Visionary, administrator, public figure, private adviser, Jean Monnet played a leading role in the conception and creation of the European Community. His constructive ideas and tireless activity have been a constant source of inspiration to those engaged on building a new Europe. Our future freedom, peace and prosperity will owe much to his genius. Edward Heath November 1977.The above quote helps to demonstrate that our membership of the EU, as I've touched on before, is because our own political class wish it. Ted Heath knew what the project was about and still took us in and eagerly 'picked up the soap' on behalf of our country to do so. No Prime Minister since has taken us out, and instead each, ever since, has engaged in a perpetual war of deception to keep us in.
We are members because this country's political class wishes it even against the sentiments of its own people. It chooses to. The EU never used trebuchets to knock down our castle walls, instead we lowered the drawbridge, invited them in and gave them the best rooms whilst telling them that they could stay as long as they like. Here's an example of my point from the European Union (Amendment) Bill and the Lisbon Treaty: Implications for the UK Constitution (page 27) in 2007-8 (my emphasis):
We conclude that the Lisbon Treaty would make no alteration to the current relationship between the principles of primacy of European Union law and parliamentary sovereignty. The introduction of a provision explicitly confirming Member States’ right to withdraw from the European Union underlines the point that the United Kingdom only remains bound by European Union law as long as Parliament chooses to remain in the Union.The House of Lords Constitution Committee decided that Lisbon was not unconstitutional because ultimately Parliament could decide to reverse the process should it choose. That we remain members against the wishes of the British people means, in conclusion, the actual fault line lies between us the people and Parliament, not between us the people and Brussels. The need for the Harrogate Agenda hopes to address this fault line.
The EU does not force us to be members and nor will it force us to remain members if we want to leave. They don't force rule upon us, instead our establishment chose to be ruled by Brussels. A crucial difference.
In many ways the signs are that the EU has had enough of us being the awkward partner. The impending treaty designed to try to fix the Eurozone crisis, by virtue of making the next step towards European unity, will essentially exclude us from the inner core. We will be left on the sidelines whether we like it or not. The Independent (a Europhile paper) emphases this point the EU is fed up of us:
Germany and France don’t want a “Brexit”. But, talking to their officials in the margins of yesterday’s failed EU summit, I was struck how increasingly fed up they are with what they see as the UK’s self-centered, peripheral demands as they struggle with an existential crisis. The chances of Britain securing big wins like opting out of the social chapter of workers’ rights are described as “less than zero”. The days when Germany and France will go an extra mile to help Britain may be coming to an end. That is a dangerous moment. Mr Cameron insists he does not want the UK to leave the EU.So they'll be glad to see the back of us. And it's with this in mind that we come to EU exit. As Christopher Booker says (my emphasis):
The belief that we can repatriate powers we have given away to the EU is a sure sign that whoever voices it hasn’t really got a clue as to what the EU is about. The most sacred rule of the “European project”, ever since it was launched in 1950, is that once a nation state has handed powers of governance to the centre they can never be given back. The last thing our European colleagues would be prepared to do at present, when all their attention is focused on driving on to ever greater union in a bid to save the doomed euro, is to discuss Britain’s wish to defy that rule by allowing us to opt out of treaty commitments we legally entered into.And this leads me on to Article 50 - the exit clause of the Lisbon Treaty. If we are to leave the EU we have no choice but to invoke it. To leave the EU, invoking it is first and foremost our international legal obligation under the Vienna Convention, because the Lisbon Treaty is an international treaty. It also means that the EU is bound by the same international laws as we are when negotiating an exit.
Just repealing the ECA 1972 (which took us in), and hoping it simply takes us out is no longer possible. In the 40 years hence, much integration has taken place - in the form of many treaties passed subsequently, such as notoriously Maastricht. Clearly then repealing an act of Parliament 40 years ago, based on a so-called 'Common Market' is no longer relevant to us now, too much water (and EU law) has passed under the bridge.
It's precisely because the EU is all encompassing and makes most of our laws that we have to negotiate with the EU an orderly exit. Because if we get rid of one set of terms and conditions by leaving, then clearly we need another set of t's & c's in order to trade from outside, for example; trade, mobile phone roaming, telecommunciations, postage, cashpoint machines, bank transactions, landing slots for aircraft - all of which currently come under EU law. Come out without agreeing essentially a new contract and all of these will cease to happen between us and the EU from day one of our exit. A wonderful situation to be in the current economic crisis!
Yet some still see Article 50 as a trap - a way of keeping us in forever. But not possible, because of Section 3 of Article 50 (page 46) which states quite clearly (my emphasis):
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.This in short makes clear that either we agree a settlement with the EU or, regardless of the changes in EU voting in November 2014, in absence of such an agreement we exit by default. The only price to pay is a wait of 2 years. In my view after 40 years, another two years as members with a definite exit date is a small price to pay, rather than the false promises of 'sometime in the future but really never' situation we have now.
As such because there's an arbitrary 2 year deadline in invoking Article 50 we actually shift the balance of power towards us. As an example, the US President. Limited to 2 terms in effect Obama will only serve 2 years de facto now he's been re-elected. Power is intangible; it strolls towards us but runs away. By imposing such an artificial arbituarty line restricting the President to be elected again, via the American constitution, it removes on his behalf the threat of another re-election which drains him of power towards the end of his term - rendering him a lame duck.
And so it proves with Article 50. It puts the EU on the back foot...because the deadline renders them powerless not us. For example (Article 50 (4) page 46)
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.In other words during the exit process we are banned from further interaction with EU processes. So what? We'll continue to be subject to all EU directives, regulations and decisions with no input, which makes very little difference to what happens now, but crucially we can now ignore them. Due to the time limit - the power drains away from the EU - because there's no way they can enforce any breach. By the time a breach by us, in terms of us ignoring them, is brought before the European Court of Justice, we'll be long gone and outside their jurisdiction.
Thus article 50 allows Cameron to renegotiate our relationship with the EU, allows him to maintain our trade with the EU with minimal disruption, and by nationalising all EU laws into British ones (with a view to unpicking them later) from day one make the transition from EU member to non-EU member seamless.
That he doesn't is his choice...but it's not ours.