SOME people think I’m stupid. A colleague in the House of Lords told me so to my face. “You’re voting Brexit, Michael? Then you’re ridiculous, totally mad,” she said. And the abuse is going to get worse.
Politics is sometimes said to be the world’s second oldest profession and takes most of it’s rules from the first. I suspect it’s worse than that. Politics is the world’s oldest profession, and in the run-up to the referendum it will have no rules at all.
Sometimes I think the EU has no rules, either. It’s supposed to defend our security but it has no effective borders. It’s supposed to guarantee our prosperity but we are all waiting for the next financial crisis. It’s supposed to belong to the people, but it doesn’t.
Some say that Britain is too insignificant on its own to succeed. Everything will collapse, we are told. President Obama flew over to warn us that if we leave the EU, Britain would ‘go to the back of the queue’.
I don’t remember a US President telling us we should get to the back of the queue when our soldiers fought our way with our American allies up the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944. Or in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so many other places.
It was a wretched remark. There will be more. We are being threatened with biblical punishments, everything from a plague of boils to the elimination of our first born and – would you believe it? – even the outbreak of war.
Yet the idea that Britain is too small and insignificant to have any future is appalling nonsense.
We are the world’s fifth largest economy. We have the world’s fourth largest military establishment. We are the second most generous nation on the planet with our foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. We have some of the world’s top universities. And somehow we small, insignificant Britons managed to stage the finest Olympic Games that the modern world has ever seen.
That’s why so many want to come here, not just as tourists or refugees but as businessmen, students and artists. We are a fabulous, exciting, forward-looking country.
Two years ago years ago, the Prime Minister spoke about his growing frustration with the EU. He said it was seen as something that is done to people rather than for them. It needed fundamental, far-reaching change, he insisted. The reckless drive towards ever-closer political union must stop. British courts should have the final say, not European courts. And these reforms must be guaranteed by a new Treaty.
Yet Brussels gave him none of that. Brussels won’t change. The EU is like the Titanic heading for the iceberg and incapable of changing course.
We didn’t get those reforms. Instead we got Project Fear, dark threats of what life will be like outside the EU. Treasury economists tell us that in 15 years we’ll all be squirming in poverty. These are the same economists who thought joining the euro would be a fantastic idea, who failed to see the great financial crash coming and whose forecasts usually last no longer than their lunches.
In all honesty, no side can offer you absolute certainty. Nothing stays the same in this world. Will we still have a steel industry at Port Talbot this time next year? When will the next disastrous collapse in Greece come? Will refugees still be flooding into Europe in their millions? The Remain campaign can’t tell us. No one can.
We will be better off alongside the EU rather than inside.
We will have far more control of our resources – we are a huge contributor to the EU budget to the tune of £20bn a year. That’s money we can spend on what we want and need, not on what Brussels decides.
We will be economically more flexible and adaptable, better able to meet the challenges of the 21st century, not bogged down in red tape. Consider this: The Lords Prayer has 70 words in it, the American Declaration of Independence 1,300 words, while the EU regulations on export of duck eggs has 26,900.
We will be more secure, with much greater control of our borders.
And we will once again be back in control of the way we are governed. We can’t kick out the government in Brussels, no one can. So much for democratic accountability.
More secure, more prosperous, more ambitious, deciding our own destiny. Project Hope instead of Project Fear.
I’m proud to be a European, but the EU isn’t Europe. It’s an institution run by elites, for elites. It serves the privileged – top politicians, civil servants, international bankers, big businessmen. No surprise, then, that they are leading the charge to remain.
This referendum is the first and perhaps last chance for ordinary people to have their say, to use their judgment and experience, to dig deep, not just into their native pride but their common sense. To decide our future.
One final question. If we weren’t members of the EU, would you vote to join what it has become? No, me neither. That’s why I’m voting Leave.
Michael Dobbs is a best-selling author and Tory peer.