Bernard Ingham: Face down the fainthearts and cast off the EU’s dead hand of dependence

David Cameron addresses MPs on his EU deal.
David Cameron addresses MPs on his EU deal.
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BRACE yourselves. Stiff upper lip. Remember, you are still British. We have another four months of all this doom-laden claptrap that passes for a debate about our future in Europe.

It is true that with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove seeking “Out” in the June referendum we can expect a rounder argument.

But in the end the issue is very simple. Are you for dependence or independence?

Given that David Cameron has brought back little of lasting value from Brussels, do you want to live a little more dangerously as a self-governing nation state or have the Mother of Parliaments and our identity systematically destroyed as we are swallowed up by a Euro-bureaucracy?

Unlike the Europhiles, I do not intend to compromise my credibility in facing life outside the EU by suggesting that the way is clear. It isn’t. We shall have to make our own weather.

But we know precisely what will become of us if we vote to stay in – subservience leading to irrelevance and on to oblivion.

Nation states will progressively give way to regional machinery dictated from the capital of the United States of Europe (USE).

Perhaps deliberately, we have been so ill-prepared for the referendum that, far from getting an in/out balance sheet, we have no idea, for example, how agriculture will be supported outside CAP. We shall certainly have to observe EC regulations in exporting goods to the Continent.

Some Euro-fanatics may try to be nasty to us for sabotaging, as they see it, the building of the United States of Europe. If so, they will reveal only their emptiness.

They cannot prevail because the European project is now in so much trouble – notably through its economy and its siege by migrants – that it simply cannot afford to conduct feuds.

In these circumstances, I am distressed that once again British politicians in favour of Europe have chosen again to mislead us about the renegotiation of our terms of membership.

No less kindly do I look upon the so far scratchily competitive “Out” campaigns – not least for parading the Saddam-saluting George Galloway, who has nothing useful to contribute.

But I reserve my withering contempt for the CBI and heads of FTSE companies for their sustained scaremongering.

What are they afraid of?

Their competence as competitors in a globalised market?

If so, they should give up their gold-plated salaries, share options and perks and make way for the young thrusters. If they cannot face the world, then go.

Incidentally, all who contribute to the referendum debate should be obliged to declare what, if any, subvention they have received from the EU.

That might not shut up the CBI – reputedly getting nearly £1m in six years – and all those EU pensioners such as Lords Kinnock and Mandelson, but it would put their contributions in better perspective.

Meanwhile, the plaid tail is already trying to wag the British bulldog. I refer to the SNP’s quite remarkable double standard: It wants independence from England so desperately that it yearns for dependence on Brussels.

Why it even says that, if Scotland for one votes to remain in Europe, it should be allowed to vote again on leaving the UK. Have you ever heard of such hypocrisy?

Let us be clear. Not all Scots are as silly as Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond. In 2014 they rejected independence from England by a margin of just over 10 per cent (55.3-44.7 per cent).

With oil prices near rock bottom, it is a safe bet that that margin has widened.

Sane Scots used to be canny folk.

But what is preposterous is the SNP argument that they – and they alone – matter in these islands.

At the last count (2011) the Scottish nation’s population was a mere eight per cent of that of the UK and only about 10 per cent of England’s. What makes them think they are entitled to overturn the judgment of a 300-year-old union?

There is one possible explanation. Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, has noted that she never threatened to leave the EU when in office as distinct from in retirement. Sitting tenants, as it were, do not usually walk away.

Cameron is conforming to this rule but under double duress. He neither wants to lead Britain out of Europe nor to break up the UK.

He would, of course, go down in history as a bold leader if he said “No” to Europe and challenged the Scots over their rank hypocrisy.

But it won’t happen. There’s more clay than iron around in politics today. Stay strong and stay British.