Saturday, 12 March 2016

Is Divorce From Europe A Desirable Option?

Dear Reader,

If we could go back a few years - well, I am talking of more than a thousand years (!) - we would find that Britain was made up of various kingdoms, and even of peoples from quite different origins.

Now - whether it was entirely through the efforts of Alfred the Great is open to conjecture - the notion and desire was that the land should be unified. To begin with it was merely the land of the Angles (England) that became unified (after some struggle) so that when William the Conqueror took over he found a country that was well-established as a single kingdom.

Gradually, other parts of what we know as the UK became annexed - firstly Wales and then (much later through royal succession) Scotland.

For some three hundred years there was more-or-less a concensus that the union worked well. And then a loud portion of the Scots decided that they'd had enough of being ruled from Westminster and thought that independence was a good idea, motivated largely by the thought of the oil and gas revenues from the North Sea. Well that particular referendum went against the tide, and it is probably just as well for Scotland as their gas and oil revenues are now hugely in decline. It's also amusing that they wanted freedom from Westminster but thought that they continuing membership of Europe - and hence being partly ruled from Brussels - was a good idea. I have made those two points to perhaps illustrate how volatile and fickle this whole question of "breakaway" can be.

Which brings us on to the question of the UK and Europe and the forthcoming referendum (in June).

What is readily apparent is that the Brexit group now base their arguments virtually entirely on trade issues. But if (for one moment) we were to treat trade as the single issue then there's not much that can be proven from either side. Some say let's go back to being more tied in with the Commonwealth countries (mainly Canada, Australia and New Zealand), but that is a situation we left 40 years ago. Since then the Commonwealth countries have gone their own way, and whilst they would not disregard stronger ties with the UK, it would not be the same as it was more than 40 years ago. The UK partly ditched them then and they had to sort out their own futures in order to survive; they don't have anything to thank us for.

Whilst I am not hand-in-glove with Cameron on Europe, I do see his point that leaving Europe from a trading point of view would create a good deal of turbulence, and, indeed, we probably have had enough financial shocks put upon us over the last eight years without wanting more. Someone - probably the less well-off - would suffer.

That there are problems with Europe is a truism. But - as with any family problem - surely it is better to sort out the issues from within and not to run away? And as for the migration issues, I do not see that leaving the EC will make that issue go away, even though some say we could better control our own borders. Well, as to that I say we have some natural control over that anyway since we're an island. That fact kept Napoleon and Hitler out and that argument (in part at least) holds good, too, for migration control. Also I am not certain that if we left the EC our security services would be so easily able to work with their European counterparts.

But there is one major issue that the Brexit camp do not talk about much. And that is simply the benefit of unification with our immediate neighbours. 

The European Common Market (as it once was) was established based on a primary principle that it would be a way of bringing nations together that had previously been torn in two World Wars. In fact - despite what some would say - the 1975 referendum information pack stated that our vote 'for' would recognise that closer European integration was implied in a 'remain within' vote.

Union, to me, makes more sense than disunity. And it is on that large issue that my vote will be decided. Everything else pales away into secondary issues as far as I am concerned, and so long as I come to be satisfied that there remains a way forward for the EC (even with some sticky issues remaining), then it is clear that my vote will be for continued unity. If they fail to convince me of that future then - and only then - will I think and vote differently.