Lord Lawson starts by asserting that the question is “not about Europe as such.” Says he: “I love France,* which is why I live in France. This is not about whether you like Europe or not. This is about an institution called the European Union and Britain’s relationship with it.” He laces into all the political correctness surrounding the question. He warns of the vested interests — corporate, bureaucratic, and even academic — in the status quo. Then he lays out three principal reasons for leaving.
First is the fact that the European Union is a “political project” whose objective Britain doesn’t share. He suggests that a “United States of Europe” is the only meaning that can be attached to the Stuttgart Declaration of 1983 with the blather about “ever closer union.” He notes that the ideas championed by Jacque Delors (who once called America’s free market economy “savage”) understood that one could have neither monetary union without fiscal union nor fiscal union without political union.
Quoth Lord Lawson: “In a sense, it was never intended as an economic project, and indeed it has been a disaster as an economic project.” The cost of Britain’s “subscription,” as he describes its EU membership, is “running at about £10 billion a year.” That’s the net cost, he reckons; the “gross subscription is substantially greater.” On top of which, he puts the “regulatory cost” — that is, the “burden of European regulation” — to be “of the order of £25 billion a year,” a burden he reckons covers not only Britain’s interaction with Europe but the rest of its economy.
What particularly gets him, though, is what he calls the “democratic deficit” — which clashes with Britain’s “addiction to freedom and democracy.” He fears this will grow worse as political union progresses, because “there is no genuine European demos.” He calls the European Union “profoundly undemocratic.” He also reckons Britain’s influence within Europe is well-less than advertised by the pro-Europe factions. He warns that the “Eurozone caucus,” of which Britain is not a member, has “an automatic qualified majority.”
The result is that Britain’s influence on decisions made by the European Union is “nugatory.” He says there have been 72 “occasions” in the Council of Ministers “where the United Kingdom has opposed a particular measure.” It has been successful “precisely zero times.” He sketches an argument that Britain has more influence outside of Europe, including as a member of the Security Council of the United Nations, and suggests it would have more freedom of action to use such influence if it weren’t shackled to the EU.
Finally, Lord Lawson warns against efforts to scare Britons off a bet on their own sovereignty. The Europeans will still want to trade with them, he points out. “It matters to them far more than it matters to us,” he says. “So, to coin a phrase, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He believes, he says, that what Britons want “is a genuinely global future as a self-governing democracy.” That is “not something we can have as a member of the European Union. It can be assured only by Brexit.” He concludes that the “only rational course is to leave.”
Our view, oft expressed in these columns, is that it would be a mistake for America to suppose that a vote in favor of Europe, in favor of the end of an independent, sovereign Britain, will not be a setback for an independent and sovereign America. For all our quarrels with George III, we were born of the marriage of freedom and democracy given the world in the Mother of Parliaments. If that light is lost to Europe, it will be harder for the rest of the Free World to make its way. And it makes no sense for the Republicans to ignore this question.