Now that purdah is in force, and therefore the civil service and our taxes can no longer be used to produce and promote pro-EU messages, I suspect we’ll see the air war fought in the press become a bit more of an equal struggle. Right on cue, the front page of today’s Times reveals that the EU Commission has been trying to keep secret its plans for the establishment of an EU army until after the referendum.
Of course, Brussels denies that its proposals amount to such a plan, though notably Eurobarometer, its own opinion polling outfit, asks people whether they support or oppose “the creation of an EU army”. The plan revealed by the newspaper is a handy reminder that it’s normally better to study what the EU Commission is doing rather than what it says it is doing.
The story is a significant revelation, on several counts.
First, the idea of such an army is opposed by an outright majority of British voters (even in the Eurobarometer), so could sway some in the referendum on its merits alone.
Second, it conclusively answers Nick Clegg’s declaration that concerns about Brussels’ military ambitions are “a dangerous fantasy” - in short, he was either being ignorant or deceptive (my Twitter followers voted 77 per cent for deceptive, but who knows?).
Third, and most important, it is a reminder that a vote to remain in the EU is not a vote for the status quo, it is a vote to join the organisation on its journey towards further integration. The status quo is not on offer in this referendum – it’s a choice of either ruling ourselves democratically or the road to an ever more powerful, ever more expensive Brussels.
On that point, it’s important to note that the proposal for an EU army is just the tip of the integrationist iceberg. The Five Presidents’ Report has made clear the EU institutions plan further sacrifice of sovereignty on a grand scale – and that’s just what they’ve dared to publish. In private, the Commission is cooking up many more plans for new powers and new interventions in whole range of areas, but is deliberately keeping t them secret until the referendum is over. The following paragraph from the Times report applies not just to these military proposals but to many other policies:
“To prevent the policy paper leaking and derailing David Cameron’s campaign to keep Britain in the EU, the plans will not be sent to national governments until the day after Britons vote.”
So while pro-EU campaigners talk of the risks of leaving, voters should also be aware that there are plenty of risks involved in remain a member of the EU – one can judge the likely scale of those risks by the fact that Brussels doesn’t want us to find out about them until after we have voted.