I think it’s more than 18 months since I last blogged about politics and Europe. But today I found myself almost agreeing with something Boris writes in his Daily Telegraph column on the Tories’ referendum ructions. That doesn’t happens very often. So that got me thinking.
The main point I made back in October 2011 in Finding an antidote to Europhobia was that someone other than Nick Clegg needs to be making the positive case for Europe. And doing it sooner rather than later. If pro-Europeans are coy and wait until we are in referendum season then the atmosphere will already have been so badly poisoned by the radical Right’s outbreak of irrational Europhobia that any sort balanced assessment of the case for the EU will be impossible. That seems to me to hold as true today as it did then. Indeed, it is clear that Europhobia has already spread considerably during the intervening period.
Boris’s piece today has attracted most attention because he draws an unflattering comparison between the “sloth” of the British worker and the productivity of the German worker. I’m sure the use of the word was calculated, but it was rather gratuitous and distracted entirely from the point he was seeking to make.
On the face of it Boris’s column is a call for a more balanced discussion of the pros and cons of membership of the EU. His is a self-styled cool head when all around him appear to be losing theirs. He’s behind Cameron in his bid to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU down to one of “free trade and political cooperation”. His main point is that the threat of UK exit has to be credible if the renegotiation is going to deliver change.
The piece is perhaps a bit smarter than it first appears. But then Boris is not as daft as he looks. [Read more…]