Britain has a future in the EU—but on certain conditionsby Jonathan Derbyshire / June 18, 2015 / Leave a comment
Last year, the economist Roger Bootle published a book entitled “The Trouble With Europe”. In an interview with Bootle in May 2014, I suggested the book wasn’t an “artefact of standard-issue euroscepticism”—this wasn’t Farageisme “pur et dur“. But Bootle did argue that the European Union is a “malfunctioning construct for today’s world” that, he believed, “needs either to undergo fundamental reform or to break up.”
Bootle has now published a new edition, substantially updated to take in a number of significant developments over the intervening 12 months—notably the election of the Syriza government in Greece, the Scottish independence referendum and the intensified interest in Britain’s constitutional future that followed and David Cameron’s pledge to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. I talked to Bootle last week about how, if at all, his views had been affected by the momentous events of the past year.
JD: When we spoke last year, you said: “My book is arguing that life outside the EU might not be a bed of roses, but nor is it a path to disaster either. I’m not saying, ‘A plague on all your houses, let’s pull out immediately.’ I think we have to try first to reform the EU along the lines we want.” More than a year on, the prospect of an in/out referendum is now concentrating minds. How optimistic are you about David Cameron’s chances of extracting the kinds of concessions you were describing there?
RB: I think I’m a bit more optimistic than I was. First of all, it’s quite clear that David Cameron’s political position is a lot stronger than seemed likely. Another coalition government would have been altogether a different kettle of fish. Secondly, I suspect that on the Continent there has been quite a lot of movement. This may partly be because the powers that be don’t [want] to have both a Brexit and a Grexit on their hands. So I suspect that things are looking a bit rosier for the prospects of significant changes. As for whether the changes that are possible are going to be big enough, I’m not sure I’m not that much more optimistic. I suspect what we’re going to get is some sort of undertaking on Britain being excluded from the pursuit of “ever closer union”.