Staying in the EU would likely mean eventually joining the slow-motion car crash that is the eurozone, the group of countries that have adopted the euro. That’s unlikely to happen in the near future, and certainly won’t happen under a Conservative-led government — the wishes of the Tories’ current coalition partners, the left-leaning Liberal Democrats, notwithstanding.
It’s not just that much of Europe is an economic basket case — although the news that the unemployment rate in Greece has just hit 26.8%, the highest figure ever recorded by an EU member state, is a timely reminder of the way things are heading. Americans might want to mull some of the indignities Britain has suffered as the result of EU membership and will continue to suffer if it stays in.
Imagine that Brazilian trawlers were given the same rights to fish in U.S. waters off the coast of New England as boats from Gloucester and New Bedford, and you’ll have some understanding of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, which has led to the decline of the UK’s fishing industry and the collapse of fish stocks.
Or picture a court based in Ottawa on which sit judges from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Colombia, and which has the power to order those U.S. states who don’t currently do so to grant voting rights to convicted criminals. Or to prevent American courts from deporting criminals and extraditing terror suspects. Behold the European Court of Human Rights, which John Bolton has called “an infringement on British sovereignty.”
Or imagine that 29 million Mexicans were tomorrow given the right to live and work unrestricted in the U.S., and to take full advantage of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and schooling. That is the prospect facing Britain when the citizens of economically backward, high-unemployment Bulgaria and Romania gain the right to live and work unrestricted in Britain under the EU’s “freedom of movement” rules a little under a year from now.
Of course, none of those British complaints are going to cut much ice with the Obama administration. The president’s enthusiasm for the EU is largely ideological; on issues ranging from immigration to the treatment of prisoners, his instincts are those of the European left. The days when American leaders supported closer European integration out of genuine national interest when Western Europe was a bulwark against Soviet expansion are long gone.
For those who conceived it, the European project has from the outset been about concentrating power in the hands of a technocratic elite that has become increasingly unaccountable to national governments and their citizens. It is an impulse shared by Obama and his fellow statists. In some respects Britain’s relationship with the EU is analogous to that of the U.S. states’ relationship to the federal government.