Say what you like about the euro, but it is certainly not democratic. It involves taking some of the most important economic powers of a government, the ability to set interest rates and a budget (the central controls of any economy) and transferring them to unelected apparatchiks in Europe.
In fact, Wetherspoon opposed the introduction of the euro, about 15 years ago, but not really for that reason.
Our observation was that the predecessor of the euro (the Exchange Rate Mechanism) had fallen apart at the seams in 1992, but not before a million UK households found themselves in ‘negative equity’, as interest rates rose to 15% in an effort to maintain the value of the pound against the Deutschmark.
We concluded that fixing currencies in this manner did not work and that, if you wanted a single currency, you had to have a single government.
There is no example in history of a sustainable currency which isn’t backed by a single government – it’s been tried a few times and has always fallen apart, leaving chaos in its wake.
I was a spokesman for the ‘No’ campaign at the time – which opposed the UK’s entry into the euro.
I was baffled by the fact that most of its political proponents were a middle-aged and older male elite (Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Geoffrey Howe and many others) who’d almost all been to one of Britain’s great universities, yet wished to surrender power to a non-democratic institution in Europe – what was their motivation?
No one can be sure, but it was probably the instinct or emotion that the European elite (the French call them ‘les énarques’), with a strikingly similar education and background to their own, could better handle important matters of state than the great, unwashed British public, with its interfering courts, aggressive and intruding press and cantankerous population.
In effect, like rulers the world over, the political elite found democracy troublesome and tiring and yearned for a European club where the great and good could rule with minimal interference.
Advocates of the euro were not confined to politicians.
The chief executives of many of our biggest companies lined up to issue blood-curdling warnings of financial catastrophe if we were to stay out, and the CBI (the mouthpiece for big business) was evangelical in its support.
Even the Financial Times, with énarque Richard Lambert as editor, effectively censored anti-euro views in its pro-euro fervour. As I said then, pro-euro mania was a quasi-religious project, rather than a true economic one.
I took part at the time in a debate on the euro, on BBC’s Any Questions, and Michael Heseltine (an arch euro supporter) succinctly summed up the inherent view of the majority (but by no means all) of the educated elite.
He stated that the future of world governments lay in reducing the powers of national parliaments and handing them over to what he called ‘supra-national’ organisations like the EU and the UN – let’s call the supporters of this view (almost all male) the ‘supras’.
In a recent Wetherspoon News article, I set out the basis of the alternative philosophy, commenting on government attempts to curb the press.
This view is that all major powers should be permanently retained by national parliaments, with a free vote for everyone, a free press, free courts, freedom of speech and religion and with the church playing only a symbolic role in the constitution.
Membership of international organisations, like the UN, is desirable, but law-making is reserved for the national parliament.
Successful constitutions, run along these lines, exist in most of the western world and, for all of their faults, have produced by far the highest living standards of any system and by far the highest level of freedom of speech and other ‘human rights’ for their citizens – let’s call the believers in this system ‘democrats’ or ‘demos’.
The main issue in most people’s mind in the ‘in or out’ EU debate is immigration.
Although I personally strongly believe in the demo case, I also strongly believe that the UK has been a big beneficiary of the migration of large numbers of Europeans to this country, as, indeed, we have benefited from an influx of people from other regions of the world.
The USA, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, for example, have all experienced gradually rising populations for a long time – and it’s gone hand in hand with great prosperity and the other democratic freedoms referred to above.
The key issue about migration, similar to the issue about the euro, is that the debate needs to take place in each country – and the decisions regarding migration need to be made by elected parliaments in those countries.
It makes no sense, in the UK, for these sensitive issues to be decided on by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, when we’re just as capable of deciding for ourselves – after all, Americans, Australians and Singaporeans (among many others) have managed to do so by themselves.
Clearly, if the UK decides to leave the EU, it would be in the economic and other interests of this country and our European neighbours to have friendly relations, strong business links, including free trade, and, I believe, free movement of labour.
Norway and Switzerland, for example, two of the richest and most successful countries in the world, are not in the EU, but EU countries have an open trading relationship with them, and citizens from both of those countries can live and work in the UK, needing only a passport or identity card.
A very small number of people have said that economic issues like the euro and philosophical issues concerning democracy should not be discussed in a magazine like Wetherspoon News.
This can’t be right, since good decisions require debate.
Who wants important decisions made behind closed doors by know-alls? Perhaps readers will disagree with these views, or perhaps not…
I’ve told you what I think, but who cares?
The important issue is what you think. Are you a supra or a demo? Decision time is nigh – or, as those hard-rocking Eurovision songsters Bucks Fizz memorably put it, it’s time for ‘making your mind up’.
Article taken from Wetherspoon News Spring 2016