Duncan Barkes: Time to stop dancing to Europe’s tune?

THE days when David Cameron hoped his party would stop “banging on” about Europe are long gone.

This highly divisive old chestnut continues to cause the Conservatives pain, but it is the recent comments from Boris Johnson I find most interesting. Boris believes that Great Britain quitting the European Union will not solve all our problems.

For the record, as it seems every other pundit and politician has finally found the courage to reveal their honest beliefs about the EU, I have long campaigned for a referendum on this country’s continued membership.

It looks like we might be a step closer.

I resent my country being part of a “union” that I was not asked about.

The usual response to this is that a referendum was held in 1975, and the country was asked then, but this means that anyone under the age of fifty-five has not had the opportunity to say whether or not they want Great Britain to be part of such an arrangement. Besides, the referendum 38 years ago was searching for a mandate for the European Economic Community, which was a very different beast to the European Union of today.

On this basis alone, the time is right for the majority in this country to have their say. Boris wants a referendum, as well, but he makes the valid point that not all of this country’s problems are caused by Brussels. He argues that many of the issues in Britain today are caused by chronic short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.

I am in no doubt that the EU is a failed political project. Just look at the state of countries like Greece – the home of democracy reduced to living under the cosh of the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

If a referendum were held tomorrow, I would be voting to quit the EU as I believe in independence and sovereignty. But simply leaving the EU will not solve our problems.

Once out, the real hard work will have to begin.

This means better training, investment and long-term strategic thinking (as opposed to knee-jerk decisions designed to win votes).

It also means hard graft. Can Britain be bothered, or is it simply content to dance to somebody else’s tune?