Anna Soubry’s contempt for eurosceptics

Who cares about the European Union? What’s all the fuss about? Eurosceptics should get with the times and stop embarrassing themselves by articulating their pesky concerns about national democracy.

Or at least so says the Conservative Minister for Small Business, Anna Soubry. While speaking at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event organised by European Movement, Soubry had some choice words for anyone who does not share her faith:

The Telegraph reports:

Speaking at a conference event hosted by European Movement and other pro-EU bodies, Ms Soubry told campaigners they must not ‘underestimate’ the emotion of ‘those who want us to leave’.

‘That is a very difficult thing to begin to debate with, to engage with, and it’s difficult often to beat because they do have this passion that is an obsession. They live it, eat it, drink it, sleep it,’ she said.

Ms Soubry went on: ‘It means that they have this obsession that they will do almost everything and anything, they will devote all their time in a way that really is not healthy for them in this run-up to the referendum.”

“Because as I say, they live it, they eat it, they drink it. You want to say to them: For God’s sake, get a life. But they’ve gone beyond that. That makes it very difficult for us.”

Yes, that’s us: swivel-eyed, obsessive cranks who are unreasonably fixated on a single issue to the exclusion of supposedly more important matters. Ideologically blinkered and impervious to facts, unlike the enlightened Europhiles who – of course – are so famously open to dissenting ideas.

Mark the language: “Get a life”, as though eurosceptics were pale-faced garden shed dwellers who spend too much time fussing over their model railways and simply need to get some sunshine and fresh air. Principled objection to euroscepticism is one thing (though very strange coming from a supposed conservative), but open mockery and dismissal of eurosceptic principles should not go unanswered.

After all, what is more important than the future governance of our country? What single issue – healthcare, defence, education, infrastructure, economic policy – matters more than the nuts and bolts of how human beings organise and govern themselves?

For in truth, Britain is either losing or has already lost control over many of these areas and will only lose further control as the drive for integration continues.

David Cameron’s cosmetic renegotiation effort will make little difference. It’s time to wake up. Losing the UK would be a huge blow to the EU’s international prestige and annual budget, but our European partners are quite willing to see this happen before they compromise on the ultimate destination of a European superstate.

Thus, any renegotiated package for the EU is likely to be the worst of all worlds, with Britain committed to maintaining our financial contribution to the EU budget while simultaneously being relegated to second-tier membership status, all in exchange for a few cosmetic and largely irrelevant “concessions” from Brussels.

Eurosceptics already know this. That’s what makes us tick. That’s why we get up earlier in the morning, that’s why instead of spending an extra hour in front of the television at night we write blogs and articles instead, trying to inform and persuade our fellow citizens. It matters too much to be ambivalent.

Eager to see increased defence spending, a stronger military and a bigger role for Britain on the world stage, or humble pacifist who wants to scrap Trident and disband the military entirely? It doesn’t matter, because the EU is itching to push ahead with long-established plans for a common defence and foreign policies.

Are you an easy going multiculturalist or deeply concerned about balancing immigration with community cohesion? It doesn’t matter, because as an EU member state these matters are out of Britain’s hands. In fact, on issue after issue, key questions of national self-determination are quite simply above our own prime minister’s pay grade.

The EU sees the nation state as outdated and so seeks to undermine it by the creation of rival supranational institutions which gradually take on more of the top-level responsibilities, while simultaneously building up the idea of EU regions, thus undermining the nation state from both sides.

And that’s okay, you can believe that the nation state has outlived its usefulness and look forward to a future where other local and international institutions play the role that countries currently play. But you had better have a rock-solid, watertight explanation for how you intend to ensure that democracy is preserved in this brave new world, when we have finally succeeded in burying the nation state which currently preserves and maintains our liberties.

As I noted at the start of 2015:

‘We citizens have at least some measure of control over our daily affairs and our destiny under our creaking, anachronistic institutions, and an understanding of how they work. They represent our collective history over the past decades and centuries. We built some of them together […]The new, emerging institutions which will replace them are being designed behind closed doors by small groups of non-elected people.’

Anna Soubry glosses over the real existential questions, because she has no answer to them. In place of serious answers to serious questions about how to preserve democracy in the absence of the nation state, she has glib jokes, soundbites and barbs aimed at those of us who actually take these things seriously.


Samuel Hooper is a journalist and blogger. He is passionate about politics, free markets and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter here.

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