Tag Archives: Europe

The Grexit Wave

There are 2 competing political visions for Europe:

  1. a loosely coupled trading conglomerate of nation states, an economic Masons, to keep our independent economies intertwined and shut out competitors.
  2. an integrated European nation with a single economy. The US of E.

Obviously there is a third option, much loved by Right Wingers and radical, idealistic Lefties who believe a one-world nation might still be possible if everyone would stop believing in the wrong imaginary friend and give up killing each other.

Perhaps the nations of Europe should have been more honest about the split of opinion and agreed which vision we wanted, before forming the unsustainable Euro-zone that assumed Option 2 and allowed the destruction of the economy of Europe’s oldest nation state. The unseemly fight to take ownership of the scraps started today. I’m not sure we can even save option 1 now but that hasn’t stopped the more blinkered supporters of option 2 trying to ignore the evidence and turn the crisis in their direction – another leap into the unknown.

I wonder if the people of an independent Scotland would still feel safer in Europe than in the United Kingdom. I imagine a lot of shaking heads across this whole Island and gratitude that our governments’ instincts were right for once.

The address of most 7 year-olds I’ve met was …, England, United Kingdom, Europe, the Earth. Kids know stuff.

See also: https://andywootton.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/european-skepticism-small-pieces-loosely-joined/

Devolution, Federalism and … Oh Grow Up!

Scotland, Wales and, in my alternate universe, the country of Midland want “independence”; like a 14-year old asking for more pocket-money. UKIP wants to leave Europe because, “Sir, they keep picking on me and making me eat straight bananas and human rights!” But UKIP also think Scotland needs to know its place in ‘the union’ because they don’t feel the need to have logically consistent opinions. Scots have told me I can’t have Midland independence because only Scotland is a real country. Well, so was Mercia.  How far do we want to go back? Maybe we favour tribal groups, fighting for land (now with added AK-47s)?

‘The grown-ups’ are discussing an English parliament to make things fairer. What does that mean?
I worry about child poverty alongside an ever more wealthy ‘Rich List’ not whether I have fair voting rights. I know I don’t. How many English people feel they have an English identity that is different from their British or UK identity? If we don’t know then clearly we have imposed our English identity on Wales and Scotland, so no wonder they are upset. Well, do you know what? I identify more strongly with Scottish people than I do with the London parliament. I’m angry at injustice too. I think people in the North West, North East, Midlands, East, South West, South East  and London have more differences than similarities, compared to our Britishness.

“England” was a union to stop wars and gang up on outsiders, just like the European Union and the UK. Like the Euro Zone it cannot continue to function while there are huge economic disparities between regions. If the Euro Zone wants to survive then the rich countries of the North have to support the poor countries of the South while they are on completely different economic cycles. National interests seem unlikely to allow this. The same is true of London and the rest of the country. ‘England’ is barely holding together in the face of the greed which festers in the rich areas of London.

These unions will only survive if the poor look after the rich; if they devolve wealth as well as power. If the UK is to be split up then it should be into regions about the size of Wales and Scotland, coming together as the United Kingdom because we share an island. Similarly, these British isles instinctively rebel against greater integration with EU but that doesn’t mean we want to leave it. I don’t think anyone who has really thought about that possibility understand the repercussions.

“Small pieces, loosely joined” is a philosophy I believe in for software. I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t be the best way to run world politics – the WHOLE world, not just the rich bits like Europe.

Scots – Selective Breeding and Genetic Diversity

I’ve spent a week in Germany since my last post. I’ve learned how little I know of German history before the 19th Century. I now suspect that the German love of order, obedience to authority and negotiated settlements in a European state comes from a cultural fear of old enemies in every shadow, ready to slit their throats. I think France was moulded by it’s rejection of authority and civil disobedience in their Revolution and their experience of being at the centre of an Empire.

Britain is a mongrel nation. Celts, Druids, Romans, Vikings, Saxons and the French have all invaded our tiny island, all the time trying to see off raids from North of the border. We sit here, surrounded by sea and the English finally made peace, first with the Welsh via Henry Tudor then 300 years ago with the Scots, by accepting their King as ours. Unlike mainland Europe, all successful conflict against our island for the last 1000 years has been of our own making. We’ve learned to carry on, regardless of religious disputes, family quarrels amongst royalty and a Civil War, by pretending to do as we are told, while being annoyingly unhelpful towards anything we dislike and blaming foreigners.

