Today, as is customary at the Maily Telegraph, London’s occasional Mayor and regular collector of “chicken feed” at a rate of £5,000 a column, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, regales the readers with another stream-of-consciousness essay cobbled together while its author was awaiting Sunday luncheon at the house of whoever had the thankless task of hosting him this time round.
And today’s subject, at which he arrives after droning on about wine in screw-top bottles being so much more jolly whizzo wonderful than the rotten old corked variety and why leaving your phone switched on while the aircraft takes off is perfectly safe, is the EU, about which he used to write in the most creative terms (but not dishonestly, honest) when he was the Tel’s point man in Brussels.
“In the next couple of years we are entitled to pose the question: what is the POINT of the EU?” demands Bozza. Rather than, for instance, the point of that pointless cable car or those vanity buses that keep breaking down, of course. But do go on. “I want to hear the positive arguments FOR the EU ... Maybe there is a positive vision to be set out – I am just not hearing it yet”.
So that’s one of those “What has the EU ever done for us?” ones, then. Let’s have a look at a model answer, to get some of those positive arguments for it.
“Providing 57% of our trade; structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline; clean beaches and rivers; cleaner air; lead free petrol; restrictions on landfill dumping; a recycling culture; cheaper mobile charges; cheaper air travel; improved consumer protection and food labelling; a ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives; better product safety; single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance; break up of monopolies; Europe-wide patent and copyright protection; no paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market; price transparency and removal of commission on currency exchanges across the eurozone; freedom to travel, live and work across Europe; funded opportunities for young people to undertake study or work placements abroad; access to European health services; labour protection and enhanced social welfare; smoke-free workplaces; equal pay legislation; holiday entitlement; the right not to work more than a 48-hour week without overtime; strongest wildlife protection in the world; improved animal welfare in food production; EU-funded research and industrial collaboration; EU representation in international forums; bloc EEA negotiation at the WTO; EU diplomatic efforts to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; European arrest warrant; cross border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling; counter terrorism intelligence; European civil and military co-operation in post-conflict zones in Europe and Africa; support for democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond; investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital”.
And that’s before you even start on the peace that has held between member states since the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
So when Bozza opines that “I am not sure: but at the moment it feels as if the EU is the Bakelite handset of 21st-century geopolitics”, you know he is once again failing to do his homework and talking claptrap at the same time.
What was it that LBJ said about farting and chewing gum? No change there, then.