Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former Director of Strategy, has announced that he is in favour of Britain leaving the EU because membership has made Britain “literally ungovernable” as a democracy.
In an embarrassing intervention for the Prime Minister, Mr Hilton has criticised Britain’s position in the EU, a position which he says has remained essentially unchanged since David Cameron’s EU deal where even Britain’s “modest” demands had to be watered down by EU leaders.
For Mr Hilton, Cameron’s failure to secure a good deal for Britain provides a potent illustration of Britain’s lack of influence within the EU – and its loss of control over its own affairs.
In an article appearing in the Daily Mail, Mr Hilton draws on his experience of government to argue the EU is deliberately “impenetrable”.
He recounts his first visit to Brussels when he discovered that, never mind the British public, even British officials couldn’t understand the workings of the EU.
The day before his visit he had been briefed on the workings of the EU by Sir Kim Darroch, then Britain’s Permanent Representative to the European Union, and consequently Britain’s “top EU diplomat”. But the conversation was not as illuminating as might have been hoped:
“We spent the following day meeting various players in the Brussels set-up, in the European Commission, Parliament and Council, who explained how things really got done. And it slowly dawned on us that the man tasked with representing Britain in the EU literally didn’t understand how it worked.”
According to Mr Hilton, the blame doesn’t lie with Sir Kim, but with the EU: “It’s become so complicated, so secretive, so impenetrable that it’s way beyond the ability of any British government to make it work to our advantage.”
In addition to the difficulty of understanding the workings of the EU machine, Mr Hilton finds that Britain must also contend with ever more directives and regulations from Brussels, something which undermines Britain’s capacity for democratic self-government:
“Based on a pragmatic, non-ideological assessment of how the EU operates… as long as we are members, our country cannot be ‘run’. Membership of the EU makes Britain literally un-governable, in the sense that no administration elected by the people can govern the country.
“A democracy is based on the notion that the people — or their directly-elected representatives — are able to decide issues for themselves. And yet membership of the EU brings with it constraints on everything from employment law to family policy, all determined through distant, centralised processes we hardly understand, let alone control.”
Mr Hilton’s description of significant EU interference in Britain’s internal affairs echoes Michael Gove’s letter in the Spectator for the Leave Campaign in which he recounts that:
“As a minister I’ve seen hundreds of new EU rules cross my desk, none of which were requested by the UK Parliament, none of which I or any other British politician could alter in any way and none of which made us freer, richer or fairer.”