Anyone who has studied the EU, and the relationship between its various member states, knows about Open Europe. This body has been kicking the EU for many, many years – it was the former berth of Lee Rotherham, now in charge of demonising the EU for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). With such luminaries on board, the propaganda output was legendary.
So it might be thought that when Open Europe’s head man Mats Persson penned an article for the Maily Telegraph, especially given recent opinion polls and the currently increased hostility towards the EU, he would talk in terms of how the UK could move towards some kind of detachment, if not total withdrawal. But that thought would have been misplaced, as he is recommending continuing our membership.
“Britain should pick and mix over Europe instead of apeing Norway” Persson declares at the outset. What he does not tell, but what may be behind his argument, is that although Norway is not an EU member, the per capita cost of the EU for Norwegian citizens is higher than for their UK counterparts. That’s right, it costs them more and they get no say in how the EU is run.
Persson gets the usual rabidly hostile reception from the Tel’s commenters, most of whom are barely able to get beyond stringing together “traitor”, “EUSSR” and “WTO, so there”, but makes some very obvious points: the UK prides itself – despite recent revelations – on the performance of its financial sector. That’s a lot of our economy to leave to the whim of others’ decisions.
And what Persson doesn’t tell is that the UK has never been outvoted on matters financial by its fellow EU members. But he does mention the potential competitive disadvantage to industries such as motor vehicles and pharmaceuticals, and it would only take one car manufacturer to suggest during a referendum campaign that a “No” vote would mean relocating elsewhere to swing the result.
Were the management of Nissan, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Honda, Toyota or Bentley Motors to tell the electorate that they were looking to switch production to the Czech Republic, Valencia or Lisbon (all of which have automotive plants already), any move to leave the EU would be lost. Yet Persson, alone of the sceptics, is shouted down for just mentioning the industry.
What few Telegraph readers or commenters grasp is that, for a body like Open Europe, which has been “Openly hostile to Europe” for so long, to conclude as its head is doing, is not merely pragmatism, but also an admission that, in his view, there is no clear advantage to the UK leaving the EU, but plenty of potential disadvantages.
Given the Telegraph’s political orientation, perhaps some Tory MPs are listening.