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Good luck to the pro-UK-in-EU campaign. Even having this damned referendum is bad for Britain

Posted on 12 October 2015 | 10:10am

So the pro-Britain in Europe campaign moves into a different phase today, with M and S former boss Stuart Rose fronting up a collection of business people and politicians who have the considerable task of challenging the tons of anti-European propaganda that has been thrown our way for years.

I wish them luck. Unless David Cameron completely screws up his negotiations, I will be voting Yes, because I have no doubt whatever that Britain’s future is best secured as a strong member of the European Union. Equally for us to come out of the EU will be to reduce us further as a political and economic force in the world.

But I confess to being somewhat worried about the debate, not least because it is Cameron who is in charge of those negotiations, and because he only agreed to the referendum in the first place to get himself out of a hole of UKIP and the Tory Right’s making. There is nothing he can gain from Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Jean-Claude Juncker or or anyone else that will satisfy these people.

So the aim for Rose et al has to be to focus on those in the middle ground – not people like me who fail to foresee the circumstances in which I would vote to come out, nor people like Nigel Farage and the sizeable number of Tory MPs who will vote to get out, come what may.

Here we have to trust the good judgement of people to see and hear their way through the wall of noise that this debate will generate. Most of the print media is stacked against Europe and they will continue with their lies and distortions which will be picked up by anti-MPs as fact and which will also frame much of the way the broadcast media cover the referendum when it comes.

Indeed, even the fact of having the debate is already harming Britain’s strength and standing in the world. I have been travelling a fair bit of late, and usually try to see senior political figures wherever I go. And it is frankly alarming the extent to which in Europe in particular, Cameron is now seen as something of an irrelevance when it comes to the really big issues like Syria, the migration crisis, or Ukraine. One EU leader told me ‘all he cares about is his referendum, and he doesn’t care if everyone knows it.’

It was similar in America last week. His conference speech got a bit of coverage on the inside pages of the major broadsheets, but for many Americans, there was Thatcher and there was Blair and they are not terribly sure who is there now.

This matters. One of the jobs of world leaders is to be inside the heads of other world leaders when they are making decisions or formulating their foreign policy. ‘What will Angela think?’ tends to pass through the minds of most of them. ‘What will Putin do?’ is these days asked more than ever. ‘What will Cameron think?’ … this comes some way down the list, and that is bad for Britain.

Of course if he bows out on the back of a winning referendum, having won a Commons majority most expected him not to win, he will be able to say he has succeeded, politically. But Britain is not the force it was, and Cameron’s relative disinterest in the world outside, matched to this referendum now absorbing most of the energy he can devote to ‘abroad’, is likely to accelerate that trend.

The sensible people who want to keep us in Europe must guard against complacency. Referendums can often go wrong for reasons which have nothing to do with the issue in hand. The propaganda campaign will be relentless. Also, I am not sure I trust Cameron not to slither to the wrong side of the argument if he feels it is heading that way.

I was worried when I read a few months ago that he wanted business to hold fire on the pro side until he had his negotiation ducks in a row. Well, he doesn’t, and yet the campaign is under way. The first is a bad sign. The second is a good sign. The campaign must be fought as hard as the other side intend to, which is very hard indeed.


  • KDouglas

    I am shocked, shocked that having written so many words in your life you misuse the word ‘disinterest’. That is never a word I would use in the same sentence as ‘David Cameron’ (or indeed any of his donor friends).

  • Ehtch

    Having a PM dithering on this matter is a bad sign for the UK, terrible in fact. We are starting to see the signs that overseas companies with manufacturing plants in this country are starting to rein in investment, which no doubt will not be covered fully and correctly by the media, so not to damage the present government. Fancy making any steel anyone, to sell in the European market at the moment and in the future?

    No wonder George Osborne was crawling to the feet of the Chinese the other week, don’t think anyone else will be interested in investing in manufacturing in the UK at the present time. What a shambles.

    And seeing our PM the other side of the White Cliffs of Dover, or across the pond the other way, is like seeing Johnny No-mates walking about, lost and alone.

    • Captain Sensible

      The steel industry cannot compete due to a) the stupid Labour policies introduced at DECC by Miliband where we charge so much for our energy due to green subsidies and b) because the Chinese are dumping steel worldwide causing an over supply and low pricing.
      As for Cameron dithering, he is trying to appear anti-European as opposed to his preferred position of pro-European. The pro brigade know that any EU election throws up an anti-EU vote e.g. UKIP and they are scared its will do the same at the referendum.

      • Ehtch

        German and French steel companies are subsidised/protected by their governments. Labour weren’t brilliant at it, but the Tories at the moment could not give a stuff at all, for some reason. Cameron and Osborne have been accused of being totally nationally unpatriotic for some reason. They seem arms of global financial systems, where the UK is just a tool, to be thrown away and sold for scrap value when it seems to them it’s worn out.

        • Captain Sensible

          EU law prevents subsidies. That’s why we should be out of Europe. Maybe if we are out we can open our coal mines again, rebuild our engineering and manufacturing base, re-establish our fishing fleet, stop subsidising French farmers…I’ll stop there.

          • Ehtch

            By the back door. ; ) The rest you mentioned are due to the London living Westminster bubble, usually Tory to keep down traditional Labour supporting trades, short term gain Tory dogma.

