Coffee House

Clegg, Farage and the poverty of Britain’s EU debate

28 March 2014

11:09 AM

28 March 2014

11:09 AM

Two of the writers I most admire have fallen out over the Clegg vs Farage debate. James Kirkup calls it for the Lib Dem leader (his reasons here) and Peter Oborne for Farage – but I’m in the happy position of being able to disagree with both of them. I think they both lost, and I explain why in my Daily Telegraph column today.

Clegg has decided to ride the Ukip wave, positioning himself as the patron saint of Europhiles who loathe the sight of Nigel Farage. He will be calculating that there are more of them than LibDem supporters. But I regarded their debate on Wednesday as rather sterile, laden with clichés and extremist positions. I don’t think that the EU is an evil empire with ‘blood on its hands’ as Farage bizarrely claimed. Nor do I think that EU membership is the only thing standing between Britain and impoverished isolation, as Clegg makes out. But the more these two egg each other on, pushing each other into extreme positions, the more they undermine their own credibility.

The truth, I’d suggest, lies somewhere in between. That the merits of EU membership – a free trade zone, free movement of people, the ability of British companies to sell their wares without extra tariff anywhere in the 28-member bloc – is worth something.

The old version of Europe: a Soviet tank on the streets of Prague. Now, the invading force is English stag parties. Progress, of sorts

The old version of Europe: a Soviet tank on the streets of Prague in 1968 – the moment my kids’ grandparents decided it was time to leave.

Where I part company with some Coffee Housers is on the question of identity. I’d describe myself as a Highlander, Scottish, British and European – and proud to be all four. And for me, it has a practical element. Like Nick Clegg, I married an immigrant and try to raise kids speaking two languages at home. My wife is also the daughter of Czech asylum seekers who fled to Sweden after dodging too many Soviet bullets in Prague. So I can understand why Clegg feels emotionally attached to the EU project. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t share this myself. The idea of the Czech Republic being part of the family of free nations, after being in Moscow’s control not so long ago, is a a prize worth cherishing for more than economic reasons.

[Alt-Text]


I’m perhaps too old to see the days of European conflict as ancient history, and events in Crimea have reminded us about how things can change. Also, I’m not a great believer in the linearity of history – as events 100 years ago taught us, very intricate globalised political systems can suddenly and unpredictably collapse. I have some sympathy with this following line from John Buchan’s Power-House (written in 1913):

“You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.”

I mention all this because, for me, the case for EU membership has always been far greater than an economic equation. It’s worth doing because of what went before, and as an insurance against what might come. So I plead guilty to seeing an emotional appeal in the EU project. Both my heart and my head says there’s something worth fighting for.

But nor is the current situation defensible: the EU has given itself so many powers that we’ve ended up in a political union that no one in Britain wanted. This offends the basic concept of democracy, which is why we need a renegotiation and a referendum.

I’ve never understood why my fellow Europhiles have sought to deny that there is even a small problem with the way the EU has evolved. The Europhile movement seems to rely less on rational arguments and more on name-calling – basically, saying that their opponents are small-minded xenophobes. I’m afraid Clegg can come across that way, quoting ridiculous figures that ought to have no place in any rational debate.

Nor can I begin to understand Clegg’s claim that Britain, the greatest nation on earth with the advantage of the Commonwealth as a global network, could not be just as great outside the EU. Sure, I’d prefer to stay within the EU family – and not have to apply for new passports for my own family. But if the EU won’t reform, and Britain votes to come out, I’m not in the least persuaded by any of these arguments about isolation or irrelevance.

To me, the mission is clear: reform our EU membership then hold a referendum. David Cameron’s proposal makes much sense. And he stands to achieve it through his Northern Alliance that I wrote about in The Spectator recently.

Watching the Clegg vs Farage debate summed up everything I dislike about the European argument, as conducted in Britain – the swapping of bogus statistics, the way everything is taken to extremes and the way the intelligence of the voter insulted. Three million British jobs are ‘linked to’ our EU membership, Mr Clegg? And you really suggest two million of them would go? And did the Ukrainians really chase out a corrupt government because the EU wrongly egged them on, Mr Farage? Does the fact that we choose to pooled sovereignty in certain areas really mean Britain is not self-governing?

I think there’s a lot of interest in the EU debate. A lot of very serious questions can be raised, But those watching next week’s Clegg vs Farage contest will, I suspect, come away realizing that neither Ukip nor the LibDems have the answer.


More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.



Show comments
  • Davie Ballantine

    Please support the petition by signing it and reduce poverty in the UK:

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65754

  • black11hawk

    All this stuff about Barroso being a Maoist is ridiculous. OK, he was a Maoist during his time as a student, but almost every student with an interest in politics has some dalliance with the extreme, in most cases the extreme left. Farage, himself, apparently used to support the National Front whilst at Dulwich College, does that mean he is still now a fascist? I don’t think so. Churchill said a ‘Conservative before you’re thirty no heart, a Liberal after thirty no sense’, that is to say people’s views change and mature, as the views of some learned readers ought to on this particular subject matter.

  • The Colonel

    The EU commissioners are complete idiots.if you poke a bear with a stick it will bloody well bite you.Regardless of what Mr nelson and his ilk say,a legitimately elected government was overthrown by a mob.Before the EU and our government take sides they should give serious consideration as to the make of the rebels.For the EU to expect Mr Putin to do nothing was a massive misjudgement.Although as the Noble Baroness Ashton was at the Helm says it all,God help us.

  • Daniel Maris

    Fraser should be praised for being honest about his self interest. One can see how the EU might appeal to him and his family, just as no doubt mass immigration generally does – cheap tradesfolk on tap…cheap eating out…etc etc.

    But it is self-interest, not necessarily the interest of the wider community in the UK.

    For me we need a common political culture and a common store of values we draw on. In the EU we may be half way there on the latter but there is no common political culture – which generally needs a common language (or at most two or three) – if it is to work.

    • Conway

      There is no demos in the EU. All there is, is a diversity of cultures, languages, and history. The equivalent of the USA (which, apart from the natives, had a shared language, religion and culture to start off with) it most certainly isn’t. Even with those advantages, the USA still needed a civil war to force the south into compliance.

