Monday, 13 June 2016

A pearl found in the mud: how one voice shines in a mucky debate

It’s gone quiet, hasn’t it?

I mean David Cameron’s warnings of Brexit doom have been so relentless that they have become little more than white noise, the unnoticed hum in the background, like an air conditioner or distant traffic.

 And I mean as well the official Leave campaign and their £350m fantasy and repeated (despite all evidence to the contrary) insistence that Mercedes Benz and other German manufacturers and French wine makers will keep open Single Market conditions with the UK.

Hum, hum, hum, repeat, repeat, repeat, we’ve been hearing the same noise so long now we just don’t hear it any more.

Which may be why a single voice has struck such a brilliant tone today. The Daily Telegraph had a comment piece by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, one of the best brains in the business. Evans Pritchard is always excellent. Today he moves into a new degree of brilliance.

He begins: ‘With sadness and tortured by doubts, I will cast my vote as an ordinary citizen for withdrawal from the European Union.’

‘Let there be no illusion about the trauma of Brexit. Anybody who claims that Britain can lightly disengage after 43 years enmeshed in EU affairs is a charlatan, or a dreamer, or has little contact with the realities of global finance and geopolitics.’

‘Stripped of distractions, it comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense, and that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error.’

‘For some of us - and we do not take our cue from the Leave campaign - it has nothing to do with payments into the EU budget. Whatever the sum, it is economically trivial, worth unfettered access to a giant market.’

‘We are deciding whether to be guided by a Commission with quasi-executive powers that operates more like the priesthood of the 13th Century papacy than a modern civil service; and whether to submit to a European Court (ECJ) that claims sweeping supremacy, with no right of appeal.’

‘It is whether you think the nation states of Europe are the only authentic fora of democracy, be it in this country, or Sweden, or the Netherlands, or France - where Nicholas Sarkozy has launched his presidential bid with an invocation of King Clovis and 1,500 years of Frankish unity.’

Later he continues: ‘It is a quarter century since I co-wrote the leader for this newspaper on the Maastricht summit. We warned that Europe's elites were embarking on a reckless experiment, piling Mount Pelion upon Mount Ossa with a vandal's disregard for the cohesion of their ancient polities. We reluctantly supported John Major's strategy of compromise, hoping that later events would "check the extremists and put the EC on a sane and realistic path."’

‘This did not happen, as Europe's Donald Tusk confessed two weeks ago, rebuking the elites for seeking a “utopia without nation states" and over-reaching on every front. “Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm,” he said.’

‘If there were more Tusks at the helm, one might still give the EU Project the benefit of the doubt. Hard experience - and five years at the coal face in Brussels - tells me others would seize triumphantly on a British decision to remain, deeming it submission from fear. They would pocket the vote. Besides, too much has happened that cannot be forgiven.’

Among the things which cannot be forgiven is the euro project: ‘Nobody has ever been held to account for the design faults and hubris of the euro, or for the monetary and fiscal contraction that turned recession into depression, and led to levels of youth unemployment across a large arc of Europe that nobody would have thought possible or tolerable in a modern civilized society. The only people ever blamed are the victims.’

Evans-Pritchard identifies this as ‘the greatest economic crime of modern times.’

As for those who want to lull us into believing a single euro-state will not now evolve: ‘You can equally argue that the high watermark of EU integration has passed: the Project is in irreversible decay.  We are a long way from the triumphalism of the millennium, when the EU was replicating the structures of the US federal government, with an EU intelligence cell and military staff in Brussels led by nine generals, and plans for a Euro-army of 100,000 troops, 400 aircraft and 100 ships to project global power.’

‘You can argue too that the accession of thirteen new countries since 2004 - mostly from Eastern Europe - has changed the chemistry of the EU beyond recognition, making it ever less plausible to think of a centralized, close-knit, political union. Yet retreat is not the declared position of the Five Presidents' Report, the chief blueprint for where they want the EU Project to go. Far from it.’

‘In any case, even if we do not go forward, we may not go backwards either. By design is almost impossible by to repeal the 170,000 pages of the Acquis. Jean Monnet constructed the EU in such way that conquered ground can never be ceded back, as if were the battleground of Verdun.’

Being brilliant, Evans-Pritchard sees the wisdom of Flexit: ‘The Leave campaign has offered no convincing plan for our future trading ties or the viability of the City. It has ruled out a fall-back to the European Economic Area, the "Norwegian" model that would preserve - if secured - access to the EU customs union  and preserve the "passporting" rights of the City.’

‘The EEA would be a temporary haven while we sorted out our global trading ties, the first step of a gradual extraction. The Leavers have not embraced this safe exit - or rather, less dangerous exit - because it would mean abandoning all else that they have pledged so promiscuously, chiefly the instant control of EU migrant flows.’

And on Evans-Pritchard goes, saying more in some hundreds of words than the entire official Leave campaign has ever said, and destroying any moral case for Remain. He is scarily good.

Which means I have to pay him the highest compliment any journalist can pay another: Damn, I wish I’d written that.


  1. Perhaps one of those occasions where The Telegraph's lack of forum reply facility now is helpful. Previous articles like that of AEP here would have garnered countless pitiful counter claims, accusations of ignorance and lies and the visitation of the plethora of imbeciles to whom the EU has become an article of dogmatic faith. An altar at which to worship - not a limited and incompetent political administration.

    I see the Chairman of my local Conservative Association most days when I'm out with the dogs. During the election last year, he carried out very lonely campaigning - the Association being more of a skeleton crew after Cameron's remarkable success in modernising the Party. Only he and the Candidate campaigned during the official period in 2015 - yes, the local party has become that modern....

    To my understanding, they've recently been given a strident directive from Cameron's chumocracy to bang the drum for both EU membership and for Cameron. I was advised that the second word of the two-word reply sent back to the Cameron tennis club was 'Off'.

    I know some observers are beginning to sniff panic in project Dave. It's tempting under the strictures of confirmation bias to accept that gleefully, but frankly I'm beginning to believe it.

  2. I think that the panic for Cameron is more personal than euro-political: he has suddenly realised that, whichever way the referendum goes, he is out of office.
    And may I just add that, as someone who is Irish, I always delight in coming across uniquely English phrases. "I see the Chairman of my local Conservative Association most days when I'm out with the dogs." Perfect.

    1. M.E.Synon:

      Yes, the panic for the P.M. is now chronic ( Is that a good word?)
      And may I just add that, as someone who is Northern Irish, I always delight in the Irish who can always put it much better that anyone else.

  3. What is wonderful about the panic, chronic and otherwise, Cameron and the rest of the Remain management are feeling now is that they think the solution is to put Gordon Brown to the front. Really? That's their best shot?

  4. How do the French elite feel about the Norway option?

    In a television interview last Sunday Mr Slippery rejected the Norway option because Vote Leave have.

    Instead, Mr Slippery strapped on the explosive vest of the economy and threatened to detonate it if the electorate vote to leave.

    Never mind the economy, total victory over Ukip is the only thing that matters.

  5. And strangely enough AEP for all his above the line expert knowledge, whilst right in some of what he says is wrong when he stated that "It has ruled out a fall-back to the European Economic Area" Is he not aware that we always were members of the EEA, and shall remain so even after leaving the EU - even Turkey is in the EEA. What I think he means is EFTA, which is not the same thing at all and inter alia requires free movement of people.

  6. Rapscallion, thank you for posting a comment. You are right that the UK is already a member of the EEA. However, Turkey is not. Members of the EEA are the EU 28 plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Turkey does however participate in the EU Customs Union.