Proof that vote leave is wrong on ‘taking control’

Vote Leave’s central message is one of taking back control from the EU, and returning it to the UK government. They may choose to talk about immigration as the answer to everything and to the exclusion of all else but here too, it is about control and rests on a perception that the EU, rather than national governments, is generally in control.

Now those of us who understand how the EU works, know that the EU does what the national governments tell it to do, and not the other way round, and that the EU cannot do anything that national governments haven’t agreed, unanimously, that it should be able to do. The leave argument relies on this not being understood.

And it only takes a moment’s reflection to realise that the levying of taxes and running of public services is entirely down to our own government; that the passing of laws – at least when it comes to our conduct as human beings as opposed to the construction of our toothbrushes – is down to national parliaments.

But let us ask ourselves, if the Leave picture were correct, who is it that would be most frustrated by this hypothetical bullying EU? Not the man or woman in the street – let’s face it we’re all governed by somebody. No, it would be the Prime Minister.

So how frustrated have our prime ministers been at not really being in control?


OK how about this one?

Er, this one?

The current one?

To be fair, David Cameron wasn’t in control for his first 5 years. He was frustrated in many of the things he wished to do (and vice versa), not by the EU but by this guy

That’s a clean sweep of recent prime ministers and the one person who has had some control over a prime minister. They all want in because they understand that it is the governments that control the EU, not the other way round, and that having this control over the EU is in the British national interest.

Even if we go back one more, and look to Margaret Thatcher and the famous Bruges speech, we can see a commitment to working together in Europe – and I have picked here the bit that is supposed to have inspired the skeptics:

I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice.

I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone.

Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world.

But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.

Indeed, it is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction.

We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.

Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose.

But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one’s own country; for these have been the source of Europe’s vitality through the centuries.

This speech was a warning not to become a single state “whose parliament is the European Parliament” etc. That didn’t happen. It can’t happen without every member government agreeing and a series of referendums for which there is no great movement. Thatcher’s conditions have been met.

All the people with the greatest reason to leave a bullying overbearing EU – because it would be their personally wielded power that would be infringed by such a thing, want to stay in the EU that actually exists, for the advantages that influence brings to the UK.

They know, what Vote Leave don’t want you to know, that national governments control the EU, not the other way round. Take control. Remain.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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14 Comments

  • “They [prime ministers], all want in because they understand that it is the governments that control the EU, not the other way round, and that having this control over the EU is in the British national interest.”

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get more bizarre, we trip and fall down the rabbit hole…!

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '16 - 6:03pm

    Tory MPs trying to explain the “journey” that David Cameron has been on say that you cannot be Prime Minister nowadays and not want to remain in the EU,
    whereas Labour MPs trying to explain the “journey” that Jeremy Corbyn has been on say that you cannot be a party leader these days and not want to remain in the EU.

  • The US has 11 million or so illegal immigrants even though they “control their own borders”. The only way Gove will reduce immigration is if folk no longer want to come here. I was a Lib Dem for a long time but I am disappointed at how the Lib Dems are having almost zero impact in this critical time.

  • Doesn’t this miss the point? However much power moves between Westminster and Brussels, it’s still too far away. We’re supposed to be the localist party!

  • Alistair.
    America has a nearly 2000 mile land border with Mexico. We are in the middle of the sea. Physically controlling the border would present few problems. The main issue would be whether or not we actually wanted to impose the restrictions because as an economy we’ve got used to the fluid movement of workers and students etc. To me the issue isn’t whether or not immigration is good or bad. Even though I’m in the Exit camp I actually support free movement, but the fact is the majority of the electorate do not and so to me it’s about the wisdom antagonising voters. All over Europe we’re are seeing the razor wire go up and the rise of the Right largely because there is marked discord between what some of us view as progressive and what the general population actually wants. To me as a believer in democracy it is possible to believe something is a good idea, but also to understand that it simply isn’t popular enough to impose on people.

  • Glenn 9th Jun ’16 – 12:27am……

    Glenn, if you believe something is RIGHT why not stick to it?

    Not sticking to what we ‘KNEW’ was right, between 2010-2015 is why we are where we are…

  • @Glenn – very insightful. It’s weird how Lib Dems laud Trudeau yet fail to see how he has a very strict immigration policy. It’s as if they are calling him racist. I do think there’s an issue with unlimited immigration (currently Lib Dem policy?) and it’s going to affect the party badly. Anyone with any imagination could think of a leaflet with that policy being used against the Lib Dems. They should have argued for some sort of restrictions as part of the negotiations though it would have negated their `party of IN` meme.

