So inured are we to the absence of democracy in the EU, so habituated to our powerlessness, that we barely reacted when European leaders explicitly announced that their objective, in amending the treaties as Angela Merkel wants, was to avoid a referendum. Everyone understands that ballots on the EU tend to produce “No” votes. Eurocrats barely bother to pretend any more that they enjoy popular support.
So you can imagine the agitation in Brussels at the prospect of a second Euro-referendum in the Netherlands – a proposal now supported by the Freedom Party (PVV) as well as the Socialist Party (hat-tip, EU Observer). Dutch voters want a say on the massive liabilities being imposed on them by the euro crisis. Having been net beneficiaries of EU spending until the mid-1990s, they are now, in per capita terms, among the main contributors.
Most Dutch leaders regard the prospect of consulting the electorate with horror. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the EU, they tend to see themselves as qualified to rule by their expertise rather than by the ballot box. The Anglo-Dutch writer Ian Buruma calls the Dutch elites the “regenten”, after the fastidious oligarchs who controlled the republic until the late eighteenth century.
Eurocrats, too, are determined to avoid another Dutch plebiscite. They remember that the level-headed Hollanders rejected the European Constitution by a whopping 62 per cent. (Needless to say, Brussels disregarded that vote and went ahead anyway on the basis of what I call the EU’s Brechtian imperative: “Wouldn’t it be easier to dissolve the people and elect another in their place?”) If the Dutch were allowed a vote, several of their neighbours might become restive. British voters might ask why the Netherlands should be allowed to vote on Britain’s future.
Sooner or later, there will have to be an EU plebiscite in this country. I hope that our political leaders will anticipate the demand: they would be handsomely rewarded. Incidentally, several of my readers keep asking me how many people have signed The Pledge, which demands such a vote. Over 30,000 so far.
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