Economics / Politics

Calling EU cliches: The Big Sleepwalk

‘There’s a real risk that we’re sleepwalking to disaster,’ an unnamed FTSE 100 chairman told The Times last week. He was warning about the UK leaving the European Union, but it could so easily have been about the dangers of staying in. Because despite all the divisions that have emerged during the EU referendum campaign, there’s one thing we can all agree on: we shouldn’t sleepwalk into making a decision. Why this should be a particular problem when it comes to Europe is far from clear – but it is, and it has been for decades…

‘Because we won’t debate it [the Maastricht Treaty], we’re going to sleepwalk our way into it and we will handicap ourselves as a party thereby.’ – Bryan Gould, Labour MP, 1992

‘[A Labour government] would sleepwalk us into a federal union.’ – John Redwood, Conservative MP, 1995

‘There are those in the Labour Party and across Europe sleepwalking their way along the dreamy road to a European superstate.’ – Michael Portillo, Conservative MP, 1995

‘England must have the right to vote on things that will change the destiny of the nation. To insist that these changes can come about without debate, and without a vote, is madness. It is sleepwalking into an electric saw.’ – James Goldsmith, Referendum Party, 1996

‘[Euro-fanatics] were hoping we would sleepwalk into their brave new world.’ – Richard Littlejohn, Sun columnist 1998

‘If battle is not joined, and we sleepwalk into a single currency and a federal Europe, we will be taking the biggest gamble of all.’ – Michael Gove, Times columnist, 1998

‘The arguments pro and anti membership of the euro are complex and involve deep seated emotions. But they have got to be made as clearly and with as little rancour as possible or we will sleepwalk into the euro or away from it.’ – John Florence, BBC Radio Leicester presenter, 2000

‘He [Peter Hain] isn’t persuaded by the argument – shared by a few in Downing Street and many more in the Treasury – that it would be better to wait until 2006, perhaps, by which time the euro would be such a fact of life that the British people would sleepwalk into it.’ – Independent, 2002

‘[Tony Blair] has to confront the newspapers, he cannot sleepwalk to victory.’ – Simon Buckby, director of Britain in Europe, 2004

‘Brussels appears to be happy to sleepwalk into this nightmare.’ – John Cridland, deputy director-general of CBI, 2007

‘We must not sleepwalk into another crisis.’ – Jose Manuel Barroso, president European Commission, 2009

‘[David] Cameron is actively encouraging the countries of southern Europe to sleepwalk into slow-motion, sugar-coated coups d’etat.’ – Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, 2011

‘After 2017, our voice might not just be sidelined, it could be silenced altogether if the UK were to sleepwalk out of the European Union.’ – Alex Salmond, SNP leader, 2013

‘There will be a huge debate [before the referendum], nobody is going to sleepwalk anywhere.’ – Damian Green, Conservative MP, 2014

‘Britain might well sleepwalk out of Europe, to its incalculable cost, under a Cameron and Clegg coalition.’ – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph columnist, 2015

‘George Osborne, the Chancellor, used a speech last night to warn that if the EU refuses to reform it will “sleepwalk” into a future “where it has priced itself out of the global economy, with its rules and regulations, financial services legislation and red tape”.’ – Daily Telegraph, 2015

‘We need a cast-iron opt-out to make sure we do not sleepwalk into an “ever-closer union”.’ – John Longworth, director general of British Chambers of Commerce, 2015

‘We risk sleepwalking our way into leaving the EU if the respective Remain and Leave campaigns continue to focus on their distant, hyperbolic arguments which bear no relation to people and the communities they live in.’ – Alison Thewliss, SNP MP, 2016

‘Without a pragmatic appraisal of the facts and consequences of the UK leaving the European Union, we could sleepwalk into a disaster.’ – Jacques de Cock, London School on Marketing, 2016

‘There is a lot to be scared about if we sleepwalk out of Europe.’ – Alastair Campbell, 2016

‘Britain could sleepwalk out of the EU unless Jeremy Corbyn wakes up, a leading think-tank [the Fabian Society] is warning.’ – Sunday Mirror, 2016

‘David Cameron has warned that low turnout could see Britain sleepwalk out of Europe.’ – Guardian, 2016

‘No company can say for certain to their shareholders, their staff or their customers what effect Britain leaving the bloc would have on them. But that is no excuse for them to sleepwalk out of Europe.’ – Sarah Gordon, Financial Times columnist, 2016

‘Within the Labour party, the mood is bleak. “We are sleepwalking to losing the damn thing,” lamented one senior source.’ – New Statesman 2016

‘Miriam González, like her husband a supporter of continued EU membership, said that … Britain was sleepwalking to disaster.’ – The Times, 2016

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