Confessions of a Tory Refugee

Firstly, I would like to make an admission. I have an opinion that is way out of fashion with many of my fellow countrymen; an idea that raises the ire of many of my neighbours. However, despite the unpopular nature of my innermost thoughts, I am now prepared to come out into the open – to have a “coming out” moment, as it were. I am now going to summon my courage and admit it. Here goes.

I think the EU is a really good idea.

Oooh, that felt great! I think I will write it again: 

I think the EU is a really good idea. 

My reasoning is obvious when you think about it. The days when a small European country could set sail in its square-riggers and conquer the world in the name of “The King” or “Good Queen Victoria” and set up business in the Far East, show the natives their what for and become the planet’s commanding empire are long since gone. 

Today we have the internet, jet aeroplanes, and junk food you can get anywhere on the planet (McDonald’s anyone?). There also exists modern super-economies, whether the USA with a GDP in excess of $20 trillion and population in excess of 320m or China with a GDP over $14 trillion and a population of 1.4bn. Compare that with the UK, with a GDP of less than $3 trillion and a population little over 67 million: a lightweight amongst heavyweights. 

The EU as an organisation, before the UK left it, had a GDP in excess of $15 trillion and a population of over 500 million. Even after it left these figures these figures are $13 trillion and 447 million. The EU compares to the giants and can affect the world. The UK alone is a minnow and is destined just to follow. You will note the figures are given here in US dollars and sometimes in EU Euros or Chinese Yen – but not GBP.

OK. I know the EU is not perfect. The Commission is not that democratic, the Council of Ministers seem to have a law unto itself and that the Parliament is remote from the citizens. I know that for some weird reason it moves between Brussels and Strasbourg every now and then at a cost of over €100m a year (although this amounts to only 0.1% of its administration budget). However, despite that, I still think the EU is a really good idea. 

What about Sovereignty?

Well, what about sovereignty? I assume those asking mean the right to make our own laws as a country, to determine our own destiny as a country or to control our own borders. Well, the fact of the matter is that the EU does not dictate these terms to their member states. The UK could, and did, control its own borders before we left. It could have controlled them more if it desired to do so. As a member state it had the right to expel any non British EU person who could not sustain their own income or health insurance after three months. It opted not to do so; quite correctly in my opinion. 

Also, there may be some laws that the EU stopped the UK from applying, but if there were they were very few and far between. While researching this article it was difficult to uncover any specific  examples. The UK had been referred to the European Court 87 times in its history as a member  state, which is a small number compared to others. Most of these were for things like wastewater treatment, and the reason usually boiled down to simple reasons such as it being too expensive to implement the directive. The idea that the EU dictated the laws the UK need to impose is pure myth.

Please do not mention “bendy bananas” or ask “what sort of vacuum cleaner you can use?”. This is pure hate bait produced by ambitious politicians with few scruples, or newspapers hoping to increase circulation amongst populists. Those issues and the like have long ago been shown to be –  well – a bunch of bendy bananas! 

Then there is fishing. If you think we have more control of our fish and its markets now than when we did when we were a member of the EU I suggest you stop reading and join whatever right wing populist party those opportunists are schilling for now. 

The EU’s not perfect

It is pointless not to admit that the EU has inefficiencies and entertains some corruption, but so do all governments and organisations of size. This is why Volt features EU Reform as one of its headline challenges. Recent history has exposed Westminster for the corrupt practices it holds dear (if we didn’t already know it) and the ongoing need to introduce a truly democratic voting system demonstrates how stubborn it is to correct its ways. But unfortunately, wherever there is power there is corruption and waste – it is part of the human psyche. What is important is how it is dealt with. The EU has mechanisms for this and I have seen nothing to suggest that it is less successful in dealing with corruption than the UK is. 

Covid-19 exposed how inefficient the EU can be with the shambolic rollout of the EU’s vaccination programme. However, the worst tantrum of the Presidency was fixed within 24 hours and secured a deal for all member states, despite an unfortunate delay of 2-3 months due to problems supplier-side. The UK managed to get vaccinations out a lot faster, however, it did so after failing to purchase enough approved PPE equipment and failing to introduce effective lockdowns, which has left the UK as having one of the worst mortality rates in Europe. Putting all our eggs in the ‘vaccination’ basket will inevitably cost UK citizens far more money per capita than most EU states that prioritised prevention until cure became available. It is also worth noting the UK could still have done “its own thing” if it were still a full member of the EU. 

I was a happy Tory

In 2016 I was a happy Tory. I did not agree with everything all my fellow party members thought – I am for free education up to degree level; I am against strong immigration controls and believe in internationalism. I am very much in favour of worker protection laws, anti-corruption laws and so on. But nonetheless, I was happy. Being a Conservative, I was very much for freedom of movement of people, goods, services and finance to generate an environment where businesses could excel and produce prosperity to all, and was pleased we had that Europe-wide. 

Then came the referendum. What can I say? I felt betrayed; to the extent I am getting emotional writing about it. Those who I considered intelligent were spouting this rubbish, while the main Tory campaign architects admitted they were taking a right-wing stance to prevent populists votes migrating to the populist parties. To me, it was a horror story unfolding. Things I dared not imagine in my worst nightmares were unfolding in reality. They still are. 

I had to leave the Conservatives. No amount of pontificating by them can bring me back now. The damage they have caused to the country and to my children’s future is too great. It is like someone murdering a family member of mine and then saying “but we can still be friends can’t we?”. It could not happen. I found myself a Tory refugee.

Finding a new home

I would like now to spend my efforts trying to produce long term fixes to the damage the UK government has done. To me the solution is obvious: eventually we need to re-join the EU. Trying to hop-along ‘independently’ trying to make the same trade deals as fit the USA or China is pure fantasy. Pretending we are a small Pacific island and thinking we can join an emerging trade organisation on the other side of the world is even more weird. No, the EU it is. 

A sad fact is that the EU are unlikely to have us back on the same basis as before. They would have moved on, and become more integrated. During the last half-century the UK became influential internationally by being the world’s gateway to Europe. That is disappearing fast. Our influence in both the EU and the world is diminishing rapidly; ironically you have the Brexiteers to thank for that. Even with the damage done, the EU is the best option for us in the future, it is obvious to me that we should eventually rejoin. 

I know I need to combine my efforts with those who feel the same way regardless if they are from a Conservative, Labour, LibDem, Green, Blue, Pink, Marigold or whatever political background. We need to get our heads together and start something. That is why I am involved with Volt UK, they define what I believe. I do not know if they are ever going to field political candidates, or if I would vote for them if they did, but they are a good place for Pro-EU people like me to hang out, lick our wounds and reassemble. 

If you feel like me, consider joining Volt too. I am not asking you to “convert” to them, just to be part of a long overdue Pro-EU movement; a place where we can begin to bring sanity back to this country.