As we are now at the beginning of September, and the end of the main summer holiday period when many politicians, civil servants and citizens generally will have been on holiday, it is I think now appropriate to write the kind of article I am now writing. As has often been the case in earlier years the month of August has, apart from being an hiatus in 'business as usual' for politics, also been a time when eccentric stories become newsworthy for broadcasters searching for things to write about during the dog days of summer.
For most, probably all, of my adult life I have been strongly supportive of the EEC (later the EU) and of the UK joining it and remaining a part of it. Personal circumstances meant I was not able to vote in the 1975 referendum, two years after the UK joined the EEC, to decide whether the country should remain or leave - I lived then in a place called Djibouti (wedged between Ethiopia/Eritrea and Somalia) in the north-east of Africa, and at that time people living outside the UK could not vote in UK elections, except in very special circumstances. But had I been in a position to vote, I would certainly have voted to remain in the EEC.
Broadly speaking, with perhaps just a few qualms, I supported most of what was done later, where it affected the UK. The Schengen Treaty (from 1985 to 1995 until 1997 when it was incorporated into EU law by the Amsterdam Treaty), did not and does not affect the UK, or as it so happens Ireland (that last bit is really irrelevant to me, of course, because even though it might otherwise affect Northern Ireland, there has been a common travel area between the UK and Ireland for a long time, unaffected by the independence of Ireland from the UK). The fact that the UK is an island nation meant, in my view, that it was practical, if not in the view of some I suppose entirely desirable, not to adopt Schengen. I doubt if it would have been easily do-able if we had land borders other than with Ireland. It is probably no accident either that our decision to remain outside Schengen coincided with plans to build the Channel Tunnel link between the UK and France (constructed between 1988 and 1994) - the value of that decision has perhaps only become more sharply defined by the events of very recent years.
The Single European Act, whose main purpose was to enhance 'free trade', ultimately came into force in 1987, having been delayed in its implementation by actions in Denmark, Greece, Italy and Ireland. Interestingly, it is probably the only piece of EU legislation largely championed from inception to conclusion by the UK. Because the UK has, for decades and indeed centuries, been all about 'free trade'. It did extend QMV ('Qualified Majority Voting') though, as part of the price paid [by the UK] for certain other countries (basically France and a few others) to allow this legislation to pass. The subsequent Treates (Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice), whilst ratcheting the EU's control a little tighter with each step, seemed to me 'acceptable' in the greater scheme of things.
What really began to make me rethink my view of the fundamental wisdom of the UK being a member of the EU were the referendums on the now-defunct European Constitution held in 2005 in both the Netherlands and France, in which both rejected its proposals (others had already had referendums to ratify it), which effectively halted that particular process, and specifically what followed a few years later; the UK government had earlier promised a referendum, but the rejections by others made that pointless. Having read the draft European Constitution in great detail myself, in anticipation of a referendum being held in the UK, I too would have voted against it had I had the opportunity.
What followed a few years later was the Lisbon Treaty, effectively the European Constitution rewritten, pushed through in spite of being initially rejected in a referendum in Ireland in 2007, later shoved through in that country in 2009 in the face of the economic crisis facing that country after the 'crash' of 2007/2008; but let's face it, no one really cares what Ireland thinks (certainly not most of the other members of the EU, other than the UK), so they were 'prevailed upon' to allow it to pass. The reality is that the UK independently bailed out Ireland during this crucial period, not because of any undue sentimentality (that is not the British way), but simply in a recognition of the historic intertwining links between the British and much smaller Irish economies, although perhaps influenced also by the social and familial links between the two countries. The harsh reality, though, is that without UK support, Ireland would have been 'sunk', as otherwise Ireland would have been consigned to the same 'hell'/purgatory currently occupied by Greece. As for the semi-clandestine ratification by the UK of that Treaty by our then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, I would prefer to remain silent; the level of contempt I have for that man is infinite and only a modicum of concern about the libel laws of this country will restrain me from writing what I really think about that excuse for a man; as I am also Scottish (and 1/4 quarter Irish as it so happens, with reference to earlier comments) I don't think accusations of 'racism' apply, although I am quite happy to acknowledge that it is my firm belief that the "socialism" that Gordon Brown and those who think like him profess to believe in, is one of the greatest evils that existed when I was born and unfortunately continues, luckily in much reduced form, to this day, I have grown weary of glossing over this basic reality in recent years, so this is the first time, apart from brief allusions to it in Twitter from time to time, that I have really 'let rip' on this issue. Unfortunately there is not a great deal to choose between the destructive effects of the "socialism" offered by Labour ('new', and the 'old' back-to-the-future kind which current leader Corbyn represents) and that offered by the SNP.
On Friday 2nd September our sad excuse for a First Minister in Scotland, Ms Nicola Sturgeon, gave up on her 'day job' of actually running Scotland in accordance with the Scotland Act (as amended), in favour of a pointless resurrection of the obsessive and obsessed SNP policy of wanting to rip Scotland out of the UK, despite very recent opinion polls demonstrating that the people of Scotland, apart from adherents of the 'SNP cult' which Ms Sturgeon leads, have little or no desire for this to happen, and far less desire for the holding of another referendum to try and change the result of the referendum held on the matter as recently as September 2014.
Despite the febrile predictions of those who campaigned vociferously for the UK to remain a member of the EU, the economy continues to be robust and the exchange rate of our currency, the Pound, although somewhat lower than before the EU Referendum (but arguably now at a more sensible level to meet both the needs of exporters and holidaymakers requiring to purchase a foregin currency to help fund their annual vacation abroad), has certainly never been in danger of 'collapse' and indeed in recent weeks has been strengthening somewhat from its low point after the EU Referendum - fine, so long as it does not become too strong and begin to adversely affect exports. As with everything else in life, the level at which the exchange rate hovers is a balance of complex and sometimes conflicting interests.
Now that summer is almost over, and more or less normal business has resumed, one imagines (and hopes) that the government will begin seriously to put in place the process of the UK leaving the EU. I am not one of those people that wants precipitate action, but I do want to see some concrete moves in this direction fairly soon, to give voice to the results of the referendum in June. The attempt in the past few days at a tax grab by the European Commission (EC), against the wishes of EU member state Ireland for whose benefit the EC purports to be acting, is just the latest example of the malign anti-competitive instincts of some EU member states and the bureaucrats of the EC and only reinforces the need for us in the UK to get out of the economic and political dead-end that the EU represents.