Article Three in the series.......
Why Britain will never get what it wants in Europe: Seventy times, we tried to block EU laws. Seventy times, we failed. Euro MP DANIEL HANNAN lays bare our impotence in Brussels
This week in the Mail we're publishing Euro MP Daniel Hannan's devastating inside account of the EU. Yesterday, he exposed how pro-EU cheerleaders are funded by Brussels. Today he reveals why Europe is utterly incapable of reform...
Ask yourself this fundamental question. If the United Kingdom were not already a member of the European Union, would you vote to join?
Or would you go along with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, the non-EU nations that most resemble Britain, and steer well clear?
In all three countries â comparable to us because they are neither ex-communist nor micro-states â there are solid and settled majorities against joining the EU.
upporters of membership have never been able to answer the crucial question asked by the leader of Norwayâs No campaign in 1994: âTo what problem is the EU a solution?â
Back in 1975, when the UK held its previous referendum, the then European Economic Community (EEC) did seem to offer answers.
This was the era of the three-day week, government controls on prices and incomes, power cuts, double-digit inflation, deficits and strikes.
Britain was in economic decline, outperformed by every European economy. When British people looked across the Channel, they saw what looked like a success story.
The then six members of the EEC had bounced back from World War II while we were close to collapse, dragged down by war debt, inflation, low productivity and lack of competitiveness. Linking ourselves to Germanyâs âeconomic miracleâ seemed sound sense.
Yet almost from that very moment, the problem we thought we were solving was changing. Although no one knew it at the time, the European economic miracle was coming to an end.
Just as Britain decided to join, Europe was about to be outstripped by other parts of the world. Our timing could not have been worse.
Whatâs more, for the sake of closer trade ties across the Channel, we cut our links with Commonwealth countries we had long done business with and set aside sensible habits and traditions that had stood us in good stead for generations.
We were an island and a maritime nation with global reach, yet we chose to tie ourselves down to a mere continent.
People can argue over whether that made sense at the time, but what is indisputable is that it makes no sense today.
Never before has geographical proximity mattered less. In the internet age, a company in Luton can as easily do business with a firm in Ludhiana, India, as with one in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Indeed, more easily. The Indian company, unlike the Slovenian one, will be English-speaking. It will share the British companyâs accountancy methods and unwritten business etiquette.
If there is a dispute, it will be arbitrated according to common law norms with which both are familiar.
Britain is the third largest investor in India, and many British firms that operate there, such as JCB, see no point in being in the EU.
India, for its part, is the third largest investor in the UK, owning more there than in the other 27 members of the EU combined.
When it comes to trade, though, it is a very different story. JCB cannot sell its machinery tariff-free from India to the UK, any more than can steel-maker Tata from the UK to India.
Why? Because commerce is controlled by the European Commission.
When Britain joined the EEC, we surrendered the right to sign independent trade agreements. As long as we remain, we have no vote and no separate voice in the World Trade Organisation.
Our interests are represented there by one twenty-eighth of a European Commissioner â at present a former sociology lecturer from Sweden.
Instead, the EUâs Common Commercial Policy drags us into a trade policy that protects the various vested interests around Europe â Italian textile workers, Polish farmers, French film-makers and so on.
And this at a time when British trade with the rest of the world is growing, while our trade with the EU is shrinking.
Supporters of the EU like to tell anyone whoâll listen that âaround half our exportsâ go to the EU. âAroundâ is a flexible word. In 2006, 54.7 per cent of Britainâs exports went to the EU. In 2015, it was 44.6 per cent. Where will it be ten years from now?
The fact is that the EU economy is struggling, hide-bound by its single currency. This year, Canada will grow by 2.3 per cent, the U.S. by 2.8 per cent, China by 6.3 per cent and India by 7.5 per cent. The UK will grow by 2.1 per cent, and the other non-euro European states by 3 per cent.
But the eurozone, after eight years of stagnation, is expected to manage only 1.6 per cent growth. Does Britain, despite her global links, want to remain attached to such a stagnant customs union?
At what point will we drop the bizarre argument that, for the sake of a dwindling minority of our commerce, we must merge our political institutions with those of other countries?
Will our children look back at the 2016 referendum and wonder why we missed such a unique opportunity to step amicably off the bus?
But Europe can improve, we are told. The fallback position of EU supporters, confronted with some indefensible Brussels policy, is to say: âWell, thatâs something we ought to reform rather than just walking away.â
Brilliant! Reform! Why has no one thought of it before? In fact, the story of the UKâs involvement, first with the EEC, then the EC, now the EU, is of constant attempts at reform. But weâve failed time and time again.
Why? Because those who drive the pan-European project have a totally different agenda from ours.
You wonât find many British politicians over the past 50 years, from any party, who openly favoured a United States of Europe.
Almost all wanted a Europe of nations âa flexible alliance of states, co-operating to achieve what they canât achieve singly, but ultimately responsible to their own democratic institutions.
If that model had ever been on offer, there would have been no argument, and we wouldnât now be holding a referendum.
The problem is that the EU has steadily been moving in a different direction.
The pattern has been the same from the beginning. Every British leader has promised a fresh start in Europe and has tried to win friends and gain influence over there by making some initial concessions.
Each has found that the concessions are pocketed while the EU continues its stately march toward federal union.
The EEC that Britain joined in 1973 as essentially a super-free-trade area has since extended its jurisdiction to foreign policy, environmental regulation, immigration, criminal justice and social policy. It has acquired the accoutrements of statehood, from uniformed armed forces to a standardised driving licence.
Now it aspires to a common tax and social security system.
A Common Market has been turned into a quasi-state. Yet still we delude ourselves, imagining the other members are on the verge of coming round to our point of view.
Today weâre told that the euro crisis has revealed the limits of integration, or that the collapse of Schengen heralds a return to the pre-eminence of national authorities.
But there is no evidence that the EUâs rush to closer union is slowing. In Brussels, the euro crisis was seen not as evidence that monetary union didnât work, but as evidence that it hadnât gone far enough and should be extended to economic and fiscal union as well.
Eurocrats and MEPs have begun to demand debt-pooling, fiscal transfers, a shared finance ministry and, ultimately, EU taxes.
These are not the loopy ideas of a few fringe federalists. They are the road signs that the EU plainly intends to follow.
Other aims include deeper integration of national labour markets, greater coordination of social security systems and harmonising insolvency law, company law and property rights.
If we remain, the UK will, of course, stand against all these things for a while, then be outvoted, and then sulkily go along with them. How do I know? Because that has been our story ever since we joined.
Since majority voting was introduced in the late Eighties, the UK has voted against an EU legislative proposal 70 times â and lost 70 times. No other country is so regularly isolated and outvoted.
This gives the lie to the Remain argument that being in the EU gives Britain influence. In fact, despite being the second largest financial contributor, we have very little influence.
As one Council official frankly admitted: âEven the best idea can die if itâs presented by the UK.â
This isnât because of some Eurovision Song Contest style prejudice against us. Britain finds herself isolated in the EU, not because of any conspiracy against her, but because she fundamentally differs from the others politically and economically.
Our economic outlook is different and we do not accept the EUâs objective of political union.
There being no sign that the British people are ready to become patriotic citizens of Europe, that isolation will continue. Britain will carry on being outvoted and ignored.