  • CHRISTOPHER WHITE

    Fraser is an excellent economist but his pro-EU bias is such that I think Spectator & Telegraph should not commission article about it from him.

    • Daniel Maris

      You do know he’s the editor don’t you? LOL

      • Makroon

        Ha-ha, and a bloody awful amateur economist to boot.

  • Rossspeak

    Fraser – whilst,in the main, your article was well balanced and reasoned – I would take issue with one key point of yours – I quote – ” we’ve ended up in a political union that no one wanted”.
    The problems and issues of sovereignty with the UK vs the EU are absolutely down to the fact that many, from the start, wanted the EU to evolve from the original EEC to EC to EU – as it has – with the end objective of political union.
    It has been this duplicity and “salami slicing” of our sovereignty by the Federalists – without any democratic mandate , that is the issue. One minor, but telling symptom of this – look at the cover wording on your last three passports – after the initial dramatic change from British blue to European red – the wording went from European Economic Community to European Community to the current European Union.

    We were deceived from the start by Edward Heath and the Europhiles – joined ( and indeed voted for) an economic free trade association – when they had to have known from the start ( and tacitly agreed the duplicity) that the end objective was full political union.
    There has been no democratic mandate for any of this – and that is the primary reason why, regardless of the differing views or “renegotiations” – that both the Libdems and Labour are strategically wrong and we must have a referendum or our membership will continue to be unconstitutional , undemocratic and illegitimate.

  • Smithersjones2013

    I’d describe myself as a Highlander, Scottish, British and European – and proud to be all four.

    85% of English and Welsh in the 2011 census described themselves as English or Welsh only. I imagine the Scottish figures will be little different. The fact is being ‘British’ gives us nothing. It is a worthless political concept that is now way past its sell by date. I imagine the figures would be even lower for being European.

    So clearly Nelson’s view is part of a tiny urban minority. Who cares what he thinks……?

  • CharlietheChump

    Just shows how pointless these debates are.

  • terence patrick hewett

    One reads stuff like this now with a tired sigh: how anybody can be so lacking in awareness of the demographic and social realities in countless towns and communities across England defies belief. If Fraser’s attitudes are representantive of the attitudes prevalent in the Westminster bubble; they are obviously incapable of reform. They will have to be forced.

    • mark tayler

      is that a threat?

      • terence patrick hewett

        Simply an observation on the human condition: that of Pathos, Mr Markus Aurelius Tayler.

  • HookesLaw

    I do not think we should be surprised if they both lost. One is rabidly for and the other is rabidly against. Neither is capable of a fair and balanced argument.

    • Smithersjones2013

      One is rabidly for and the other is rabidly against.

      Whereas you are just rabid. Water Hooky?

  • Eyesee

    The EU is constructed from the nuts and bolts, the framework, to be a totalitarian state (which it needs to be to operate in the way it plans). At present I daresay it isn’t ‘evil’ rather the huge amounts of harm it does merely incompetence, the incompetence that sits comfortably when the bureaucrats are unaccountable and untouchable. The evil will come when they have a stronger grip and it becomes apparent people resent it. That empire building is behind the problem in the Ukraine is indisputable and the fact that two authoritarian regimes have crashed into each other was bound to have serious repercussions. All of which is clearly too complicated for Cameron and Obama. Let alone Ashton and the fwits in the EU.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      Whilst bureaucrats all over the globe perform badly (where do they not do that and actually deliver? China and Germany to name two), bureaucracy will be the only force to oppose multinational corporations. It’s that simple.

      Of course they will also strengthen the latter’s power from time to time but in the end, a Civil Service working in the interest of the electorate will be the only force to deliver a balance of power. Multinational corporations require a multinational Civil Service for best performance and outcome.
      Did I mention that it was that simple?

      • Colonel Mustard

        “Whilst bureaucrats all over the globe perform badly (where do they not do that and actually deliver? China and Germany to name two), bureaucracy will be the only force to oppose multinational corporations. It’s that simple.

        What rot. And you know nothing about Chinese bureaucracy which is riddled with corruption.

        Bureaucracy and the promiscuity of regulations it serves is one of the tools of corporate government. As in Cameron and Co doing cosy deals with ISP’s to censor the net without the need for any consent from the people.

        • BarkingAtTreehuggers

          I merely listed two exemplars to highlight bureaucracies that undoubtedly deliver and have yet to pass judgment as to whether one ought to agree with the results. Multinationals need a multinational counterbalance to deliver the best outcome. Whenever that balance is lopsided, be it to one or the other side, we note abject failure on delivery.

      • Eyesee

        Simple, except for the flaw ‘working in the interest of the electorate’. The EU doesn’t want or require an electorate and bureaucrats are employed to serve the state, not the people. You are arguing for precisely what Britain used to be, a country where the people owned the law, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and all that. But then we were subsumed in a foreign power….

  • Andy

    An elegant post Fraser. Like many people I have become increasingly Eurosceptic not because, as some idiots on here allege, I hate Europe, but because I worry at the direction the EU is taking and the effect that is having on our Democracy and our Liberty. Not to mention the Democracy and Liberty across all of Europe.

    I am proud or rather glad that God made me to be an Englishman and my family have served the Kings and Queens of England for a thousand years, but I will be abused as a ‘xenophobe’, ‘Little Englander’ you name it for saying that. Why do so many Europhiles hate England so much ? But our history – the history of the peoples of England – is different to that of Continental Europe and our traditions and customs seem ill at easy with the European way of doing things – and scant regard do they seem to pay to these differences.

    I have just returned from Greece, a country I know very well and love. I’m not an anti-European, but I am now anti the EU. It has become a bloated empire ruled by a collection of has-beens, or never weres. If desperately needs reform, but it wont get any reform. I have come to the conclusion that the whole EU is basically unreformable and Cameron will get nowhere in his quest. It would be better to leave and to establish a cordial relationship with the EU based on trade and mutual self interest rather than suffer dictates and ever closer tyranny.

    • Conway

      I spend a lot of time in France, where I have many friends. I love Europe, but I detest the EU. Fréjus, of which I have many happy memories, has, I see, just voted in a Front National mayor.

