When will this whole Tory induced nightmare end? Certainly not at the end of the EU referendum. Whatever happens there the collapse of the Tory party will continue at a pace as Blue on Blue fighting eats out the decaying heart of the Conservative party. The only problem with this ghastly spectacle is that they are supposed to be the Government at the moment but clearly they care little for the country – perhaps the final wound to the notion of ‘One Nation Tory’. Long may it rest.
So what of the referendum campaign itself? Well I guess we are seeing the first truly truth free campaigning where both sides seem to make up nonsense and peddle it as fact whether its B&Q recession or £350 million a week to the EU. None are true yet this doesn’t seem to bother either side of the Tory party, sorry Vote Leave/Remain. It really is depressing.
I will be voting to remain, not out of any dewy eyed view of the European Union but rather that it is in Britain’s long term strategic and economic interest. Whether we like it or not other EU countries are our biggest trading partners so we have to be in circle of power ensuring that our interest are looked after. The nonsense that we would still have influence because of our relative economic power won’t wash. We do over 40% of our trade with other EU countries whereas the EU/UK trade represents 10% of total EU business. In short the temptation to blame everything on Britain leaving and therefore not help us when we need it will be great. Leave has no answer to this and I think have never really tried to find one.
On security the EU, through it’s convoluted creation can claim quite a bit of credit in keeping western Europeans from killing each other for over 70 years. This is the most peaceful period of European history since Charlemagne or Charles the Great, depending on which side of the Holy Roman Empire divide you stand. Many of these regular blood lettings have eventually drawn in England, then Britain with the last two, the two world wars of the twentieth century being the bloodiest in total numbers if not in percentage terms. This closure of the wound was best symbolised by the service at Reims where Charles De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer meet in 1962. It is very easy to pretend that this would have happened anyway and that the idea of European cooperation had little or no influence on this is just wrong. I am sitting here writing this in no small part because of that cooperation.
But how far should this cooperation go? This is the question that seems to be at the heart of the EU debate. Do we like to pretend that we are sovereign and that we rule our own destiny or do we accept the reality that we are small but not insignificant country and get stuck into making Europe work for everyone’s benefit. I guess by the way I have phrased that last sentence it is clear which way I think. We once had a great Empire and for a short while really did rule the waves. Those days are long behind us and for my son’s generation and younger has no real relevance but for many in this country they still do. I was brought up with maps that were still covered in Imperial red, all through the red now symbolised British commonwealth countries but the implication was the same. We were Great Britain. But we weren’t it was just that we refused to admit it. I guess many of my generational compatriots still don’t. The world has moved on and we now must cooperate and accept the compromises that comes with this new reality. It matters not that we can’t send another task force to the Falkland Isles – it does matter that we work with the French over joint security issues – their concerns are far more important than some imperial ghost wondering halls of power.
But the EU is far from perfect. It is saddled with a currency system that clearly is not working in any truthful sense for an awful lot of the population of Europe. It is totally incapable of responding to the crisis of human migration taking place at the moment. We can pretend that we can build walls and fences to keep the people out but if millions want to come in there is nothing, short of indiscriminate slaughter, that we can do about it. So if prevention isn’t working then we will have to look at new methods of dealing with a crisis that is only going to get worse. Yesterday, a timely example of the nonsense of how leaving the EU will strengthen our borders was acted out when the coastguard had to rescue 20 Albanians off of the coast of Kent. Without EU cooperation to deal with the problem as a whole such incidents are going to be more and more prevalent. Perhaps Nigel Farage or Boris Johnston would like to stand Cnute like, another example of fine European cooperation (ha ha), on the beach at Kent and tell them to go back. It won’t work, it hasn’t worked and the more we fool ourselves that, as a sovereign nation, can deal with this the more we are just asking for trouble.
So the European Union is far from perfect. So it is corrupt or perhaps grossly incompetent in many ways. But it is the best way so far devised for the nations of Europe to come together and try and sort out out collective problems. The solutions will mean compromise for all concerned but with such compromise you get a better result more times than not. The European Union institutions are remote and unaccountable and we need to deal with that which again will mean cooperating with each other to find a solution. But trying to pretend that we can find solutions on our own is a folly that we cannot afford. We have to work with our neighbours and if our neighbours want to do that through the European Union then we need to be there as well. For better and worse.