    Farron comes across as a very generously minded naive hope merchant without substance or reality to back it up. It’s `it’ll be alright on the night` form of politics using status quo arguments. Hence his obsession with refugees without a well-argued economic or security policy to back it up. The point is that the party is shackled with being the `party of IN`. It’s based on a flawed model of European exceptionalism that disregards any affects it might have on democracy, sovereignty or those impacted by it. It is essentially a `Europe first` policy based on the assumption that `more Europe` means `a munificent attitude of more good things for everyone in all possible worlds`. It’s naive beyond words.

  • John Mitchell 9th Jun '16 - 2:09pm

    There would be a few examples such as with VAT where complete control over the rates and levying them is subject to EU interference. For example, if a UK Chancellor wanted to abolish VAT it is my understanding that he or she could not.

    Furthermore, a lot of Labour’s platform and the nationalisation of the railways for instance would not be allowed under EU competition laws. Therefore, the European Union or rather European Commission is capable of having a tremendous impact on our democracy. This is not factoring in CETA or TTIP which despite various delays is a likely inevitability.

    Vote Leave’s argument of taking control is not without flaws because in an interdependent world some sovereignty is surrendered. The UK would still need to do this but crucially for trade purposes only which is not the case currently.

    The question that voters face on June 23rd is as to whether the European Union now possesses too much influence. It certainly possesses more influence than it did in 1975.

  • Thanks for all the comments. I’m pleased that nobody has contested the premise.

    Jane, Lib Dem policy is not for unlimited immigration. The fact is that our immigration system is a shambles and the first step is to reintroduce exit checks so that we actually know who has stayed and who has gone home – and therefore how many immigrants of whatever type are here. There is currently no way of knowing this.

    This is an obvious point that is lost on the Home Office. David Laws’ memoirs goes some way to explaining Home Office indifference and incompetence on this issue. The last thing they seem to want is more data that shows how ineffective they are.

  • Expats
    Sorry not to get back you earlier. What I’m saying is that democracy should be geared to a majority, So since the majority of the population do not want free movement. then free movement should not be imposed. How I personally feel has little to do with it. I am simply one out of millions voters.
    One of the things that bothers me about progressive thought and what passes for the Left at the moment is it seems too reliant on institutions rather than public support which means there is a tendency towards the undemocratic politics of autocrats.

  • @Joe Otten
    “Jane, Lib Dem policy is not for unlimited immigration. The fact is that our immigration system is a shambles and the first step is to reintroduce exit checks so that we actually know who has stayed and who has gone home … ”

    An obvious point really, but you can have all that and still be infavour of unlimited immigration.

  • Glenn 10th Jun ’16 – 10:48am…..Expats, Sorry not to get back you earlier. What I’m saying is that democracy should be geared to a majority, So since the majority of the population do not want free movement. then free movement should not be imposed. How I personally feel has little to do with it. I am simply one out of millions voters.
    One of the things that bothers me about progressive thought and what passes for the Left at the moment is it seems too reliant on institutions rather than public support which means there is a tendency towards the undemocratic politics of autocrats…….

    Glen, no worries… The problem with following the majority is that ‘sensible’ dissent is more and more marginalised…The heroes of social and political history are, more often than not, the ‘voice(s) in the wilderness’…From Tolpuddle, ‘Votes for Women’, equality of sex/race, etc., it has been those who said ‘No!’ to the status quo who are remembered…
    There should be a sensible immigration policy, but that should apply more to those outside the EU who are not persecuted or have no skills….’Leavers’, like Farage, talk of welcoming those from our Commonwealth when what they really mean is a certain section of the Commonwealth….If Farage feels uncomfortable in a train carriage with Germans, anyone believing that the same carriage, with Bangladeshis, would make him more comfortable is in CC land….

    Sadly, the language of fear is the driving force of the ‘Leave’ campaign…’Immigration’, ‘Taking back control’, ‘Unelected bureaucrats’, have a nice ring but are meaningless slogans….Equally sadly, years of Tory dislike and negative portrayal of the EU are coming home to roost…

  • An obvious point really, but you can have all that and still be infavour of unlimited immigration.

    I think Chris_sh the problem is that the immigration debate (even here on LDV) has been polarised into a highly distorted way that does neither side any favours. So if you are anti mass immigration you are portrayed and treated as if you want zero immigration and return the UK to some idealised era that never existed. Likewise the pro immigration crowd can at times be so intent on extolling the ‘virtues’ of immigration that they fail to see the folly of their viewpoint which implies unlimited and unconstrained immigration. We need to bring immigration down and better manage the churn in our resident population, one of the important tools that will help us do this is a functioning immigration system; something it would seem we haven’t had since the early 1990’s.

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