Saturday, 25 August 2018

I'm just not a European

Many times have I been described as a "europhobe". Truth be known I am more euro-indifferent. I'm not tuned into European politics, nor European culture especially. I'm an americanophile. I love its history, culture and its films. I feel a kinship with America that I simply don't feel for Europe. I could feel at home there. If I were to emigrate it would be to somewhere on the East coast. New York makes me feel alive in ways London does not.

Europe on the other hand doesn't entice me at all. I don't see how I could fully participate in the economic and social life of a European country without learning the language and I wouldn't want to simply exist as a disconnected resident. And this is the problem I have with freedom of movement. We call it EU citizenship but it seems to be missing the citizenship. A report in the Telegraph says it all in one short paragraph.
The appeal of Britain could easily be dented by working in a Sports Direct warehouse in Nottingham. Not for Raluca Neag, a 30-year-old Romanian migrant. "I got paid the minimum wage, but it helped me to save enough to buy a house in Romania after two years of hard work in the UK,” she says. “It has been tough, but it paid off because myself and my husband have a lovely little home now that we bought with the money outright". 
Here I ask myself if this is a reciprocal opportunity. Where can Brits go to earn enough to make a housing deposit for a home in the UK? Romania does not come top of my list of places where a man might make a fortune unless you're into organised crime. As Paul Embrey notes, the story illustrates perfectly how open borders allows business to exploit cheap labour and force down wage rates by shunting workers from low to high-wage economies.

More crucially, though, this leads to the UK being the business park of Europe where individuals come not to be part of the economic and social life of the country, rather for financial opportunities. That's not citizenship. And one might very well ask how someone affords to save for a house while working minimum wage in the UK. All the evidence points to EU workers being able to unfairly, often illegally, cut down on cost of living overheads. Meanwhile on Twitter we see precisely what europhiles mean when they say they are "European citizens"...

Now for me, citizenship of a place means pitching in come what may. Citizenship is a shared experience. Not so for the citizens of nowhere who up sticks and swan off when the going gets tough. A reply to the above tweet was illuminating.
Personally I would never abandon my country for any reason, the worse the country gets the more I will fight for it, I would never run off at the slightest bit of trouble as I am not a coward and will not teach my children to be either.
I concur. This country is my home and I too will fight for its future. That is citizenship. Frankly, if our "EU Citizen" above feels that way then I encourage him/her to go along with anyone who thinks like them. Ridding the UK of sanctimonious turds who think so little of us might well be the first tangible benefit of Brexit. Similarly I'm not especially sympathetic to those whose citizenship is threatened. If you've been here for twenty years you could have applied for a British passport at any time.

Ending freedom of movement is not a primary motivator for me, and I would hope to see a liberal post-Brexit arrangement, but the remainers who declare their intention to quit the UK demonstrate exactly the phenomenon this blog explores in how the EU weakens national bonds. It undermines the very notion of citizenship. 

Britain has undergone a transformation over the last two decades. It's a faster pace of life with much less certainty and security and thanks to freedom of movement our communities are more transient and there are obvious pressures on housing. Much of the dynamism in our economy is built on a foundation of low wage exploitation and what we do not pay for convenient consumables we end up paying in other ways. The economic arguments made by remainers are all in defence of the status quo but one can very easily see why those on the breadline feel they have little to lose by voting to leave. 

Ultimately freedom of movement was one of the many propaganda devices of the EU to promote a sense of "europeanness" but I'm afraid it just didn't work on me. The promise of shorter queues at the airport is not grounds enough to give up control over our borders and workplace rights. I do not feel the need to be in a political union to appreciate European countries or indeed their peoples. I'm even glad some of them choose to make a life here. There is no reason why we cannot enjoy the best of relations with Europe without being a subordinate of a supreme government. 

Our "EU citizen" above says "My future is in the civilised EU not a small insignificant racist country like the EU". I wish them well, but it it rather looks to me like the resurgence of fascism is more of a serious threat in Hungary, Italy, Austria and Poland than the little old UK. Britain remains one of the most tolerant countries in Europe and one that will still be an attractive destination for much of the world after Brexit. One can imagine it only becoming even more tolerant with fewer self-important europhile bigots to contend with.  

No comments:

Post a Comment