Is there a more self-serving verbal alibi than ‘Eurosceptic’? A sceptical person has doubts, is unsure, ponders an issue. The people seeking a referendum on membership of the EU have none of that hesitancy. They stand in the enraged tradition of the men who fought the Reform Act and Irish Home Rule. They talked in the 1990s of ‘a German racket to take over Europe’ and ‘the Fourth Reich’ (they’re still at it). They also made prescriptions. Europe, if it had to happen, should be as big as possible to mitigate enemy domination. There must also be no central tax-and-spending power over the eurozone. And now Greece falls and others totter.
When not fearful nationalists, the ‘sceptics’ are happy guests at the Hoover, American Enterprise and other rightwing institutions in the US. They think Europe is crypto-socialist, denying them the possibility of one day achieving flat-rate income tax and welfare by food stamps. Of course they want a referendum. In the way of Adam Werritty, they have their billionaire friends – often rather louche ones – also their press barons. Richard Desmond is with them, as is Rupert Murdoch. And the whole point of a referendum is that it confers power on money, especially the money that owns newspapers.