The Mayor of London explains his reasoning in The Telegraph, and for someone who reportedly vacillated on the matter, it is a surprisingly powerful and comprehensive case:
I am a European. I lived many years in Brussels. I rather love the old place. And so I resent the way we continually confuse Europe – the home of the greatest and richest culture in the world, to which Britain is and will be an eternal contributor – with the political project of the European Union. It is, therefore, vital to stress that there is nothing necessarily anti-European or xenophobic in wanting to vote Leave on June 23.
And it is important to remember: it isn’t we in this country who have changed. It is the European Union. In the 28 years since I first started writing for this paper about the Common Market – as it was then still known – the project has morphed and grown in such a way as to be unrecognisable, rather as the vast new Euro palaces of glass and steel now lour over the little cobbled streets in the heart of the Belgian capital.
When I went to Brussels in 1989, I found well-meaning officials (many of them British) trying to break down barriers to trade with a new procedure – agreed by Margaret Thatcher – called Qualified Majority Voting. The efforts at harmonisation were occasionally comical, and I informed readers about euro-condoms and the great war against the British prawn cocktail flavour crisp. And then came German reunification, and the panicked efforts of Delors, Kohl and Mitterrand to “lock” Germany into Europe with the euro; and since then the pace of integration has never really slackened.
As new countries have joined, we have seen a hurried expansion in the areas for Qualified Majority Voting, so that Britain can be overruled more and more often (as has happened in the past five years). We have had not just the Maastricht Treaty, but Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon, every one of them representing an extension of EU authority and a centralisation in Brussels. According to the House of Commons library, anything between 15 and 50 per cent of UK legislation now comes from the EU; and remember that this type of legislation is very special.
It is unstoppable, and it is irreversible – since it can only be repealed by the EU itself. Ask how much EU legislation the Commission has actually taken back under its various programmes for streamlining bureaucracy. The answer is none. That is why EU law is likened to a ratchet, clicking only forwards. We are seeing a slow and invisible process of legal colonisation, as the EU infiltrates just about every area of public policy. Then – and this is the key point – the EU acquires supremacy in any field that it touches; because it is one of the planks of Britain’s membership, agreed in 1972, that any question involving the EU must go to Luxembourg, to be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice.
It was one thing when that court contented itself with the single market, and ensuring that there was free and fair trade across the EU. We are now way beyond that stage. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the court has taken on the ability to vindicate people’s rights under the 55-clause “Charter of Fundamental Human Rights”, including such peculiar entitlements as the right to found a school, or the right to “pursue a freely chosen occupation” anywhere in the EU, or the right to start a business.
These are not fundamental rights as we normally understand them, and the mind boggles as to how they will be enforced. Tony Blair told us he had an opt-out from this charter.
Alas, that opt-out has not proved legally durable, and there are real fears among British jurists about the activism of the court. The more the EU does, the less room there is for national decision-making….
We have given so much to the world, in ideas and culture, but the
most valuable British export and the one for which we are most famous is
the one that is now increasingly in question: parliamentary democracy –
the way the people express their power.
This is a
once-in-a-lifetime chance to vote for real change in Britain’s relations
with Europe. This is the only opportunity we will ever have to show
that we care about self-rule. A vote to Remain will be taken in Brussels
as a green light for more federalism, and for the erosion of democracy.
In the next few weeks, the views of people like me will matter
less and less, because the choice belongs to those who are really
sovereign – the people of the UK. And in the matter of their own
sovereignty the people, by definition, will get it right.
The choice facing the British people is a straightforward one: will you be sovereign or will you be slaves?
This is one of the great moments of our lifetime, comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. One of the great nations of history is deciding whether to extinguish itself or not. If there is to always be an England, then England must vote Out.