Let us for once respect the voters' verdict. Let us scrap the corrupt schemes that the EU is paying for: the foreign aid boondoggles, the bogus structural grants, the grotesque agricultural regime. If we can't make the budget sleaze-free, let us at least make it smaller.
If Tony Blair had the cojones, he would appeal over the heads of the French and German leaders to their peoples. Your own politicians may be determined to ignore your wishes, he would say, but I shall respect them. I shall use the British presidency of the EU to propose a wholesale repatriation of powers to the national capitals. And, in doing so, I shall reduce these bloated billions that Brussels keeps sucking in to no very good end. Then everyone, not just the Brits, could have their money back.Unfortunately he is wrong here. Completely wrong.One legacy of Margaret Thatcher that still exists in the UK is that concept that taxes pay for government services - there are those who think that the British should pay more for better and others who want them to pay less and have less in return but except for a few, mostly left-wing, delusionists the link is understood by politicians and voters across the political spectrum. However in Italy, France and Germany vast numbers of people think of "government" as the source of free money. The connection between the taxes they pay and the "benefits" they receive has become disconnected. The result is a classic "tragedy of the commons". Everyone wants to extract the most benefit for themselves from the trough without thinking about how it gets filled. Perhaps worse, those who do vaguely understand the link are even more keen to "get their money's worth" out of the trough without thinking that perhaps rather than contribute a lot and then seek to get as big a chunk back as possible it would be better to contribute less in the first place.