Johnstone’s View - Whatever next?

As a farmer in a previous career, my experience of the European Union was not good.

It heaped costs on my business left, right and centre. It made me pay for the privilege of being a milk producer, sometimes more that the value of the milk I produced.

It competed with me in the grain market, pushing up my feed costs. It taxed non EU imports, pushing up my fertiliser costs and, at the end of the process, had pushed food costs for ordinary families through the roof.

More recently, the EU, or rather some of its more authoritarian member states, have invented the Euro; a mechanism for turning some of Europes smaller and more peripheral countries into itinerant dependents and condemning them to indentured servitude.

Some of these smaller nations have had the temerity to offer some resistance to their masters, resulting in a growing clamour among the pay-masters for what they describe as ‘political convergence’. This is where he who pays the piper demands the right to call the tune and small nations just lose their independence.

This drive for political and economic convergence is endangering our democracy and threatening our freedoms.

It is weakening our economies and growing our debt. It is undermining our standard of living and will make us all poorer in the long run.

So, why should we in Britain have anything to do with them? They are our neighbours. Europe remains our problem because of their proximity. No matter how hard we try to turn our backs and ignore them they will still be there, making poor decisions and suffering the consequences.

Our larger European neighbours don’t like being told they’re wrong, but that is exactly our role in the EU. We need them to play more by our rules, release the iron grip, trust each other a bit more and, in the case of Germany, stop believing that they have all the answers and that anyone who disagrees simply hasn’t understood the question.

This week, Prime Minister David Cameron returned from Brussels with a package of reforms that has sounded the starting pistol for the debate on whether we stay or leave the EU.

While there are those who will never be satisfied, this comprehensive array of concessions represent a starting point from which it is possible to make a compelling argument to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union.

I appreciate that in some places, immigration is causing concern, but here in the Mearns, it has played a significantly positive role, especially in the agricultural sectors.

That is why I believe an appropriate balance has been struck, with new powers against criminals from other countries – including powers to stop them coming here in the first place, and powers to deport them if they are already here.

With regard to benefits, EU migrants cannot claim the new unemployment benefit, Universal Credit, while looking for work, and those coming from the EU who have not found work within 6 months can now be required to leave.

With regard to finance, I know that many were appalled that British taxpayer’s cash was being used to bail-out Greece to such an extraordinary level.

Now, British taxpayers will never be made to bail out countries in the Eurozone.

I am also delighted that we now have permanent protection for the pound and our right to keep it.

For the first time, the EU has explicitly acknowledged it has more than one currency.

For many, the problem has been that the EU has been too powerful, and too willing to use those powers to enact laws that we were powerless to resist.

The ‘ever closer union’ that appears to be the primary objective of political leaders in the EU and the faceless eurocrats who serve them was something that has never sat well with us here in the UK.

That is why I am delighted to see that we have been taken out of this aspect of the EU evolution, and we will never be part of a European superstate.

A new red card also means that the UK Parliament can work with others to block unwanted legislation from Brussels, and crucially in my view, we have an agreement that, wherever possible, powers should be returned to member states and we have a new mechanism to make this a reality.

Something that I know will appeal to the many veterans in the North East is the fact that it has been established once and for all in international law that Britain’s national security is the sole responsibility of the British government – so, for instance, we will never be part of a European army.

So there we go.

To my surprise, I find myself on the same side as David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon on this one.

Whatever next?