Britain: What price freedom?

As "splendid isolation" re-appears, could not the UK simply focus on profitable trading relationships elsewhere?

So much is being written about David Cameron's veto of a proposed new European treaty, that it seems there's little to add to the debate. 

Europhile and Europhobe camps in and outside the media busily enthuse about the pros and cons of the British coalition government's position to defend UK interests at all costs. Even the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the generally respected Simon Hughes, confirmed that the government's stance was agreed prior to PM David Cameron's departure for Brussels. Maybe he understands British sentiment better than his leader, Nick Clegg, the DPM, who asserted that the use of the veto would likely result in a reduction in British influence across the Channel. George Osborne, the Chancellor, maintained there's no chance of the UK "exiting the European Union" reported the BBC. And that despite a Telegraph report of the concern expressed by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt that "Britain is starting to drift away from Europe." Perhaps Sweden feels strong enough to conclude that a drift away by Sweden wouldn't necessarily harm Swedish interests, any more than those of the UK, as Sweden emerges as Britain's only supporter in Brussels.

All this centres on whether the European project, and in particular the single currency, is assisting member states other than Germany and France, and perhaps a few others. The Periphery is now in dire need of bail-outs and long-term help to prevent localised disasters, but for Britain at least almost the entire period of membership has cost in financial, sovereignty and social terms. Despite the vehemently-held view of Tory grandee Michael Heseltine and others that the European Union has greatly benefited Britain.

Freedom has no monetary value. Democracy and the people's will should always prevail. And right now, despite denials from the diminishing group of British Euro-enthusiasts, popular UK opinion supports withdrawal. Maybe Heseltine will be proved correct, and local jobs will be lost. Social upheaval could ensue as the unemployed and disenchanted parade their frustrations, strike and disrupt. But, in the end, Britain's position would be inevitably enhanced as it freed itself to explore the world at large, unencumbered by EU shackles, bureauracy and constraints.

Britain's trade with non-EU countries has been consistently profitable. By contrast however, the UK has a severely damaging trade imbalance with its European counterparties. Importantly too, European citizens, at present at liberty to flow unfettered into Britain, would discover their right to work and reside withdrawn. At last the domestic population would begin to pick up work where jobs had previously gone to cheaper foreign workers.

There is no time like the present to press this government relentlessly for a referendum on membership. If indeed British membership is not withdrawn by the Europeans themselves. They can carry on progressing along their chosen path, but that route is not one I would wish the UK to follow. Splendid isolation, a European foreign policy honed in the latter part of the nineteenth century, could yet again be championed by those who wish Europe well, but not at the expense of the United Kingdom. For too long that expense has been too high a price to pay.  

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