The English find it difficult now to see any difference between being English or British, so do the Scots. Scotland appears to throw in an extra level of confusion between ‘what England thinks’ and what the Coalition government of Eton educated, London-centric market capitalists have done to them; not realising that they’ve done it to most English people too.

A political commentator pointed out this week that politics is about both logic AND psychology. What are the cultural differences between the English and the Scots that might be used to manipulate Scottish emotions? What makes a Scot identify as a British Unionist or a Scottish Independent?

I believe that our biology, encoded in our DNA, comes as a package with our independently evolved cultural codes. Scots have evolved in a harsher climate and fought many battles against the English and the weather, against terrible odds to survive. My observation is that Scots like chaos and bravery. After the Act of Union, The Highland regiments have a history of fighting apparently suicidal battles for the British Army. I don’t believe this was because the Highland Regiments were considered expendable but because they were the only ones likely to win.

We ARE slightly different but does that mean we would be stronger apart? We have had a great history together, until quite recently. Conservatives believe in the natural superiority of a ruling class and of “our nation” (“We” are better than “them”; aspire to be like us. If you work hard enough, perhaps we’ll let you in.) This has been roundly rejected by Scotland. Socialism pretends we are all created equal and teaches that we are stronger together. The Union has failed because Labour didn’t deliver equality to Scotland and the Conservatives didn’t even deliver hope.

Scotland will vote “Yes” if it decides that a wild charge in the face of all the evidence of probable death is a chance worth taking for a life worth living and “No” if it thinks Westminster has learned its lesson and realises that Britain can’t survive  without these passionate nutters from the frozen North, who have better historic claims to the resources of this island than the rest of us. Scots are like those ‘rare breeds’ at stately homes, which turn out to have desirable characteristics that have been lost due to the selective cross-breeding that has gone on ‘down South’.

Like Germany, I have a fear of land borders and the shadows of history, so I hope the line will stay dotted. I hope those woolly cows will stay too.

European Skepticism: “Small pieces, loosely joined”

[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.

Why I Didn’t Vote For UKIP (Then)

Nigel Farage appeared to be a racist. Even if he wasn’t, it was clear that he was courting the votes of racists and that disgusts me. I listened to the media and got the impression of a party probably full of other people also harbouring feelings of xenophobic hatred. I thought Farage being the only face of UKIP suggested that those hiding behind the scenes must be even worse.

I watched the debate with Nick Clegg. I came away from it furious at some of the things Farage had said but well aware that someone who was thinking of voting for UKIP would have considered him to have won. It was clear to me that Nick Clegg was also incensed by some of the things  said but his politeness and his care not to say the wrong thing, left him looking weak and ineffective, by comparison. What I saw as Farage’s rudeness would be seen as honesty and forthright expression of the views of ‘ordinary hard working people’ by those who wanted wanted to “blame the immigrants” for all our woes, and as a far Right-Wing, anti-Europe international Free Market extension of the Conservative Party by those who are better informed and found it refreshing to see the Working Classes coming to their senses at last.

After the election, when Farage said that UKIP had done less well in London because people were younger, educated and cultured, it was clear that UKIP’s offering was indeed  aimed at the old, ignorant and uncouth and that he, as a  Londoner and ex-City trader had considered an explanation of UKIP’s position on Europe to be above them. Instead, he’d agreed that it was obvious we were better off before we joined Europe (irrelevant), supped beer in pubs and been dismissive of the Con-Dem Eton old-boys club that had let them down. I thought he’d betrayed that he was only a temporary traitor to The Establishment, when he appeared in the floods donning a wax jacket and green wellies from the high seat of his Land Rover but the euphoria of having someone new in the game who was talking such obvious sense provided sufficiently rosy goggles to obscure that. Maybe that ‘country weekend’ uniform was a nod to the crusty majors not to take anything he said for the benefit of the oiks too seriously.

Like most people, I suspect, I voted against parties rather than for one but the party I was most against was UKIP. My vote was designed to hurt them because I thought they were dangerous. I failed and I was  disappointed in many of the people I share a country with and the media for failing to allow us to make an informed decision .

The only part of the UKIP offering I might have supported was if they could have explained why we should leave Europe but they didn’t bother trying. Why give people facts that might be disproved when you can rely on prejudice? What I didn’t realise is that the media also gave a false impression of UKIP and my decision was based on some significantly misleading information  but more on that next time.