Let the people decide

Lembit Öpik MP

A big victory for the pro-Europeans at a debate on Monday evening. Lembit Öpik and I defeated some Eurosceptics at University College London on “The house believes in a federal Europe”.

Other than, obviously, the persuasive rhetoric and skilled arguments of the pro-federalist side, and the good sense of the assembled student body, here are two reasons why we won.

First, the extraordinary attempt by the UKIP representative to compare Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel with Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. In fact, he said that the former two were more dangerous than the latter. I think he rather startled his audience with the suggestion that world war and the Holocaust somehow didn’t matter. Most people tend to take a rather dim view of genocide: it will surely count against UKIP that they do not.

Secondly, there was the subject matter of the debate itself, namely a federal Europe. The opposition tried to raise criticisms of the current EU institutions or the reforms proposed in the Lisbon treaty, but that doesn’t help much in a debate about federalism. For we too could join in the complaints about the lack of accountability or the mistakes in policy-making, only we also had suggestions for how to make things better. Not for us the dream of emulating the Icelandic economic miracle or the satisfaction in providing soldiers for the American foreign legion. No, we have a vision for the world and for Britain’s place in it, and that includes being part of a federal Europe. When it is presented in this way, it can be popular.

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