‘Whether There Is Support for This Among the Public, I Do Not Know’

by Andrew Stuttaford

From Open Europe’s Daily Press Summary:

In an interview with De Standaard, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy argues that although the ‘United States of Europe’ is not a realistic scenario, the “whole European territory apart from Russia will in the long term be in some way involved with the EU”. He adds that “whether there is support for this among the public, I do not know. But we do it anyway.”

Think about that for a moment, and then consider Simon Jenkins’s piece in the Guardian today.

Four polls at the weekend on next month’s European election show Farage’s Ukip in the lead or running neck and neck with Labour. The avalanche of scrutiny, abuse and ridicule that rival parties and the media have dumped on Ukip has not dented its appeal. It has, rather, driven home its message that Britain’s political establishment has lost touch with the electorate and is running scared. As Lord Tebbit [a veteran Thatcherite] remarked: “If I suddenly discovered my customers were walking past my shop and going to a competitor, I would not stand in the street cursing them.”

…The point at this moment in time is not Farage; it is Europe. It is not Ukip, but Europe. It is not racism, but Europe. For a quarter of a century, calling any critic of the evolving architecture of the EU “anti-European” was not just inaccurate but stupid. It played into the hands of the rejectionists. The chickens are now coming home to roost.

Polls everywhere indicate rising disillusion with European union. One survey recently for Open Europe, an independent thinktank, was unequivocal. Majorities of 73% in Britain and 58% in Germany want their parliaments free to block new EU laws. A mere 8% of Britons and 21% of Germans support the legal sovereignty of the European parliament. A BBC poll this month showed British support for our continued membership down to little more than a third. While opinion is evenly divided on actual withdrawal, such uncertainty is hardly a sound basis for a referendum in the next parliament. Consent to the union is collapsing.

Another poll calculated that as many as one third of the seats in the new parliament could be taken by sceptical or rejectionist parties. These groups may agree on little else, and thus fail to cohere within the parliament. Not all want withdrawal. Most seek an end to the euro straitjacket and a return to flexible currencies. Some are fighting for more subsidies, others for more protectionism. But all reflect one thing: a concern for the nature and status of Europe’s nation states. It is not necessarily EU policy that they reject, only the fact that is the EU’s….

This is not 1848 (as discussed here the other day, the elections to the EU parliament will still leave the oligarch parties in charge), but the fact that so many voters are unhappy with the future that has been prepared for them has alarmed Europe’s political class. It is a shock made all the more acute — so enclosed is the eurocratic world — by its belief that only the wicked, the reactionary, or the profoundly misguided could disagree with “ever closer union.”

And so Van Rompuy presses on.