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Boris’s fantastic frog

by David Hannay | 06.04.2016

Boris Johnson began by suggesting that a vote to remain on June 23 would be a green light for the EU to charge ahead in a federalist direction. Now we are told that Britain would be like a helpless frog in a saucepan of water being boiled by those same Brussels federalists. Here’s why this overheated metaphor bears no relation to reality.

First, does today’s EU actually look as if it is preparing for a great federalist leap forward? If so, why is it struggling so hard to find a response to the migration crisis which is threatening to unpick the Schengen passport-free travel zone? And why is it finding it far from straightforward to plot a coherent course through the euro zone’s problems? (Britain, of course, has no part in either Schengen or the single currency.) If the EU’s direction of travel really is towards a superstate, is it not a trifle odd that it has just agreed that treaty language about “ever closer union” does not apply to all member states?

Second, every capital in the EU is well aware that the terms of our European Union Act 2011 mean that any further transfer of powers to European institutions would require another British referendum. Are they really likely to try to cajole a reluctant UK government into a course of action which could result in the treaty changes they want being blocked indefinitely, and perhaps even lead to the Brexit they are all clearly keen to avoid? Not a very realistic scenario.

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Why do Leave campaigners ignore the fact that the agenda the European Council has actually approved is one which successive British governments have wholeheartedly supported? The priorities are to strengthen the single market, create a level playing field for the digital economy, negotiate freer commerce with our main trading partners, build a Capital Markets Union and enhance energy cooperation.

Why too do they refuse to recognise that Britain’s voice will be influential in shaping the EU’s response to the many foreign policy challenges it faces? We will carry much less clout if we spurn the advice of our friends and allies and opt for Brexit.

Better surely to forget the frog fantasy and pursue these positive objectives, which could do so much to improve our security and prosperity.

Edited by Alan Wheatley