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EUROPE MATTERS

I am not a europhile
Neither am I a europhobe.
If it were not for the fact that the relative success
of our present social and economic environment
is dependent on our links to Europe
I would be indifferent to the questions
surrounding the possibility of Brexit.
Deciding to leave the European Union would not be an issue
if we were not already deeply dependent on Europe
for so many aspects of our lives
our food
our medicine
our employment
and above all our security.
It is no accident that Western Europe
has been free from international conflict
since the coal and steel community of the post-war years
gradually metamorphosed into the common market
and eventually into a single market of 500 million people.
This achievement is not negligible
and we ignore it at our peril
in this the centenary year
of the end of the Great War.
It is time for the government to take stock
and draw back from the brink
of what many people believe will be a self-inflicted disaster.
It matters not to me how this potential disaster is avoided.
Is it a disaster ?
Yes it is.
Instead of enjoying free access
to a single market of 500 million
we are proposing to try to create from scratch
a bigger and (for us) more successful single market
One involving the countries of the commonwealth
who have already restructured their economies and markets
after we gave up imperial preference
many years ago
or one involving China or America...
We need to get real and think again.
Neither China .... nor America
nor any other part of the world
is going to do us any favours.

Should we have done more
to demonstrate our interest in a shared European future?
Of course we should
and we should not be allowing false news
inspired by Putin's Russia
to be influencing our domestic choices
about the future role of our country.
I am old enough to remember the national humiliation that followed
Anthony Eden's disastrous invasion of Egypt in 1956
and I don't relish the prospect of another humiliation.
We need instead
to renew a working relationship with the countries of Europe
and to develop our mutual interests
not commence a mutually destructive trade war
and reduce the limited number of our friends
in this increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world
so heavily at the mercy of Trump and Putin
and other populist leaders.
Giving up the real achievements of the past 45 years
is as if we had learnt nothing
from the first 45 years of the 20th century
and what ?... we may ask
should we do to assist our neighbours, the Irish ?
for whom the Bay Gateway was constructed
after 60 years of effort
so as to improve and facilitate the two way trade route
through Heysham to and from the European markets
To construct a linguistic fudge is not a solution to a problem
and the Irish situation is a real problem ....
or is it ?
It isn't at the moment
but only because the Good Friday agreement
built upon our shared membership of the European Union
to devise a stable future of coexistence
with a frictionless border between Northern Ireland
and the Republic.
I don't want a return to "the troubles"
and I believe no one wants to increase the distinctions
between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.
Conservatives in particular are still "The Conservative and Unionist
Party".

I have met and shaken hands with the late Ian Paisley,
but a Brexit that inevitably creates difference
between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
is no basis for maintenance
of the long-term territorial integrity of the UK
which is the vital single domestic market
into which Brexit will initially cause us to retreat.
Northern Ireland is not the only part of the UK
and its dependencies that wants the status quo to be strengthened
not damaged by a semantic fudge.
Need I mention Scotland ?
Need I mention Gibraltar ?
These are not narrow single issue reasons
for taking a view on Brexit.
They are totally different to a dislike of immigrants
fuelled by a failure to recognise immigrants
as being no different to those many of us here today
who are descendants of earlier generations of immigrants.
My father went to the same secondary school as Enoch Powell ....
but that does not make me think of immigration
as a reason good enough to reverse the old saying
that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
But is Brexit capable of giving us "Two in the bush"?
Mrs May says that in the long run we will be better off with Brexit
despite the short term downside.
She may be right
but she is wrong
to suggest that the possible long term higher income
is worth its cost.
For a few the interest rate at which the future is discounted
as a basis for taking today's decision
may be low enough for her to be correct
but for the majority of us
the present cost of the losses in the intervening years
is greater than the present value of the potential future Bonanza
and as a critic of economic decision-making once exclaimed
"in the long run we are all dead."

The world is not the same carefree place that it was in June 2016.
In choosing Brexit on that occasion,
the voting public knew little about the reality
of the option in front of them.
Some say the purpose then was
to give the toff Cameron a kicking.
We are better informed now of the riskiness of the decision.
When there was such a huge gap in public understanding
about the economic consequences and trade offs
of leaving the EU
it seems right that MPs try to resume their role as representatives
rather than delegates.
But if MPs cannot themselves find a way forward,
a people's vote may help
and that is why I am seconding this motion.