Thursday, 1 December 2016
We must have higher aspirations than the European Union
It matters to me that we leave the EU. From the beginning the concept was flawed. The modus operandi of the EU has been integration by stealth, progressing by deception, with each step designed to be irreversible.
It was always an inevitability that the people would wake up to what was being done and would set about reversing the irreversible and that is primarily why Brexit will come at such a grave cost. For whatever Brexit does cost in the end the blame lies with the likes of Gordon Brown who took us further in on a false pretext rather than us Brexiteers.
The only reason we have stayed in this long is because no government has been in any particular hurry to give us a real say in the matter. The main reason it doesn't work is because the nations of Europe are distinct entities each with their own history and unique cultures which have over time spawned their own national characters.
And while we can decry lazy stereotypes the sort that we might hear from the mouth of Jeremy Clarkson, in every caricature there is a certain elemental truth based on a historic defining event. France is one such distinctive culture where there is a delicious contrarianism and dare I say mischievousness that simply isn't compatible with the dry technocracy of the EU.
We Brits like to mock the French as garlic munching surrender monkeys but when it comes to defending their own interests, surrender is one of those tools. When your country is a transit route for just about every invading army, culturally you learn to go with the flow. But when it comes to standing up for their own rights and protecting their own trade interests, the French do it better than anyone. They are still quite adept at milking their former colonies and when it comes to blockading British goods, for any reason, the French have a particular expertise. In France they have made a virtue of protest. You have to admire that.
Brits however are a different breed. We like our pettifogging by-laws and regulations and if we sign an agreement we stick to it. That is what has made us one of the most enthusiastic EU members. We moan about EU bureaucracy but that much is very much a British cultural export and half of the EU standards started life as British standards. Former co-editor of EUreferendum.com, Helen Szamuely, used to remark that if the EU ever collapse, the UK would be the last nation to be obeying EU laws.
And this I can see in the company where I presently work. Currently I work for an engineering firm concerned with the UK nuclear industry. It is a UK firm recently acquired by the French for the purposes of winning UK nuclear engineering contracts. It is a model EU company. It recruits internationally and sends people abroad as well as bringing people to the UK. It wouldn't function without the open market for public procurement contracts. It is this system that makes the UK the favoured destination for direct foreign investment.
Straight off the bat you might think that is a good thing but the reason the investment comes here is that Britain plays by the rules and properly publishes upcoming tenders. Everything from the national grid to Macclesfield Council. And though that notionally means we can choose the cheapest bidders from the entire European market, what it generally means is that we get fleeced later down the line. That much is our own fault, but the main problem is that French and German governments, local and national, do not open their markets to the EU tendering system. It is an asymmetrical relationship. They behave differently and we get mugged.
We hear a lot of complaining about EU regulation, but technical regulations aren't really the issue. One of the reasons that my employer is apparently not all that concerned by Brexit is that the regulation the nuclear industry follows is largely law that insists our power stations are built to particular sets of standards which, if the EU did not insist on, the insurance companies would. It's the law designed to create a single European marketplace that really interfere and tread on national sovereignty in unacceptable ways. While I am generally averse to protectionism, what matters is that we retain some choice in the matter.
You might then ask why I advocate the EEA when all this single market law would still apply. For starters we would have more of a veto than we have now, but that's besides the point. I never said the single market EEA solution was optimal. It is a viable transitional mechanism only and even though we don't have to like it, it does at least get us out in an orderly fashion.
Once we have left the EU, then we are in a position to progress further out. If we do it some other way, taking many years to negotiate a bespoke exit, then we are still in the EU and we increase the risk of the decision to leave being reversed. The pig headed insistence that we should be out all the way in a single bound no matter the damage is actually what increases the risk of us staying in the EU.
Having had so many identical conversations on this very matter I am now so very weary of Brexiteers that I am almost a Brexit agnostic. If Brexit is somehow reversed now, Brexiteers will have only themselves to blame for having campaigned without a plan and having made bogus promises to the electorate.
Having had such venomous opposition to our Brexit plan, I would almost relish seeing Brexiteers hopes and aspirations being trampled on. It turns out that one of the Brexiteers who complained bitterly so that Arron Banks would drop Flexcit is the expat kipper made famous today after complaining to John Lewis that their Christmas advert features 'too many black people'. I have to wonder if this cause I have invested so much of my life in is worth the trouble.
In the final analysis, I think, ghastly though Brexiteers are, we are better off out. All of Europe functions better if its peoples can design their lives and their economies according to their own distinct cultures, ambitions and ideals and it all falls apart when artificial systems are imposed upon them. For an entity designed to create unity in Europe, it has not looked more fragmented for some time. Europe needs to be a community of competing friends rather than labouring under the dead hand of a paranoid supranational entity.
The EU was supposed to be the solution to end all war in Europe. It thought that by removing democracy and erasing the nation state we would no longer have the means or the will to fight. The base emotion it is built on is paranoia and fear rather than hope. The EU is based on a mistrust of democracy and a fear of the people.
As a Europeans and humans we should have higher aspirations. We should aspire to more than peace through subjugation. Real progress is when we can say we have peace because we choose peace, not because we lack the means for war. Europe should be a community of equals, not regions subordinate to a faceless authority. We are better than that.