moral strategic question of who you want to be, and whether your current path will achieve this.
And the renegotiation failed on those same terms; in finding tactical compromises that had no relevance to the strategic problem. An exemption from ever closer union doesn’t achieve anything useful in this context.
Britain’s ability to maintain its ‘special status’ has changed. Originally it depended on the power of veto. With the arrival of QMV it has depended on its ability to gather a blocking minority of euro outs. With the Lisbon vote-weight changes that came into effect in 2014 the eurozone nations alone have a qualified majority, and that matters because the ECB will caucus a ‘consensus’ opinion of its members. So the last great gambit was the renegotiation, at the end of which Belgium et-al insisted that the exemption from ever-closer-union must apply only to Britain.
Juncker’s warning this week on the necessity of eurozone accession, just as with Belgium in January 2016, was a stark warning to that blocking minority on who paid their wages. That’s a shame for them, because they quietly enjoyed us taking the flak for contentious positions they benefit from later (such as the 48hr working week exemption). It was an instructive lesson for Britain, that whatever the words say the project will march on and your friends won’t be able to help. That’s a shame for us, because it sufficiently preserved the fundamental sovereignty necessary to allow our continued membership.
This isn’t about law, it’s about politics and power. Political integration isn’t a matter of pointy-headed constitutional tinkering, it’s Gladstone’s “power of the purse”: On whom do we tax and how punitively, and whom shall we deem the beneficiary of this largesse. A century after Gladstone I’d say we entered a new era where we live with the “power of the pettifogger”: Which activities to deem less moral and seek to regulate, and which behaviour do we choose to elevate above others. If you are harmonising taxation/spending, and social regulation, then you are engaging in political integration.
Surely this is all a bit theoretical, Master Beeftrix? Isn’t it just fluff around the margins of society, not really amounting to much of real consequence? Well, it might seem that way. If you inhabit the end of the political spectrum that believes we need more social justice, more social democracy, and a more ‘modern’ FP, then the drift to the continental model seems both natural and virtuous. After all, we agree to compromise on our divergent aims and expectations all the time, notably every five years. However, if you inhabit the other end of the political spectrum that desires more individual autonomy, less collectivist governance, and to act abroad where we have the means to do good, then this quiet drift appears to be tacit gerrymandering to achieve an outcome that we would not mandate at the ballot box.
This is the heart of the matter; the EU view is that the single market is an emergent ‘gift’ of ever-closer-union, not a virtuous goal in its own right.
It is why I chuckle when debate of the Customs Union fixates on the complexity. I don’t want to leave the Customs Union because I think dozens of wonderful trade deals will fall into our lap. No, I want to leave because the Customs Union is a tarrif wall designed to protect corporate interests by limiting external competition, with little regard for the damage that does outside fortress EUrope.
It’s why I wince when bitter liberals decry the attitude of their fellow countrymen to immigration, hailing the continent as the natural home of civilised and mature attitudes to immigration. Lol, really! I simply resent the fact that our immigration policy systematically discrimated against 90% of the worlds population (inc the CW!), as compensation for being so generous to just 7%.
It’s why I sigh when the uninformed spout statistics they don’t understand as part of an argument that demands capitulation as the only sensible response to a mighty EU holding the whip hand. They’ve no idea that fifty plus percent of continental FDI arrives via London, creating growth in an economy propped up with negative interest rates and £55b/month QE, and still saddled with 9% unemployment.
We’re going to be good neighbours.