[I wrote this before Cameron’s last stand against increasing European federalism. I haven’t made any significant changes. Unusually, I think he did the right thing but you can see that I effectively predicted his failure. Honourable failure is OK. I’ve found Labour’s attacks an embarrassment. It made a change to hear a politician say something he appeared to believe in, enough to risk losing power.]
I genuinely don’t know whether it is good for us to be ‘in Europe’ or not but I know that the Euro Zone never made sense to me. If countries have individual economic systems then currency exchange is clearly an important control mechanism. A failing country has its currency devalued, imports become expensive and exports get cheaper, fixing the balance. Without national currencies, the only way to equalise pressure is population migration from poor to rich countries. I have no training in economics. I don’t even read the business pages of a daily newspaper. I assumed that all Europe’s politicians, with their ‘Philosophy, Politics & Economics’ degrees, knew better. Apparently they didn’t. They didn’t even have the foresight to predict what was obvious to a complete amateur. It’s like the people in charge don’t have any common sense, isn’t it?
My ‘gut’ says that we are an island people, several times invaded and interbred and quite good at absorbing waves of immigration and assimilating the useful parts of a culture into ours but we are nervous of a sudden mass influx, particular if they bring religious conflict in their wake. We have history.
We clearly need to get on with our continental neighbours but they are very different to us. Not worse; different. Like many Brits, I suspect, I intuitively feel I’d prefer to be semi-detached. I fully understand why the Scots want to be semi-detached from us too. We have much in common but we have different cultural identities. I’ve been on holiday to France, Portugal, Spain and Italy. I’ve worked for a German company. I’ve seen how different our business cultures can be. My work experience has shown that rather than language being the greatest divide between us, it is our cultural expectations that cause most difficulty in communication and misunderstanding, leading to potential for conflict. This is very clear from the lack of success our politicians have in influencing EU policy. We say what we think and intend to stick to what what we agree to. That is not the European way.
I’ve not seen any politician attempt to educate us about the reasons being in Europe is good for us, beyond hearing Shirley Williams say that her generation wanted to prevent there ever being another war in mainland Europe. Is that it – we are either assimilated or annihilated? It doesn’t even work. How long has it taken for the states of the USSR to disintegrate once the grip of the secret police was loosened?
Politicians have been shouting at us; like they are right and we are stupid. That is never going to convince us Brits. We are stubborn and suspicious of authority. The French would burn a government building. The Germans would argue forcefully before falling back into line and complying with authority. We will appear to be grudgingly going along with the crazy plan then mutiny, stick up two fingers and undermine the European Project when it is at it’s weakest. Which is now.
Europe is more likely to accept ‘collective’ agreements than us Brits. We are loosely joined individuals, only pulling together when there is someone or something to fight. The only opposition to EU membership to date has come from the libertarian Right of the Conservative party who are are generally fairly unattractive to a large proportion of the population. They are now kept relatively quiet by the need for consensus, in order to hold the Con-Dem coalition together. The shamed socialists who voted Lib-Dem, only to have their most sacred cow slaughtered for the victory feast, want Nick Clegg’s head, to assuage their personal guilt at their betrayal of socialist solidarity. The pressure builds for everything to blow itself apart.
Enter UKIP. Yes, there are concerns about racism but many Brits aren’t too fond of foreigners who “won’t join in”. That behaviour belongs to us, when we go abroad. A bit of casual racism won’t do UKIP any harm, as long as it’s delivered with a cheeky smile by someone willing to pretend they don’t really mean it. If there are good reasons to stay in Europe, someone needs to start explaining what they are, quickly, before it’s too late. If there aren’t any, then the Left & Centre needs to start offering an alternative way out of Europe or you may as well go home, kiss the NHS goodbye and tidy your garden, ready for the fracking.