      • Andy

        Well I love Greece (I was there last week) where I have many friends. Like you i love Europe but I too detest the EU. I’m not surprised at the rise of Golden Dawn iin Greece, and Syriza (the alliance of the Left) is in reality no better.

  • peterbuss

    Quite the very best balanced pro EU article I have read for years. Well done and many thanks Fraser from this longstanding Conservative Party member.

    • Kitty MLB

      Hello, lovely Peter, I hope you remember me from the other place
      ( say hello to Sally for me) Yes indeed it is a well balanced article,
      they are all very good and varied in this place.

  • Tony_E

    There is no such thing as ‘pooled sovereignty’ – it is simply ‘removed sovereignty’. Once it moves from the hands of people whom you are able to vote to remove, it is simply removed. There is no longer any tangible connection between us the voter, and the elite who exercise that sovereignty.

    What sovereignty did the British voter gain over Germans, or Poles? None. When an asset is pooled it is surely shared – but in this case it is clearly removed to an elite which acts in its own narrow interest.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Fraser Nelson is the editor of an influential weekly magazine. He can have that serious debate any time he likes. Any time at all. And yet all we get here is pap. Time to drill down into the real reasons we are in. Not trade. Sovereignty. That is the issue. Now why did we give so much of ours away? What do we get for it? Why do ‘philes accept the democratic deficit. As stated elsewhere the unelected boss of the EU talking to the unelected boss of Ukraine complaining about an election in Crimea.

    Why would we, with all we know, sign up to be ruled by an unaccountable cabal?

    • mark tayler

      because UKIP is only 10% in the polls.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “So I can imagine why Clegg feels emotionally attached to the EU project. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t share attachment this myself.”

    That’s been very obvious for a long time. You may be “Highlander, Scottish, British and European”, but your primary allegiance is to the EU.

  • Magnolia

    Fraser, you have described your personal situation which must influence your thinking.
    I am also married to the child of an immigrant who escaped from war torn Europe but we feel differently about the free movement of peoples.
    My in-law chose Britain when they fell in love with a Brit. My spouse was bilingual when young but let it go at A levels. We have a close relationship with our European family but we are happy to live in two completely different countries with separate nationalities.
    My in-law never went back to work or live in their birth country and never had any regrets about that choice. They made a positive decision to choose Britain.
    Looking back I think they had had enough of countries with moving borders and the mass movement of peoples. I think they came here for work experience and found love, stability and certainty in this island nation of ours with it’s protective cliffs and sea. When the financial crisis struck I asked them which would they chose Euros or Sterling (the £ was plummeting and the Euro going up at the time) and they said that I shouldn’t bet against Sterling. No comment on the Euro!
    Don’t forget John Redwood says that open immigration can suppress wages and when people need credit to afford what they need that fact cannot be dismissed for any idealised vision.

  • an ex-tory voter

    I am British, I was born British and I wish to remain British. I am not European, I do not want to be European and I have never been asked if I wished to become a citizen of a nation called The European Union.

    I love travelling to Europe and have done so many times over the years. I have family ties to Eastern Europe and friends in various European countries. I have always been able to travel freely to these countries. Upon arrival I was merely required to produce my “Blue passport” and after it had been examined I was free to travel unhindered. If I wished to work in one of these countries and possessed skills which they required, I could apply and would very likely be given permission to do so and after a period of time could if I wish apply to become permanently resident there.

    The EU is not a free trade area as described by Fraser, it is a political construct aimed at the creation of a european super-state, it is nothing else.
    The free travel claimed to have been invented by the EU has always existed. I have always been able to travel to Europe in the same way that I am able to travel to virtually any country on earth.
    The British Empire was built on trade. The empire has long since gone but British trading has continued. Britain does not require any advice from Brussels, or anyone else, on trade, the advantages of trade, or how to develop trade. The British people are traders, it is what we do!! The British people have been trading successfully with the many nations on the continent of Europe for centuries. We do not need, and neither do they, political union between our nations in order to facilitate trade which has existed since before Roman times.

    To use free movement and trade as a reason for the existence of the EU and our membership of it, is at best to conceal the truth and at worst to lie. Politicians have been lying to the British people about our membership of the EU for decades and they continue to do so. Nigel Farage may or may not be the smartest political operator on the block but he does have the great advantage of “speaking the truth”

    • James Allen

      Quite so!! The political section of the Spectator these days is neither right-wing nor libertarian, is it?!!

    • Penny

      Yes, this “free movement of people” is somewhat deceptive. I lived and worked abroad for a few years before this phrase was born. I was far from the only foreigner – in fact, Munich was often referred to as “little Italy”, its Turkish population was high and my first Burn’s Night was spent c/o the city’s Scottish society.

      The “free movement” thing is hardly a revolving door, either. English is widely taught and spoken as a 2nd language in Europe whereas we – if we speak a language at all – tend only towards French, German, Spanish or Italian. This rather limits our range of free movement, but enhances that of European mainland. The UK is a relatively wealthy country and, were I Bulgarian with a reasonable grasp of English, I might well head here. Conversely, unable to speak Bulgarian and having little to gain prospects-wise, I’m unlikely to head to Bulgaria.

      I suspect the “free movement of people” isn’t quite the level playing field it’s being made out to be.

    • Conway

      I’m English. I no longer consider myself to be “British” because that just means someone has been given a UK passport these days. I’m only European inasmuch as I’m not African, Asian, Aboriginal or native American. Before we joined the EC, I travelled Europe, lived abroad, even visited and studied in the Soviet Union. All we need is a trading agreement (what we thought we were signed up to in the first place). Nobody asked us if we wanted to become a region in the United States of Europe.

  • ItinerantView

    The EU has been throwing millions at NGO’s in Ukraine which helped destabilise the country,so yes they must bear some responsibility for what happened.
    The utter hypocrisy of Eucrats like Ashton preaching democracy and transparent institutions, when she herself is an unelected member of an undemocratic organisation is beyond parody.
    EU figures like Guy ‘stupide’ Verhofstadt and the depraved Cohn-Bendit want the “greatest Empire ever,the most powerful and wealthiest continent in the world, richer than America, more powerful than all of the new empires combined.”
    They have an interventionist agenda and would justify such violence with the need to spread “human rights, freedom and democracy”.
    While in reality, European democracies have been undermined, referenda negated and ignored with contempt and derided as populism by the EUcrats,Democratically elected governments have been replaced with EUcrats in several countries.
    Freedom of speech is under attack by a range of agendas,not least to accomodate the EU’s expansionist agenda into the Middle East and North Africa.A subject that most in the MSM seem to be terrified of even mentioning,never-mind discussing the project and its implications.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/10/cohn-o12.html

  • glurk

    Not having had the benefit of a classical education, I spent some time wondering who Euophiles was….

