I’ve spent quite a lot of my professional life working around what are referred to as “emerging markets”, often attempting to portray specific sovereign states in as positive a way as possible, primarily to capital markets.
Whether its Russia, Saudi, Kazakhstan, India or the UAE, I suspect all of them would be amazed at what is happening in the UK as regards ongoing membership of the European Union.
My point is not whether the UK should or should not be part of the EU. Whilst I do have quite strong views on this matter, the thing that genuinely shocks me is not the debate itself but the reason we are having it now, and the terms of the debate itself.
As a PR person that advises the Boards of listed companies or government officials on their interaction within capital and industrial markets, I’m amazed at the entirely short term reference of this debate. If it was me I would be making a long term argument either for or against which was based around the dynamic that involves (geo)politics, fiscal and monetary issues, employment, balance of payments and national (self) image. This is pretty much what I do in a daily basis.
But this isn’t what’s going on over here, and this is why I am deeply unimpressed with the situation. Sovereignty is a complicated thing. Issues of sovereignty should be considered with deliberation and decisions should be taken in the long term national interest.
Instead of strategic thought what appears to be going on is based on short term, straightforwardly individualistic self interest. Tories worried about losing their jobs due to the rise of UKIP are driving this argument towards the ideal conclusion that the UK pulls out of Europe. Some might even think that this is a good idea, but even if this is the case, why aren’t we hearing detailed plans for a post EU foreign and economic policy?
As i say, I hear and read a lot of argument about how “bad” Europe is. Much of the argument is well made. What I don’t hear or read is what I would advise my client on; strategic planning, and the benefits for the UK of independence. Basically pulling out is only a good idea of plan b is viable. I don’t even know if there is a plan b.
This leads me to conclude that we are being dragged towards a monumental decision on the basis that the Tories are worried about losing power to a new constituency and are reacting tactically to this new threat, without thinking of the long gem consequences.
Whether its individual fear of losing a seat in a marginal or a more institutional loss of Conservative Power (hence unelected Tory grandees like lawson and portillo), the situation to me seems entirely amoral. MPs are meant to serve the interests of their constituents and the government is meant to serve the interests of the UK.
They might even be making the right decision, but everything in the language and approach of this campaign convinces me that this is all about the Conservative party and its position in British democracy as it is about Europe and the UK’s political and economic position in the world.
And that’s the danger with democracy. We have to trust those we elect to act in our interest and not our own.
And how likely is that to actually happen?