If you are someone who believes in Europe, maybe the most annoying thing you ever have to deal with is foaming at the mouth Euro-sceptics.  I read recently in another blog a very good characterisation of the three main ways one can interact with the concept of Europe.

The First is to be a Europhile – one who is a rampant federalist and furthermore feels that the EU is fine and dandy as it is right now.  I am not one of those.

The second is to be that creature most foul, the rabid Euro-sceptic who hides delusions of grandeur and xenophobia behind the facade of concern for democracy. That is not to say that there are not serious and legitimate concerns about the EU’s democratic credentials-it is only to point out that the motivations of Euro-sceptics merely use these concerns as a pretext.

The third way to interact with Europe is to be a Reformist.  That is to say, one who recognises the many deficiencies within the EU, but also one who believes in the potential of the Union and furthermore believes that Europe is a better place united. Such a person would engage with the problem and work to create the Europe that the sceptics claim they would like to see.

I can understand national pride-as someone in possession of preposterous amounts of it I can empathise with anyone who dislikes the notion of Brussels dictating policy to their National Governments. Which is why I am also not a full on federalist-I would like to see the EU take on the character of a state with its own military and singular president but not to the exclusion of those things existing at the National Level and outside of Brussels control.

To see Brussels as a dictating power is to comprehensively misunderstand the way the EU works-which is not surprising in the case of people who spend their time raving about how the EU controls the shape of cucumbers.  The Union and its legislative process is based on consensus. It involves MEPs, Commissioners, Ministers and Heads of State of all member states working together and largely trashing out a consensus which is acceptable to all. In this way, all Member States benefit and move forward.  The harsh reality of the world is that with the rise of China, India and Brazil as well as a resurgent Russia (not to mention established economic powers such as Japan and the USA) individual EU member states cannot compete on their own. If one is concerned with what is best for their nation then they should also be concerned with making the EU a stronger world power as that is the best way to advance our collective interests. No, the UK cannot compete with other world powers on its own anymore. Neither can France, not even Germany.

There is a long list of things that need to change in the EU-a clamp down on lobbying, increasing transparency in the institutions, combating corruption in Parliament, the Commission and other institutions, reducing the EU’s Byzantine levels of bureaucracy. These things can only change through positive engagement. The approach of the Conservative party, much like the approach of all Euro-sceptics is to shout and scoff from the sidelines-offering nothing of worth to the process but still demanding to be heard. For example, the Tories decision to join the CSR-a group of alleged xenophobes and racists – has turned them into a politically irrelevant rabble within the EU.  As someone who holds the Conservative party in extremely low regard, I see that as their natural place, however as a Democrat I feel that they are betraying their supporters by letting their emotions cloud their judgement and allowing themselves to be taken out of the political process in Europe almost completely.

By way of explanation, the European Parliament operates on a party system, not a national system. The main “parties” are the EPP (think moderate Conservatives), S&P (think SocDems or Labour) and ALDE (Think LibDems- but a lot more influential). The Tory MEPs however are in the European CSR group which are the  European version of UKIP and the BNP’s unholy lovechild.  They are paid about as much attention too.

To partisan minds, the very concept of political compromise is a sacrilege. This fundamentalist and simplistic viewpoint is dangerous and hopefully on its way out in Britain. The logic among much of the electorate seems to be that it doesn’t matter if you elect a bad government, as long as it’s a strong bad government.  At the risk of sounding like Nick Clegg, that is not a grown up way to do politics. It is also not the way to advance national interests or to tackle the legitimate issues with the EU.  Lifting the proverbial drawbridge and rowing Britain towards the US will serve no purpose-not only is the US a waning power but they bring the UK little tangible benefit besides that of nostalgia and are likely to cut Britain adrift the second it serves their national interest.

Rabid Euro-scepticism is pointless – Euro-reformism is the way forward for anyone who wants to improve the EU or to improve their nation’s fortunes in the long-term. The difference between the two is coincidentally much like the difference between being a mere politician or being a statesman. One is interested in cheap political point scoring and the other in getting things done for the benefit of the people-guess which one is which 😉

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