  • Kitty MLB

    To be quite honest, everyone seems to like the ‘nice ordinary bloke’
    Nigel Farage, who wants to unshackle us from the EU’s chains. whilst everyone seems to deplore the evil serpent Cleggie, an EU poodle who just wants us to continue in a ‘ reformed’ EU with the succubus still attached to us. So therefore
    everyone made up their mind before the debate. Cleggie maybe was not the best person for this debate, but Nigel has been waiting for his moment to speak for years.But it needs to be remembers this debate was simply just about the EU nothing else/

    • Makroon

      Ha-ha, that is certainly the Kipper dominated CH version of reality.
      Farage is a typical English eccentric, he’s not ordinary, nor a bloke, nor particularly nice. He’s a politician.
      Clegg is a Euro-Brit who somehow wandered into domestic politics, probably why he always looks bewildered and kind of detached.

      • Kitty MLB

        Nigel Farage is not a English eccentric that would be Jacob Rees- Mogg or Boris Johnson.
        Yes,he is a politician and one with good intensions, you might argue
        that they all start out with good intensions apart from Tony Blair
        who had a somewhat sinister look that all socialists have.
        I am not a kipper, but a Right Wing Tory a lot of us are taking
        notice of Farage at present but not as much as the working class
        Labour voter– the winds of change are in the air- one way or
        another your lot are doomed .

        • Makroon

          Who pray, are my “lot” ?

      • Denis_Cooper

        It isn’t true that Clegg “somehow wandered into domestic politics”; he took a conscious decision that he could more effectively further the cause of the EU by being in the UK Parliament rather than in the EU Parliament. And that judgement has proved correct.

    • startledcod

      Sadly for a man who has been waiting 20 years for this debate he might have been better rehearsed.

      • Kitty MLB

        Maybe he wasn’t polished like Clegg, who has lost the charm he had last time. and yes we know he spoke with a false tongue and yes Farage made a foolish remark
        or two but he obviously spoke from the heart. I am sure he will
        be much better next time.

        • startledcod

          I hope so, for all his blokish charm he needs to be seen as serious to make his case effectively. Funnily enough I didn’t see Clegg as polished I saw him as slippery and disingenuous – no change then.

          • Kitty MLB

            To be quite honest, to be taken seriously we need to know what he thinks in regards to other issues as well as the wretched EU. I know a little about their policies but many
            see them as just about leaving the EU. And on Con Home
            most of my kipper friends only respond to articles relating to the EU.Some smart alack will now mention the name
            of their party.

          • sarah_13

            I think he his achieving precisely what he wanted to achieve he is seen as dangerous, that is enough. He is making the running on europe and that is the only issue he is interested in I think its about focusing on the priority.

            If we don’t force a renegotiation of the EU we will all end up in chaos it is inevitable. Farage is forcing the Tories to do what they don’t want to, to fight the civil service and the europhile status quo and renegotiate and redesign the EU and he has forced a referendum. What we need now is for Farage to get a researcher to really polish up he’s detailed arguments for his final contest with Clegg.

            I shall vote Tory in the General Election and it is largely because of the work Farage has done highlighting the totalitarian nature of the EU making the tory right hold Cameron to account. People when asked if Europe is a priority say no because they think Immigration and Europe are not connected, or they don’t understand how the EU works. That is not their fault that is for the Politicians to explain. Clegg’s shameful answer on the amount of legislation coming from the EU tells us all we need to know about his integrity.

        • sarah_13

          People can see clearly that Farage speaks from the heart. Clegg is deputy PM he has a whole range of people working for him researchers, assistants etc etc so he can breezily turn up calm and collected and repeat a few figures and the main europhile argument which is scarmongering; It would be far too difficult to extricate ourselves so lets not bother.

          Farage on the other hand is single handedly virtually running a party. He has to do everything no wonder he’s a bit knackered and presentationally not quite as slick as Clegg. He has not had the luxury of internships and jobs in the eu and then finding a party that can get you a seat in the british parliament or a squillionaire family with money to cushion any disadvantages ordinary people might feel from the EU. Farage isn’t interested in working within a system he sees is fundamentally undemocratic, whereas Clegg doesn’t really see the problem, for him its all very civilised working in the EU etc. For Farage politics isn’t a luxury its a necessity, unlike Clegg for whom it is a career option.

  • andyrwebman

    A fairly balanced viewpoint, and one I can agree with somewhat. The idea of a well run, gradual drift towards union is one that is appealing, and we can imagine a different Europe that might have emerged had things been run better, more honeslty, and with a view to patiently move towards greater union.

    But mistakes were made – one obvious one being unlimited freedom of movement

    This sort of thing could only have possibly worked between countries very close together in economic status, it was bound to go wrong when you included much poorer rural countries. In fact, it might even be a bad idea WITHIN a country – I could imagine an independent Britain where movement into London was state regulated due to overcrowding and pollution issues.

    And here we see an example of what is wrong with a Europe run by ivory tower idealists – the belief that all we have to do is decree something a fundamental right, and it will happen.

    These sort of people get very angry when any kind of pragmatic objection to their idealism is mentioned – they accuse people who bring up these problems of being racist, xenophobic and bigoted. If you don’t beleive in their fast moving, carelessly optimistic juggernaut of union, you’re a small minded prejudiced type.

    How can we reasonably be part of this kind of Europe – run by people blind to evidence, unwilling to believe that any way but their way is correct? It leads to incompetent governments full of Yes-men and toadies, and a refusal to listen to the genuine concerns of people.

    I want out of this Europe because it’s too far gone down a bad path. I’d only consider being in a New Europe if it were demonstrably run by democratically accountable, non-corrupt pragmatists free of the disease of poltical correctness and its institutionalised lying.

