[Re-uploaded after hacking attack. Originally dated 04.12.2012]
Politics makes strange bedfellows, claims UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom as he marks the half-way point in a trial run of his Eurosceptic pan-European political party arguing for the restoration of a 1970s-style free trade area
•Two years ago a Maltese friend of mine who worked for the European Parliament suggested I form an alliance with other European politicians who did not want a centralised federal state but a looser more trade based arrangement. Back almost to where we were in the 1970s, at least for Great Britain – a free trade agreement. Many countries enjoy this relationship without the spectre of the super state, something perhaps on the lines of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The problem is getting an agreement between parliamentarians of 27 countries. Virtually impossible.
I thought long and hard. I – as a UKIP MEP – am a member of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group. It is a mildly Eurosceptic alliance, reformist if anything. My boss Nigel Farage is co-leader. Membership of a group of some sort is essential if one is to get speaking time in the hemicycle debates or seats on the committees. It is just a fact of life. Several UKIP members resigned the whip over this matter in recent years; politics makes strange bedfellows and the orthodox Catholic view from our Polish or Italian members upset a homosexual UKIP MEP. Some of our members are very reluctant to form any association at all, least of all a formal one such as we have. I am a pragmatist and am obliged in my view to toe the party line when I wear the UKIP mantle. In short, keep my head down and get on with it.
But we are entering a completely new paradigm – I have been wanting to use that cliché for years, Eurosceptic parties are expected to come back in 2014 in very big numbers indeed. Under a voting system of proportional representation in European countries it is likely they will form governments. Somehow, whether we like it or not we are going to form alliances, moreover we are going to have to sit around a table and work out what sort of Europe we want. Where is the common ground?
My cunning plan was to form an alliance of sceptics within the parliament. The only criterion is agreement with the mission statement, to create a Europe of sovereign states with freely negotiated trade or defence agreements. Not political union, not federalism, not a super state or any other of the mutated baggage and mission creep that has overwhelmed Europe in the last forty years, largely by stealth and certainly against the wishes of most of its citizens. Worse still, it has been to no advantage, with youth unemployment at nearly an average of 38 per cent and debt out of control.
Interestingly several very senior MEPs came forward to test the idea. We formulated the European Alliance for Freedom under the suzerainty of the parliament itself. We all agree the mission statement but almost nothing else. I am a Libertarian neo Austrian economist. I share a glass of wine a few times a year with Marine le Pen, protectionist and socialist. We have almost nothing in common politically, save a desire for self-government – and, of course, rugby football, we are both rugby family people. Yet does that matter? What do my views on abortion, homosexuality, economics or anything else matter? One goal, one aim: a Europe of sovereign states. None of us represent our respective political parties or come with cultural or social baggage, this removed most of the bases for disagreement. Consequently we do not have any.
We are half-way through a two-year trial run; I have taken a back seat and would argue, so far so good. I heard the other day a communist had expressed an interest in joining us. He would be most welcome. After all, as an ex-soldier, I shared a platform on the same side as Sein Fein in Dublin three years ago. Did I say politics made strange bedfellows? I think I did.
Godfrey Bloom is a UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom