By Tim Montgomerie
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Today Simon Jenkins becomes the latest of several establishment journalist to turn on Europe. Jenkins writes: "Europe is clearly at a turning point, turning against the single-statism of the European movement, with its straitjacketed currency, its flows of economic migrants and counterflows of subsidies, its everlasting crises and its humiliation of democratic governments. It is turning back to national identity, and there is nothing the EU can do to stop it."
The Times' Matthew Parris was the first of the establishment to make very sceptical noises, when he wrote: "I’ve never seriously entertained ideas of British withdrawal for longer than 24 hours. What, then, if there were a vote today? Would I still vote to stay? Probably. But that assumption of inevitability is leaking away. I’ve begun to daydream about halfway houses, two-tier membership arrangements, a semi-detached relationship in which the Franco-German core of the European project do what they surely have to do next if their dream is not to die: create a hard-edged and more exclusive Euroland in which harmonised taxes and spending, and harmonised debt-to-GDP ratios, run alongside the already unified currency. And we British stand outside that."
Last week Times journalist, Camilla Cavendish also entertained the thought of leaving the EU. "Realism," she wrote, "means admitting that the single-market project has run its course and that the EU is fatally fractured." She continued: "If the UK benefits from trade but is largely hurt by harmonisation, a free trade agreement might be preferable to membership. It is a huge step — but it could let us stand with the EU without being run by it. Leaving the EU would not mean ending co-operation. We work together on terrorism and intelligence with the US and other countries without giving up control over home affairs. If our Parliament was not subject to EU law it might well adopt European environmental standards, for example, while retaining the right to change its mind."
In the Daily Mail, Max Hastings went even further than the rest, and apologised for being pro-European for his whole life: "I still reject the crude jingoism of the UK Independence Party, which ignores the practicalities of avoiding a breach with our vital trading partners. And I realise that quitting Europe would engage us in a crisis that would sap the entire energy and attentions of any British government for years. But it has become essential to repatriate powers from Brussels. This is not in furtherance of isolationism, but of the economic imperative to strengthen our competitive position in the world and repair our social fabric. We must regain control of Britain’s borders, loss of which has inflicted wholly unwelcome social change. Almost incredibly, the latest net immigration figures are the highest ever. If the EU maintains its present path, it is hard to see the structure surviving longer than another decade. Its failure will become ever more starkly obvious to the electorates of Northern Europe, who pay the bills for the chronic corruption and incompetence of the South."
Who will be next?