  • Bill Brinsmead

    Fraser captures the view of the British people.

    We want to be part of the EU. At the same time we know that reform is needed and we want change in its institutions [such as the European Commission & Parliament]. We don’t see the alternatives as either viable or attractive.

    Come the referendum the British people will vote 60:40 to remain part of the EU.

    • saffrin

      If what you claim was anywhere near the truth why would our present day leaders denying us our democratic right?

    • Rhoda Klapp8

      We are signed up to ever-closer union. Do you want that? Tell me the mechanism whereby one country can get its own list of reforms. There is none.

      • Makroon

        There was “no mechanism” for opt-outs or rebates either.

    • Denis_Cooper

      If the British people voted to stay in the EU in 2017 then that would be because they had been duped into voting to stay in the EU on essentially the same basis as now, just as with Wilson’s referendum in 1975 when he pretended to have got “Britain’s New Deal in Europe” when it was nothing of the kind, there wasn’t any change at all that needed treaty change. Cameron has not said that he wants to change the institutions; the only one of his seven targets for renegotiation which would definitely involve treaty change would be so that the UK would no longer be subject to the requirement of a process of “ever closer union”, and as that is fundamental to the EU treaties his chance of getting that commitment excised is so remote as to be virtually non-existent.

      • sarah_13

        There is that danger, that the referendum gets a stay in result. That is the big risk which I think a renegotiation avoids and is presumably why they are hoping that some kind of alliance with Merkel will get results. If we get a half-baked vote with a yes to stay in the EU then we are all in trouble because the ever closer union will include us. There won’t really be any going back from that.

        Farage is doing an excellent job keeping the problems out there and forcing the Tories to fight what they don’t really have the stomach for. I hope with all the work he must have to do he has the time to get a researcher to focus on the detail and fallacies of Cleggs arguments. If he can keep highlighting the reality of the EU, the fact that one law can usurp sovereignty, that the likes of Clegg are rich kids on extended work placement schemes who don’t actually have the interests of the british people at heart because they don’t exist in the same reality as the rest of us, that he, Farage, has had to run a political party almost single handedly and doesn’t have a whole army of assistants like Clegg does etc in a nut shell he just has to keep telling the truth. That will be enough and he has the platform to do it on.

        Farage deserves a medal. I personally will vote Tory at the General Election for a Tory majority without the lib dems dragging them down, but also because Farage has done such a good job making them do the difficult job of addressing the EU.

        • Penny

          My niggle with reform is based on trust – or lack of. I wasn’t old enough to vote in the Common Market referendum but it would seem those who did had no clue that it would become the EU we have today. What guarantee do we have that, given a decent pause, reforms will not be re-evaluated or otherwise changed? As recent events have shown, the EU is not above over-riding democracy or taking money from the public bank.

          • Conway

            I voted to stay in the “EC, EEC, Common Market” as the question was phrased. Nowhere was there any inkling (I didn’t have access to the Treaty of Rome in those pre-Internet days) that “ever closer union” meant the United States of Europe with a flag, an anthem, a diplomatic service, an army, a police force, a President and parliament. That’s a long, long way from an Economic Community or a Common Market. Heath even assured us that it would mean no loss of sovereignty.

    • sarah_13

      And if there is no reform, do we just vote to stay in? There is going to be a difficult choice and the answer can’t just be “its too difficult to get out so we have to stay in” surely? It will be, if there is no substantial change in the nature of the EU, if the Eurozone countries and those outside the eurozone aren’t treated separately and its fundamentally unaccountable nature and over-involvment in domestic politics isn’t changed then we can’t be part of it. Isn’t that the point, somewhere along the lines issues have to be faced not spun and dissembled. Thats what the problem is. I went to the spectator debate with Nigel Farage and Gisgard d’estaing, expecting some real insight into why we should stay in the EU from such a “statesman”. His argument was basically it would be rude of the British to leave, we can’t do that who do we think we are. The Vichy french response. Shameful really.

    • Conway

      Fraser captures the view of the British people.” He doesn’t capture my view. I don’t want to be part of the EU at all.

  • startledcod

    To all the frothing commenters below that there ‘will not, be a re-negotiation. That has been made absolutely clear to us by Merkel, by Hollande, by Barroso and every other tin-pot Brussels bureaucrat’ or similar I say, elect a Tory Government in 2015, let DC attempt his re-negotiation and then vote on it in the subsequent referendum.

    I am currently minded to vote ‘out’ but a broad change in our EU membership terms could persuade me to vote ‘in’. You know that DC will try and spin even a tiny change as a huge success, I have already discounted that, but I am prepared to give him a chance because I believe that being in a reformed EU could be in our interests.

    Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg are simply taking up positions at either extreme of the arguments.

    • saffrin

      Cameron has had four years to renegotiate our membership, to date he has achieved absolutely nothing but rejection from all quarters.
      Why on earth would we want to re elect yet another proven failure?

      • startledcod

        Because your ‘proven failure’ is my only hope of a referendum on leaving the EU, that’s why I would want to re-elect him. He hasn’t attempted a re-negotiation but has set out a timetable for his attempt and the subsequent vote.

        For better or for worse he’s the only show in town, please don’t suggest UKIP, they will be lucky to secure a single MP.

        • saffrin

          No way is Cameron ever going to give us our referendum.
          And no I will not suggest UKIP will get a single MP into Parliament as I genuinely believe he has a chance of filling it with UKIP MP’s.
          He’s the only politician this country has that speaks the truth.
          If UKIP fail to win the 2015 General Election blame it on our bias media and the £billions the European Union has spent on their propaganda.

          • startledcod

            Yes way, we will get a referendum if he is PM.

            If you ‘genuinely believe’ that ‘he’ (I presume you mean Nigel Farage) has a ‘genuine chance of filling [Parliament] with UKIP MPs then you are a psephological idiot.

            I find it very tedious engaging with people like you because all you do is froth, if you really want an EU referendum then, as I have said many time before, there is only one show in town.

            • saffrin

              Your insults tell us it is you that is frothing sunshine.
              Perhaps you should apply to Brussels for an increase in pay to compensate
              Fact; Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are ALL lying to the nation.
              If you actually believe Cameron intends to hold a referendum, you sir are the fool of the decade.

