Yesterday, debating with Nigel Farage, the French President presented a bare truth about the project:
‘”We’ve been going through this for years. If we don’t want to strengthen Europe, then there’s only one road and I heard what Mr Farage said that the only road is for those who are not convinced of Europe is to leave Europe.”
He’s right, of course. Either we want to be part of an ever closer union, integrating ever further – what he refers to as “strengthen[ing] Europe” – or we ought to leave.
This is the fundamental failure of those who argue that an eternally uneasy EU membership, in which we try forever to mitigate the undemocratic and economically damaging careen towards an artificial statehood, is somehow a route to happy co-operation and partnership with our European neighbours. In fact it’s a recipe for growing tensions and frustrations – why be an awkward lodger in the EU house, when we could be a friendly neighbour, freeing all involved to live as they choose?
This will not be the last we hear of that Hollande quote, because he has just confirmed, on the record, a key eurosceptic argument. When the Remain camp warn that leaving would cause uncertainty, their case rests on the inplication that there is certainty and stability in opting for our current relationship with the EU. In fact, our current relationship (or whatever renegotiated version might eventually be presented) isn’t really on the table. Continued membership means being part of a “strengthening” EU, meaning that a vote to Remain would be a commitment to stay in an EU which intends to integrate yet further, grab more powers and take more money.
François Hollande is correct: there will be no status quo option in the referendum. Rather there is a choice of ever more EU integration, or leaving the EU. I will be voting for the latter.