Austin Mitchell: Time to remain silent and accept public will on EU

Sir Tim Barrow has been named as the new EU ambassador
Sir Tim Barrow has been named as the new EU ambassador
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DEMOCRACY works because we accept the decisions of the electorate, however much we may dislike them.

Matters European are different. Votes which go against the EU have to be reversed, a humiliation already applied to Denmark, France and Ireland.

Now recalcitrant Remainers want to do the same thing for us. For them EU membership is so sacred that Britain’s misguided electors must vote again because they were so stupid as to be misled by lies and deceit.

Hard core Remainers won’t give up. They’re so sure they’re right – and everyone else is wrong – that they’re becoming an EU fifth column determined to frustrate the wishes of the people.

The dire prophecies they made about the disasters to result from Brexit haven’t been justified, but they continue to claim that they will be. Until they do, they blame everything bad on Brexit. Has the price of petrol gone up? It’s due to Brexit. Are there more racial attacks? Brexit is to blame, even though violence against women has risen even more and racial attacks are far worse in Europe than here. Is the weather bad? Brexit could be to blame.

To heighten the uncertainties, we have a chorus of universities, assisted regions, farmers, scientists, Euro institutions and Euro pensioners claiming that they’ll be forced to emigrate or go on benefits (which will also be cut because we’ve left the EU). Unions join the plaintive pleaders, fearing that working conditions and union rights will be cut by a Tory government.

Never has so much hypothetical fear been created about so little. Workers will keep their rights, we’ll be free to improve them because there is nothing the EU does for us that we can’t do better for ourselves.

Europe’s beneficiaries will still get their money, perhaps even more, from what we pay to belong to a club which drains and damages us. That may not be the full £350m a week we hand over, but will certainly be the substantial part of that which the EU deducts to pay its inflated costs, its marble palaces, overpaid bureaucrats and perambulating Parliament The rest will remain ours to do with what we need, not what Brussels wants.

The irreconcilables undermine Britain’s negotiating position. Negotiations haven’t even begun yet, and if notice on Article 50 is only given at the end of next March, they won’t be over until 2019, by which time the world will have changed again. Yet they still argue that we’ll suffer harsh terms because they claim the EU’s bullying initial position will be its final stand. Which it won’t. Negotiating is a softening process.

They deny that we can end free movement and claim that we’ll be excluded from the single market, ruining the City of London and precipitating the departure of all the Japanese firms which use Britain as an export base for the EU. This chorus of untruths must encourage the EU to take a tougher line in negotiations, hoping that a divided country will climb down and accept whatever humiliation the EU cares to offer.

The chorus of demands that negotiations should start early, and that the Government publish its conditions, is yet another wrecking tactic. Only a fool would give away their negotiating position at the start. Only another fool would interpret the tough starting positions as the likely compromises of the end.

For Labour and the Lib Dems to lock themselves into reversing the result of these negotiations, whatever it is and whenever it ends, is pure folly unless these parties have the gift of prophecy.

This love of the EU springs from a lack of faith in Britain which they see as too weak (or too nasty) to be allowed out on its own. Britain’s Euro fifth columnists think the EU is the only protection for a country in decline. Yet, in fact, Europe is largely responsible for that decline. It has undermined manufacturing, drained demand and money and imposed burdens like the destruction of our fishing industry and the inability to buy food in the cheapest markets.

Then it charges us £11bn a year to belong to the club doing the damage. It offers no support to failing nations, only debt and austerity. The bullying of Greece tells us what help we’ll get from the EU. Indeed Europe compounds the problems of every other member because Germany’s surpluses grow at their expense.

Yet, however disloyal and misguided recalcitrant Remainers are, they may be right about British weakness.

We may already have sold off too many of our businesses, utilities and companies to be able to manage a national policy or build our own national champions, rather than provide a market for those of other nations.

Yet, if that’s the case, we need the EU like an alcoholic needs booze. So why take on the task of rebuilding when we could get all the sympathy and support Greece gets and become the foreign-owned, low wage, poor periphery of Greater Germany?

Austin Mitchell is the former Labour MP for Grimsby.