              • Kitty MLB

                They are not lying to the nation, we know exactly where we stand with them. Clegg and Miliband do not want us to have a
                referendum and Cameron has given us one in 2017 ( should be sooner) and there
                are far too many in the Conservative party who loath the EU
                to allow him to back out. You know that. You just want to
                make a stand against all the parties- regardless.

                • Conway

                  Cameron has given us one in 2017” As it is only 2014, you have the wrong tense of the verb – or the wrong verb altogether. Promised, perhaps, but certainly he hasn’t given us anything yet.

            • fubarroso

              If, as you do, discount UKIP then there is no show in town!

              • Makroon

                Correct. UKIP is a fine “show”.
                Policies are daft though.

      • Conway

        Moreover, we have never been able to block any piece of EU legislation and in 41 years of trying we have never managed any reform (remember Blair giving up the rebate for reform of the CAP?). Why should Cameron suddenly, magically, manage to renegotiate anything?

    • Mike Purves

      You are right. At ‘renegotiation time’ Dave will be tossed a very small bone. By the time Tory and LibDem spinners, the BBC and an accommodating media have finished describing it , it will look like a dinosaur’s femur.

    • Denis_Cooper

      What change to our membership terms could persuade you to vote to stay in?

  • Makroon

    Spot on Mr Nelson, but this is what happens when politicians flirt with show-biz.
    Indeed, is anything in modern Britain free of the taint of show biz and it’s seedy purveyors ?
    This latest episode is all down to Clegg – it was, after all, entirely his idea, following on from his “radio phone-in” stunt.

    In other news: today’s ridiculous “revisions” from the ONS must finally confirm the growing doubts about our statistical base, and prompt a thorough review.

  • http://batman-news.com The Commentator

    Fraser you must realise that there cannot, and will not, be a re-negotiation. That has been made absolutely clear to us by Merkel, by Hollande, by Barroso and every other tin-pot Brussels bureaucrat. This fantasy is being perpetuated by call-me-Dave in a vain effort to limp a divided Conservative party across the line in 2015. The real options are stark, you may describe them as extreme. Either we accept our place as a one-vote-in-28 irrelevance in the EU, ultimately the United States of Europe, or, we leave. We have a population of 63 million, a rising birth rate and ample opportunity to take advantage of a globalised market outside the EU. Why are our weedy little politicians so afraid of government?

    • startledcod

      I believe you are correct when you say ‘We have a population of 63 million, a rising birth rate and ample opportunity to take advantage of a globalised market outside the EU. Why are our weedy little politicians so afraid of government?’ so why not wait and see how DC gets on attempt to reform Europe and then have your say in the consequent referendum. It doesn’t matter how hard you blow now it ain’t going to happen.

    • mark tayler

      The Kippers will lose the EU referendum.

  • Denis_Cooper

    UKIP has its answer, a position to which those leading the Tory party have to pay lip service, that the UK should be an independent sovereign state in perpetuity.

    And the LibDems have their opposite answer, a position which they know they would be well-advised to keep concealed from the citizens, that the UK should cease to be an independent sovereign state and should instead be legally subordinated in a European federation, a United States of Europe, a new country called “Europe” in the same way that the federal United States of America is called “America”.

    • mark tayler

      Libdems = 57 MPs

      UKIP = 0 MPs

      • Denis_Cooper

        So what?

  • James Allen

    Fraser – by your own admission you’re letting your heart make the decision and using your head merely to justify it.

    Unfortunately your heart is wrong. I lived and worked in Prague for 3 years and the Czechs are more eurosceptic than the English, at least amongst the general public (as opposed to the lawyers with their snouts in the trough). They recognise that the EU – whilst being preferable to a country (Ukraine) that’s only had democracy for 14 years and wants a slightly less corrupt elite to run the country – is nevertheless anathema to a free country with a proud history of democracy and (attempted) self-determination.

    It is no surprise your Scottish heritage inclines you towards EU membership; the Scots were, after all, long-time allies of the French against the English and today many Scottish people still show extraordinary nastiness and downright hostility towards the English. But I’m afraid you, Fraser, live in England now and write for a predominantly English audience, who do not bear the grudges of the past but feel proud of their common heritage, which Farage is fighting for and which soundrels like Nick Clegg, Miliband and Cameron see fit to disinherit.

    We favour real independence for the UK from the EU!!!! Get with it…..

    • Kitty MLB

      Well someone give the lovely Nigel Farage a seat.
      After all England’s intrepid hero, our white knight has been defending us from the 3 evil usurpers, who are the black hearted knights and those scoundrel
      foreigner invaders. Honestly, people like Nigel because he is untainted
      by politics in reality, and he is a ordinary chap.
      Cameron, who as a grass root Tory, I am not a huge fan of has given us a referendum date ( it should be earlier but never mind) the other #
      two never would and they do not have hardly any who do not support the EU,
      my party has quite a lot. So come back to earth at some point,
      Nigel Farage would find his saint status somewhat embarrassing.

      • James Allen

        I am not an unalloyed fan of Farage, but I do think he can shake up the establishment in a positive way, so I am lending him my support for now…..

        • Colonel Mustard

          My feelings precisely.

          • ButcombeMan

            And mine. I find that view is very prevalent.

            There are aspects of Farage’s positions that I do not like but for me Europe is THE thing that we must get sorted, for our great grandchildren.

        • Kitty MLB

          Fair enough, but he lives for dealing with the EU, and bashes
          them about quite often in Brussels as we know.
          He does not wish to become Prime Minister and even if he did,
          his party only has one rather splendid Nigel Farage,
          they are still growing, do not have the MP’s or financial
          backing. I can understand why someone would want
          to give the main parties a bloody nose, but if shaking things
          up leads to another incompetent coalition then that is not in
          the countries best interest.

          • James Allen

            The most important interest is to get Britain out of the EU to control her own destiny. Whilst we are in and run by corporations and bureaucrats it doesn’t matter (the ordinary person) who you vote for. Haven’t you realised that yet?

  • Ricky Strong

    I agree that the free movement of people is a good thing… when the countries between which they can move are roughly socially and economically similar. What good is it for the English, Germans, French etc that they can freely move to Romania or Estonia?

