On the European Union front, things are getting more and more promising. For years now, a majority of Brits have favored their country’s withdrawal from the EU, compelling Prime Minister David Cameron to promise a renegotation of the terms of UK membership and a referendum on the question of withdrawal after next year’s general election. In recent days, the Telegraph has noted that the rise in voter support for the UK Independence Party – which favors a quick EU exit – may well become “the political story of 2014”; meanwhile Le Monde described the UKIP as having “the wind in its sails” (while characterizing its supporters, in a news story no less, as “irrational”). Observers suggest that the UKIP, in May elections to the European Parliament, may well win more votes than the Tories.
One sure measure of the UKIP’s success is that EU stalwarts are now taking it seriously – and making it an object of their usual brand of disinformation and demonization. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has referred to EU opponents as “brainless people who call themselves eurosceptics,” warned the other day that when those Eurosceptics form parties “while Europe is in a crisis,” it “doesn’t make our work any easier.” (There’s a man who understands how democracy works!) The EU, insisted Steinmeier, has kept European countries from going to war with each other since 1945 – the usual baseless claim, which is now pretty much the only legitimate-sounding argument that pro-EU politicians have left. (After all, they can’t say, “Dissolving the EU would hurt my career.”)
Meanwhile, Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, who has made no secret of her desire to see the EU become the United States of Europe, is so perturbed by Cameron’s actions that she accused him recently of promoting “populist myths,” aligning with “populist movements,” and making “populist speech[es]” – the standard European-elite way of slamming politicians who actually listen to their constituents. Speaking in London on Monday, Reding loftily informed British voters that they’re too ill-informed about the EU to make a wise decision about EU membership: “The fact is that very often, I see a completely distorted truth being presented and then how do you want people to take an informed decision? They simply cannot.” (Why, by the way, is Reding such a fervent EU supporter? Could it have anything to do with the fact that she’s from Luxembourg, a country two-thirds the size of Rhode Island and with a population slightly larger than Fresno’s – meaning that without the EU, her political career would be toast?)
Euroskeptics aren’t just being maligned by a few European politicians. On the contrary, the superstate itself, in defiance of its own rules, is systematically – and clandestinely – targeting its critics. As the Telegraph reported the other day, secret EU documents describe a planned “propaganda blitz” designed to counter Euroskepticism in the run-up to the EU elections. Millions of taxpayer dollars willl be spent to identify and monitor anti-EU blogs and other media and to post pro-EU comments – undercover, of course – to balance out the criticism with the message “that the answer to existing challenges… is ‘more Europe’ not ‘less Europe.’”
With shenanigans like this afoot, it’s no wonder that it’s not just Britain that may be headed toward the exit. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party – which, like the UKIP, has been steadily growing in public support in recent months – did something interesting: it commissioned a report by Capital Economics, a macroeconomics research firm in Britain, to determine what kind of economic impact the Netherlands would experience if it left the EU. The report, released on February 6, came to an unambiguous conclusion. Among the main points: eliminating EU overregulation in the Netherlands would “reduce the cost of doing business in the Netherlands by a minimum of €20 billion annually by 2035”; post-EU revisions in Dutch immigration policy would “reduce public expenditure by a minimum of €7.5 billion annually” by 2035; extra-European exports would climb; and macroeconomic cycles would be managed more effectively, resulting in €309 billion in added national income by 2035. Yes, there would be costs, but they’d be “modest and manageable.” Nor would banking stability or sovereign debt be imperiled.
In short, Dutch withdrawal from the EU (dubbed “NExit”) would represent “a long-term benefit to the Dutch economy and, more than likely, a short-term help in easing the Netherlands out of its current economic ills.” The Freedom Party succinctly summed up the impact NExit would have on Dutch households: “the Dutch economy will be 10 per cent bigger by 2024….The average annual benefit is almost 10,000 euros per household over the next two decades.” Wilders himself commented that, at a time when the Dutch economy is stagnating, the report “shows that leaving the EU is our way out of the crisis.” Freed from Brussels, “the Dutch will be able to cut taxes and reduce VAT and excise duties. The Dutch will no longer have to ship their tax money to Greece and will be able to stop paying welfare benefits to Romanians and Bulgarians.”
The report has had its critics. Mathijs Bouman, a classical liberal economist, finds it thorough and professional but strongly disputed many of its assumptions and conclusions. Then again, he’s a staunch champion of both the EU and the euro, so his response is hardly surprising. Yernaz Ramautarsing, the one-man anti-leftist juggernaut at the University of Amsterdam whom I wrote about here in December and met with in Amsterdam earlier this month, told me that while the report “will not convince opponents,” it will “force them to be more concrete about their plans for Europe.” Yernaz’s concern is that while the EU is anti-capitalist and anti-individual rights, so are most members of national parliaments across Europe. The Freedom Party supports free markets at the EU level, Yernaz said, but it “fails to protect free markets on a national level.”
Fair enough. Still, I can’t help taking immense pleasure at these anti-EU developments in both Britain and the Netherlands – because it seems crystal clear to me that the absolute and total demise of the corruption-ridden, regulation-happy, power-hungry EU is the necessary first step toward a Europe in which politicians who actually heed voters’ opinions aren’t reflexively smeared as low-life populists, in which sensible immigration policies aren’t routinely condemned from the bully pulpit in Brussels as unutterably racist, and in which the continent, from Cyprus to the Shetlands, isn’t ruled by remote, arrogant technocrats who view individual liberty as an antiquated concept and the democratic process as a hindrance to progress.
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