It is now less than nine hours until the polling stations open in the UK, and here I am in my home of Amsterdam with my wife and children, besieged by friendly but argumentative neighbours, whom I really like, all canvassing my opinion as to the likely outcome of the British referendum. This is a lefty-liberal, cosmopolitan city, at odds with the rest of its country – like most capitals – and they’re all in love with the EU, comfortable enough to regard their fleecing by Brussels on the pretext of propping up other countries, impoverished entirely by their membership of the Eurozone, as somehow “fair”. And they are in denial about even the short-term aims of the EU project. When I tell them that competitive advantages within the EU will be levelled – for example by removing their power to cut their own tax deals with multinationals, or even the Rolling Stones, who are based here – they scoff, and say “Oh, but that won’t happen”, even though it’s happening as we speak, under the new OECD/EU State Aid rules. This will make the Netherlands poorer, to nobody’s benefit, but they haven’t looked it up. They’d rather just take the soft, socially acceptable woolly line of co-operation and brotherhood. If the sale of their 17th Century houses could get them even a studio flat in Hampstead they’d fit right in.
So the line I give them is that, whether Vote Leave wins or loses on Thursday, we have done the peoples of Europe an enormous favour by holding this referendum, for it has brought the debate about the EU’s manifold failures, and the mad ambitions of its principal players, to the forefront of public discourse right across the continent. And they agree. It has to be a good thing, for the Eurocrats have escaped close public scrutiny for decades just by being so bloody boring. And in this regard I must acknowledge the contribution of my old friend and colleague Boris Johnson – not so much for lending his charmingly flawed flair and colour to this particular campaign, but for his work as Brussels Correspondent of the Telegraph 20 years ago, when his gift for engaging prose and his eye for a good gag regularly managed to get otherwise grindingly tedious stories about Europe onto the front page.
For Europe isn’t boring any more. Everybody now gets the message that the future direction of the EU – even of whether it has one – is an urgent question that is generating a lot of heat all over the continent. And on Thursday, those of you with the time should be out on the streets canvassing for Vote Leave.
I have done canvassing, I have run a political press campaign, and I have also overseen the briefings issued to canvassers by a national party machine (the Conservative Party, since you ask), so, although I have not been directly or officially involved in the Vote Leave campaign because I now live abroad, I offer here my personal take on the door-stepping for Thursday.
1) Fifth largest economy in the world, fourth greatest military power. It’s well worn, but can’t be repeated often enough (and Remain haven’t challenged it). The EU sells more to us than we do to it, and the disparity is widening, while our trade with the rest of the world is growing, but hampered by our EU membership. 20% of German cars are bought in Britain, and Audi, VW and BMW will not jeopardise that, no matter what the dead duck Merkel says.
2) We DO send £350 million a week to the EU, and £200 million comes back in ways we do not control, such as grants and subsidies targeted, as bribes for EU loyalty, at worthy projects we could support better ourselves. The remaining £150 million a week is still a hell of a lot of money, and disappears into the maintenance of a sham parliament with two vast buildings but no legislative powers, an army of bureaucrats, and outright fraud – £5 BILLION a year is unaccounted for, and no auditor has felt able to pass the EU’s accounts for 20 years. If you did that you’d be in prison.
3) The EU can take NO credit for peace in Europe. Its one big test was the Balkans conflict, in which it backed a genocidal dictator for the sake of a quiet life. It was NATO that resolved that mess, and NATO that has kept Europe safe from Russian aggression.
4) Vote Leave is NOT racist. It is not even reactionary. Mention Brexit MPs Tory Priti Patel, whose parents were Ugandan Asian immigrants, and Labour Gisela Stuart, who’s German, for heavens’ sake. It is not racist to protect a welfare and health system that is run by, and for, an incredibly ethnically mixed population against overloading to collapse. It is not racist to criticise Angela Merkel for initiating a policy that caused a flood of migrants in which genuine refugees, chancers and terrorists are indistinguishable because of the sheer rush and weight of numbers. Control of our borders is vital to the security of everyone who legitimately lives within them, regardless of ethnicity.
5) This is distasteful, but it’s going to come up, and you have to be prepared. Jo Cox was murdered by a retard who had embraced the simple, fallacious certainties offered by a group that has only ever attracted 200 people to a meeting. He is no different from the poor simpletons who carry out suicide bombings in the name of Islamic State. Sure, the dozens who constitute the membership of Britain First will be voting Brexit, but they will also be supporting England in Euro 2016. That doesn’t taint every England football fan with their vile and moronic agenda. Hitler loved dogs. Does that mean you have to have your Labrador put down?
6) Above all, this is about democracy and accountability. The whole structure of the EU is designed so that we can’t remember who our representatives are, that we have no direct connection through them to the European legislature of which they are in any case not a part, and that we cannot remove or hold to account the people who take the big decisions.
7) Finally, although the official campaign has stopped short of saying this, and you should have a wary eye to your audience, There is an anti-British conspiracy at the top of the EU’s political class. These are old men with long memories, who rejoice in our loss of empire, and are deeply resentful that we started the artistic and cultural revolution of the 1960s. They rejoice in our economic decline under Harold Wilson, Edward Heath (who took us into this project) and James Callaghan, and loathe the fact that Margaret Thatcher revitalised our economy in defiance of them, to the huge admiration of peoples across Europe and beyond. And still their own voters love us for our style and creativity and dynamism, which irks them all the more. Jean Claude Juncker has made it clear that he wants Britain levelled and humbled, and he represents a particularly nasty strain among European politicians of his generation that sees Britain as a power arrogant beyond its time, and an anomaly that must be ironed out. And, of course, the City of London is the first and biggest target. They are not about love and brotherhood; they are out to get us.
So don’t just vote Leave, get out there in every spare moment to make the case, right up until the polls close. I wish I could be with you, instead of rapping uselessly with the doomed, doe-eyed dodos of comfy-lefty Amsterdam.