    • mark tayler

      actually thousands of British people have moved to Romania and Estonia.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “And did the Ukrainians really chase out a corrupt government because the EU wrongly egged them on, Mr Farage?”

    Yes, and despite the government in Kiev being instantly recognised by the EU and the US as being a legitimate government it is not, it is a revolutionary government which has seized power through mob violence; it has even been alleged that the same snipers shot at both sides to create a crescendo of violence; some of those now in power in Kiev are deeply unpleasant, neo-Nazis in some cases; and already the revolution has eaten one of its own:

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/tv/ukrainian-right-wing-leader-killed-by-police-graphic-content-10843

    “A prominent Ukrainian far-right activist, part of a hard-line nationalist movement that played a leading role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich, was shot dead by police overnight, authorities said on Tuesday (March 25).”

    Here’s a bit of advice for would-be revolutionaries in this modern age: don’t have a website on which you say that you have taken power “according to Article 112 of the Constitution” while also conveniently providing the text of that Constitution so that anyone check and discover that you have not, you have seized power in flagrant breach of that Constitution and so in legal terms you are not an “interim” or “acting” government, you are a bunch of revolutionaries:

    http://www.president.gov.ua/en/

    I wonder whether Obama would be so sanguine about the illegal character of the Kiev government if one day the House of Representatives decided to replace him with their Speaker in defiance of the US Constitution.

  • anyfool

    The UK has no real affinity with Europe, it has 2000 years of ebb and flow wars and alliances, it never tried to colonise Europe as it did the rest of the world, it never tried to take British culture to them as it tried to do elsewhere.
    This country was made up of the mongrels of Europe, most came here to get away from things about the Europeans they did not like.
    Your great grand children will not think that Europe is there spiritual home, if they live in England they will think of themselves as English, yet the children of the British migrants to Europe will still retain that affinity to their ancestral home.

    • Makroon

      You are wrong. Britain, unlike (e.g.) France never sought to take British culture to the empire. Insofar as our culture migrated, it was by voluntary imitation.

      • anyfool

        The institutions of state and the parliamentary system was the biggest cultural transfer the world has ever seen, added to that the language which is really the worlds language, I think that we did more useful things for the world than the French or any other nation.
        Whether this started by design or arrived at because of example, that is another question.

        • Tony_E

          The export of our institutions of Law & Democracy and the separation of powers has been the greatest British achievement of them all.

          It has made economic prosperity and freedom possible for millions, maybe even billions of people over the last two centuries.

          I believe that it was deliberate, and that the cultural things that followed naturally were facilitated by the order that those institutions instilled.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “I don’t think that the EU is an evil empire with ‘blood on its hands’ as Farage bizarrely claimed”

    You may have forgotten that it was Barroso who used the word “empire” to describe the EU:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1557143/Barroso-hails-the-European-empire.html

    “We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind,” said Mr Barroso yesterday. “Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire.””

    “Mr Barroso, Portugal’s former centre-Right prime minister and a student radical in the 1960s, tried to argue that unlike old “super state” empires the EU was based on a voluntary surrender of sovereignty, not military conquest.

    “What we have is the first non-imperial empire,” he said.”

    So is it an “evil” empire, with “blood on its hands”?

    Well, blood was shed in the recent revolution that the EU/NATO/US troika fomented in Ukraine, the second such revolution in a decade; so yes, the EU does have that “blood on its hands”, so what is bizarre about pointing that out?

    • telemachus

      I am not sure what is wrong with Baroso’s views
      Most of our citizens hanker after being part of a successful empire again

      • Denis_Cooper

        A few may hanker for the days when we had an empire, but very few hanker to be subordinated within somebody else’s empire.

        • sarah_13

          And if those who HAD to be subordinated had a choice of empire which do you think they would choose? Portugal? I doubt that. I always find it interesting that only the British seem to be vilified but what about the Portuguese and how they left their colonies, or the dutch etc etc. The real reason I think is that the British are the only ones decent enough to admit errors were made in the past. Apparently no other country has made errors.

          • telemachus

            Our British decency is one of the key things to imbue on our European brethren as we relate to the new world order

          • Cyril Sneer

            Blame the self hating left.

            • telemachus

              Or Farage the ‘vulgar little englander representing an ungenerous backward looking politics’

        • telemachus

          The point being, non subordination
          We need to be in there with Merkel shaping the future of a Europe leading the World

          • Denis_Cooper

            When government sources brief journalists that a proposed amendment to a Bill under consideration by our Parliament would be “illegal” under EU law, and those journalists repeat that without demur, then it is perfectly clear that both sets no longer believe in the sovereignty of our national Parliament and they already accept our legal subordination in what has always been intended to become a pan-European federation with federal law superior to national or state law. As does Fraser Nelson, with his tired old Tory nonsense about “pooled sovereignty in certain areas”. And if you think that Merkel has a different view then you are much mistaken; just like those leading the Tory and Labour and LibDem parties she is a eurofederalist, an advocate of a pan-European federation.

      • Makroon

        Barroso’s view is entirely consistent with how the Portuguese saw their empire – a sort of voluntary Luso cultural commonwealth. Of course, the subject peoples saw it rather differently.

        • telemachus

          Barroso was speaking as a European not an Portuguese
          *
          You should heed the words of Fraser (above)

          I plead guilty to seeing an emotional appeal in the EU project. Both my heart and my head says there’s something worth fighting for…..

          the merits of EU membership – a free trade zone, free movement of people, the ability of British companies to sell their wares without extra tariff anywhere in the 28-member bloc – is worth something.

          • Colonel Mustard

            That doesn’t need a top down hierarchy of unelected, unaccountable foreigners, most of whom are far left socialist wolves in social democrat clothing.

            Barroso is a ghastly little man. The sort of non-entity who should be the night manager in a second rate European hotel. Not someone attempting to dictate terms to the British.

            • telemachus

              That doesn’t need a top down hierarchy of unelected, unaccountable foreigners
              *
              No
              And that is what we must change in the re-negotiation
              My problem is that I cannot trust Cameron to do that with his divided party
              We need either a strong leader(none available) or a networker not hidebound by a spllt party- yes we have that and I will rest my faith in him

              • fubarroso

                A networker? Who are you talking about?

