I was delighted to see the Irish vote No to The Lisbon Treaty though sadly less so when the realisation hit me seconds later that they might as well vote yes for all the difference it will make in the longer term.
I'm afraid people have long wished to throw shoes at my head over my opposition to the EU and it's works, which I wouldn't mind if they'd at least come up with a compelling argument in it's favour rather than accusing me of hating the French. An accusation as offensive as it is wrong, it's true that I take a dim view of the excesses of the French Revolution and the consumption of snails but other than that I rather admire France.
Anyway it's prompted me to have a general rant about the EU safe in the knowledge that if you throw shoes at it you'll only be harming your own monitor.
There is so much to loathe about the EU it's hard to know where to start so while I think of somewhere to start the nasty stuff I shall refer to the type of European integration I'd like to see. The EU already runs an exchange programme for students, the ERASMUS programme. According to Wikipedia; 'The ERASMUS experience is considered both a time for learning as well as a chance to socialize. "Erasmus parties" are known in university cities across Europe for being boisterous, multilingual events.' More power to it's elbow on that score. I'd be very supportive of programmes like this being extended to offer the similar opportunities to secondary school pupils and in fact everyone else who fancies a swap.
If the British government were really into integration as opposed to creating lucrative scams for the political elite they'd do something about language teaching in schools. A good start would be ensuring everyone that leaves school is able to communicate coherently in English* and has at least a basic grasp of one other European language. Though if you're in favour of a vast Europe-wide unelected bureaucracy that regards the people as an inconvenience I suppose the last thing you'd want is them getting together. In other words I won't be holding my breath.
Some opponents of the EU believe that greater EU integration believe that we will lose our national identity as a result but that isn't what is at stake. In fact I often wish it was because that might stir people out of their apathy. No matter who is government Britain be as free as we ever were to wear tartan, say 'I really should get round to learning Gaelic', celebrate Burns Night and drink like fishes, morris dance, play absurd sports involving balls, drink tea, celebrate St Patrick's day but ignore George, Andrew and David, get teary eyed about the little boats at Dunkirk and the shipping forecast, moan about the weather, eat fish and chips, hoot at a PG Wodehouse and the like.
What we will lose is the ability to run our own countries. I haven't spent my entire life moaning about Westminster to arrive at the conclusion that Brussels would be any better. Why should it be? Any British PM who failed to run the UK for the benefit of the south would be a fool as Gordon Brown might discover shortly. Similarly the president of any future European superstate isn't going to have the interests of Scotland let alone the British Isles at heart -they'd be an idiot if they did. The right to self-determination is one that people around the world have fought and died for throughout history I for one am not willing to trade it for the right of bloated politicians to get rich.
The argument that opposition to the EU is xenophobic is in practice the most nakedly racist poison ever put to paper. If you like your blacks starving and your political class fat then the EU is a wonderful thing. For the rest of us in the human race the Common Agricultural Policy and our part in it should shame us all.
The generous subsides dished out to big farms each year prevent the development of third world countries developing agricultural export businesses the monies from which could be taxed and used to import essential foodstuffs in the lean years. Quite frankly anyone supporting this might as well support the slaughter and consumption of people from the Third World. At least that would be more humane than watching them starve on TV to the soundtrack of bad charity concerts.
Closer to home the CAP has driven numerous small farms out of business. It rewards over production and is inherently biased towards the big boys. I have no objection to business subsides per se but if there's money being dished out I'd put the small farmer ahead of big agri-business any day. Big companies are big and ugly enough to take care of themselves. The small farmer is at least owed a debt for maintaining the land and is going to be more useful to us in the event of food shortages whether man made or natural in origin. I'm not convinced by the whole climate change thing but there's no harm in being cautious. None of know what the future holds and in the event of food shortage I'd far rather be at the mercy of of someone with loyalty and a connection to the land they farm than a big business who'll flee and set up farm where there's money to be made.
The one good thing about the CAP is that it exposes our government's hypocrisy on smoking. Tobacco production enjoys generous subsidies whilst the smoker is to be harassed and harried. Remember that, every time you wonder whose side government is on. Big business could manufacture babies for rape and get away with it but the individual is a thing to be watched and regulated. Make no mistake the EU is totalitarian in it's impulses. The end result of such impulses in one country are horrifying enough but the implications for a European Superstate make me shudder. I 'll be delighted, relived and ecstatic to be proved wrong on this but I really to believe the EU is going to end end in oppression of the Europe that matters- the people.
Still let's lighten the mood by getting on to well less serious matters. We all know politicians are rouges. Would you believe that when the greatest rouges of Europe put their heads together they come up with even more daring, lucrative and downright evil scams than they could dream up alone? Not for nothing is the EU Parliament described as the millionaires club. In just five years one can trouser a million in expenses if the full allowance is claimed. What exactly is there for us to support in all this? I can do no better than direct you towards David Craig's Squandered for more on this subject. Still for the lazy let me provide a few examples. I am allowed to claim travel expenses in work. To do so I must submit receipts to ensure that I'm not claiming more than I'm due. If only I were an MEP I could just submit my boarding pass and pluck a figure from the air. In other words I could fly Easyjet and claim for business class BA. The most well known example of EU fraud is the sign on and sod off fee which can be claimed by any MEP willing to get to the parliament before 10am sign in and spend the rest of the day as they choose. Not a bad way to 'earn' £180. Oh and before you put your faith in whistleblowers look what happens when someone does try to expose them. I'll ask again but what exactly is there to support in all this?
Ah but Britain has opt outs I hear you say. That is true but as the Luxembourg Prime Minister has warned 'Countries like Britain, that are always claiming special clauses and using them, that always want to get out of common policies through opt-out clauses, need to know that they will become something like partial members'. In other words whilst you currently have the right to self-determination life can be made very difficult if you exercise that right. It rather puts the famous red lines into perspective. Frankly screaming 'you're not the boss of me' at the EU would have done more to protect Britain's interests and at least been amusing.
I can see why people are drawn to the idea of the EU, indeed there is much to recommend it and let's not forget it was dreamt up by people who seen Europe torn apart by war but there is nothing in this gigantic fraud for any decent person to aspire to. It might suit big business and it does suit bureaucrats and greedy politicians but for the rest of us it is a menace and a colossal waste of money.
* I have just discovered that I work with someone who spells 'what' 'wot'. That is only the tip of the iceberg.