  • Ehtch

    I have got to say Ali, I am halfway watching through this, it is brilliant, your one to one discussion with I forget his name, in Chicago last week. Welsh players are told to visualise something else after scoring a try, after a brief period of celebration, to bring them back to ground level, as was seen with Gareth Davies when he scored that try against England in Twickers. You can see in his face that he entered a different place when he was running back to the halfway line.

    And you will have to tell us more about your one hour kick about one morning alone with Maradona. : )

    • Michele

      Fabulous interview and fabulous one embedded behind it – TB vs Christopher Hitchens (sadly already diagnosed as terminally ill).

  • Dave Simons

    I agree with the ‘sensible people who want to keep us in Europe’ but we need a list of reasons for staying in Europe and for not pulling out. Originally the European project was a political union – a means by which France kept Germany under control by working with it, a good idea considering the previous history. Even Churchill thought it was a good idea – a ‘United States of Europe’ – though he didn’t think the UK should join, as it might compromise its strong political and economic links with the former Empire and weaken its transatlantic ‘special relationship’. Some present-day Conservatives retain that mindset. What worries Team Cameron, as it did ‘Team’ Major and ‘Team’ Thatcher, is the prospect of the European Union passing social legislation that restrains a Conservative Government’s wish to attack organised labour, with all its concomitant effects on inequality, human rights, etc. The EU indeed came in very handy when Thatcher was Prime Minister and the Labour Party opposition was weak under Kinnock. It is this kind of political union we need to be part of, not a corporate club.

  • Captain Sensible

    Quote: ” Here we have to trust the good judgement of people to see and hear their way through the wall of noise that this debate will generate.”
    The problem is that the people did not vote for a political union and have never been given the opportunity to have their say if they actually want it. UK powers have been devolved to the EU in treaty after treaty by both parties and for what in return ? The political elite – including you – have tried desperately over the years to keep the proles at arms length while you complete this socialist project. At least Cameron has the courage to give people their say, which is probably better than Blair handing over powers in return for non-existent reform of the CAP.
    Once again the pro- EU lobby (Mandy etc) are full of dire warnings about what may happen should we leave, and yet these were the same people giving us dire warnings that we would fail if we didn’t join the Euro. I wonder how that worked out ?
    The truth is that we now have little say on our laws, taxes, border controls, trade agreements and much more. You say our role and standing in the world will be affected outside of the EU, but the truth is we have become an irrelevance inside it. The Franco-German alliance excludes us for their own benefit, whilst the smaller newer countries just want the hand-outs.

  • Ehtch

    Barnes aside, with Wales first penalty from him was from Wales just walking onto the pitch, that Warburton insisted on the TMO, which Barnes got informed the game hadn’t started yet, but then proceeded to penalise Wales off the park in the first half, but jumping jesus, Craig Joubert! Bad enough Scotland had to endure that double citing circus last week, repealed, but shit on a biscuit!

    Our friend Mr Alain Rolland, the franco-irishman, named allegedly after a handsome French film star by his mother, stuffed us last time around, against France (yes, we had an half French ref in that). Beattie and Gavin Hastings want to have sweet words with Joubert next time they bump into him, it seems. Fuck me sideways and call me the Pope, all the World could see the Ozzie knocked it back so all Scots were onside.

    Anyway, am sure Joubert is in touch now, may run the line in one of the remaining games, if he is cheeky enough like Rolland last time, that is if he is up for it. But last reports of him was a jogger in a World Cup rugger ref kit jogging on the hard shoulder of the M4 heading towards terminal 2 of Heathrow, though.

    And yellow card Joubert for a deliberate slap down of the ball? Give me strength, he almost caught it, interception! Anyway, Nige “This is not Soccer!” Owens from down the road here will have the final, easily. The other “senior” refs have been mostly pants.

    Thank god Georgia didn’t get Clancyfied totally against Namibia, and just only won. The reffing on the whole in this tournament has been atrocious. Don’t they pay these fellas enough? If not, why don’t the IRB/World Rugby pay them more, the money grabbers? And I still feel for Fiji – they got screwed terribly in this tournament by the officials, apart from when they played Wales, of course…

    • Ehtch

      Well, Nige has got the final. Well deserved. I wished him good luck to get it a couple of weeks ago on facelessbook, and he said thanks back. It wasn’t in doubt. Hope to be able to say to him “Well done Nige, well reffed in the final” the next time I bump into him in the supermarket, after the World Cup is done and dusted. Here he is in my vid I did just before start of World Cup, for the tournament, guest starring Nige I put, him at the end with his famous quote, “This is not soccer, right?”.

  • gunnerbear

    “Good luck to the pro-UK-in-EU campaign. Even having this damned referendum is bad for Britain…” Why? Don’t you like or trust the wisdom of the Great British Electorate? “…with M and S former boss Stuart Rose fronting up a collection of business people and politicians who have the considerable task of challenging the tons of anti-European propaganda that has been thrown our way for years.” Would that be the utter tool Stuart Rose who gave it the lip at the TSC that wages would go up if we left the EU and that such wage rises would be bad thing….….is that why you don’t want us to have the vote….so your corporate chums can keep filling their boots? Do you want most of us to have low wages and poor job security as millions of economic immigrants pour into this country?