                • telemachus

                  Ed

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Laughable. The son of a foreign communist and another Westminster Europhile who has already refused the British people a referendum.

            • DrCoxon

              You are quite right. I staid at that hotel – frightful night manager.

          • ButcombeMan

            Free trade and absence of tariffs between nation states does not require subordination to a political union to achieve. Under WTO rules there are precious few tariffs anyway now. So a lot of the argument Clegg makes is just plainly untrue. Does he understand this? Probably not. Like those mindless politicians who designed the Euro, it is a religion for him, an act of faith.

            Religion is blind to fact.

            The European Project has morphed into a not so benign, all powerful, corrupt, utterly controlling, superstate. It has done that without having democratic accountability.

            The people of Europe lack the influence to control what happens to them . The Euro impoverishes many States and will inevitably lead to civil strife in some of them.

            Yet you and Clegg defend it.

            That says a lot about both of you.

      • Pootles

        No we don’t. It’s just the nuts like Blair who want to strut around on the world stage in boots that are far too big for them.

    • Michael Charlton

      since when was the Big Bureaucrat, Barroso, ex-Maoist, a centre-Right politician?

      • beat_the_bush

        Since when did you become such an ignoramus incapable of a little bit of historical perspective.

        Barroso was a Maoist during the 1970’s when this was the main opposition against the 1926 dictatorship in Portugal. That and strangely enough, people’s views change.

        • Michael Charlton

          Since he revealed himself (his new self) as anything but centre-right or democratic

          • beat_the_bush

            Only if you have changed the meaning of centre-right and democratic to be facist and xenophobic.

      • mark tayler

        Barroso belongs to the EPP centre right grouping. Look it up on google.

    • beat_the_bush

      Because the term empire he was referring to was a remark by Jan Zielonka that tried to come up with a term for describing what UK tories like about the EU, “variable geometry”. He came up with the theory that the EU should be viewed as a sort of empire in the old sense, ie not “19th century” imperialism, in that it was not about creating a “federal, westphalian state” but instead a series of overlapping jurisdictions that members could voluntarily agree to join.

      The trouble is, is that a comment that you made which would earn you a nice fail grade if you tried to put it in an academic paper (You’re probably proud of that) get’s 61 like because a bunch of europhobes have decided that though it’s baseless, it’s what they want to hear.

      Also, Russia violated a 1999 agreement that allowed states to choose their political alliance freely. It did so in 2008, just days after Georgia signed the Bucharest declaration to aspire to join NATO, and it did so again when the new Ukrainian government, voted in by the same sitting Parliament for an interim period, decided to pursue the EU. Russia is playing imperialism in the 19th century style. I’m pretty sure if you could tune away from you tin foil hat frequencies you see that.

      It did that on top of violating the Helsinki Final Act, several articles of UN law, it’s bilateral military treaty with Ukraine for its bases in Crimea and finally, and something with incredible ramifications for global security – it decided that the promise it made Ukraine after the Soviet Union fell for Kiev to surrender its nuclear arsenal in return for its territorial guarantee is no more. The ramifications of that are incredible and will send shockwaves through the world to any regime that we’ve been trying to get to surrender nuclear weapons, not to do so.

      • Michael Charlton

        I notice that you chose not to reveal yourself

        • beat_the_bush

          That’s not a point, is it. Dumbass.

          You didn’t counter any of the points in my post. I accept your defeat.

          • Michael Charlton

            ha ha, you must be American – nothing wrong with that. Mistakes spelling and punctuation – American English?

            • beat_the_bush

              Or I just use a more widely accepted form of English.

  • sarah_13

    To be fair to Farage, isn’t he also married to a european, a German?

    • andyrwebman

      I really feel for your friend with the schools situation. It’s one of those things that’s totally ignored by the rabidly pro immigration crowd and yet it’s likely to completely ruin the child’s eduication.

      • sarah_13

        Yes its really quite a difficult situation for them. They were quite shocked. The school has an excellent ofsted report so they went to have a look. Like most of us they thought there would be a cross section of children in the class but literally it is children of Somali origin and eastern european children. It is primary age but the girls I think wear burkini type things for sports. That would be something I would find difficult as a woman, I want children in PE kits running around freely, getting plenty of exercise. Anyway I’m not sure what they will do but they are likely to opt to go private and just take it one term at a time in terms of costs. It is simply the numbers are so great that the culture in primary schools is completely different to what they had anticipated for their child.

        • Cyril Sneer

          Your friend shouldn’t have to do that. Their child should be able to get into a normal school and have a normal education. Their situation is simply not acceptable. Our children come first, the 3rd worlders do not.

          • sarah_13

            I’m not sure I would put it quite the way you have but there is certainly a problem with sheer numbers. One completely expects and wants a cross section of children but to be the only child who actually has english as a first language is really tricky and something that should not be ignored, or worse than that, when it is a plain fact one is told it simply isn’t so. To ignore this volume of immigration is irresponsible and unsustainable. I would really like Mr Clegg to address those real concerns and explain how they can be resolved. Or at least be honest and say its too late and we don’t have the stomach to make the changes necessary.

            • Conway

              to be the only child who actually has english as a first language is really tricky” Tricky? I can think of a lot of things that it is, but tricky would be a long way down the list!

        • Donafugata

          Years ago I used to live just off the Fulham Road but it became too expensive and I was priced out and moved to Surrey.

          How is it that recently arrived “huddled masses” can afford to live there?

    • I like Comb-over

      “To be fair to Farage, isn’t he also married to a european, a German?”

      Allegedly he is also humping Latvians.
      http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ukip-leader-nigel-farage-handed-3247456

      • MirthaTidville

        Funny how Nattress never thought to mention any of this until he was booted out of the party…

    • Donafugata

      Well said, Sarah.

    • rick hamilton

      My grandsons attending a primary school in north-east London were the only white kids in their class. One day the teacher asked the class to bring something which reflected their ‘ethnic origin’. What were my English born and bred grandsons expected to take?

      I thought a copy of Magna Carta would do the job but that went over their heads. I was tempted to suggest a pork pie……………

  • Robert_Eve

    The time for debate was over years ago – we just need to leave ASAP.

    • mark tayler

      then just go

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here