Bernard Ingham: One foot in the grave if Britain doesn’t vote to leave EU

Cartoon: Graeme Bandeira
Cartoon: Graeme Bandeira
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THE cantankerous Victor Meldrew used to express his exasperation on TV with the words: “I don’t believe it.”

So did Margaret Thatcher when the Ministry of Defence said that the Falklands could not be recovered if invaded.

I am now reduced to saying it by the charade known as the British renegotiation of EU membership.

I cannot believe that David Cameron is so stupid as to bring politics into further disrepute – after the 1975 referendum kidology – by extolling the virtues of EU membership before he has anything approaching a deal and calling on the might of British industry to say why we should stay in rather than come out.

No sooner had he called for this support than 300 gold-plated lawyers signalled why they want to continue to do very nicely out of the EU, thank you.

I cannot believe the depths of this cynicism. What do they think we are? Idiots?

It all suggests to me that the Establishment has got the wind up. Cameron asked for too little and will get even less, leaving the Europhiles with only fear of the unknown outside the EU left in their referendum quiver.

They might usefully address themselves not to the question why we should stay in the European Union, but why we should ever want to be a member of it at all when:

The institution is corrupt and so riddled with fraud that the auditors have felt unable to sign off its accounts for nigh on 20 years; why should the UK throw another £12bn a year at the EU?

It is thoroughly undemocratic, with unelected bureaucrats running the show armed with the right to initiate legislation and tear up that which they don’t like – e.g. where migrants should be registered.

It is dedicated to exactly what we do not want – “ever closer union” – until it has established a United States of Europe; in pursuit of this it has already wrecked much of Europe’s economy, though not the UK’s, with its single currency, and has generated politically dangerous levels of unemployment in its southern states.

To this end, it is organised, even through its courts, as necessary, steadily to amass powers at the expense of the 27 member states.

It has substantially usurped the authority of those 27 parliaments, with potentially damaging consequences for Western democracy.

It is fundamentally protectionist. Its supposedly most powerful leader, Angela Merkel, has twice demonstrated that she has lost her marbles by welcoming 800,000 refugees to Germany without knowing whether her country could cope and progressively shutting down its nuclear power industry after the Japanese tsunami disaster had irradiated not a single member of the public.

It is largely useless when it comes to international action, even though it pretends to have a foreign service and aspires to a European army in spite of Nato’s proven value.

Nothing that has happened since my 11 years attending 31 consecutive EU summits from 1979 to 1990 has persuaded me that the EU has changed its spots or 
is worth the time, effort and money we put into it.

The present EU model is a discredited mess and everyone knows we cannot go on like this. It needs not so much an overhaul as a fresh start.

What is so frightening about standing on our own two feet in a developing world, trading with whom we like? What are our tycoons afraid of?

What is so alarming about the British Government, monitored by the Westminster Parliament, recovering its power to govern the British people?

Don’t come Scottish independence with me.

More than half the Scots have not yet mislaid their intelligence and are unlikely to do so with North Sea oil prices at rock bottom for the foreseeable future.

As for weakening the EU, it is mindless nonsense to claim that Britain’s exit would debilitate the West when we are not abandoning Nato or our role in the world.

An independent Britain, untrammelled by the EU, might well be just what the world needs, provided it is not governed by Jeremy Corbyn.

A Europe of freely co-operating states, without the drag of EU interference, would strengthen the West and make Germany, as the dominant nation, face up to its responsibilities. The sooner Germany finds the will to control itself the better off we shall all be.

Victor Meldrew could only ever say to all this “I don’t believe it” – and tell the EU Emperor he has no clothes.