Thursday, 11 February 2010

European Coalescence

Europe is a contentious issue in Britain. In the papers it is seldom reported, unless there is a negative or euro-sceptical angle to be made – who knows who the Danish premiere is, or which party leads France? You won’t find the answer in the Sun or Mail - But we are all told Europe is something to be feared, if we were to discern Britain’s geographical position from the media, we would have to conclude we were anchored somewhere off the coast of Maine; not twenty miles away from France.

There seems to be a contradiction in the euro-sceptical argument. They are opposed to closer integration between the UK and our European neighbours, for they argue that it is a threat to British sovereignty; yet these are the same people who clamour for Britain to take the lead in foreign affairs, to exert ‘influence’ with an expectation of a seat at ‘The Big Table’. The fact that the public still seem to expect the UK to have this role is baffling. The Empire ended nearly seventy years ago now, and had been in sharp decline in the thirty years preceding that. Our global position has been maintained since the Second World War, primarily by developing an independent nuclear weapons program in the Fifties, the reason why we are part of the UN Security Council and secondly that the world was divided between just two superpowers after the war which meant that there was space at ‘The Big Table’ and as America’s most sycophantic ally, we were humoured. To quote Bob Dylan however, “the times they are a changing”.

There is a new world order slowly emerging as this century takes shape, with new superpowers consisting of China, India and potentially Brazil; the US is by no means guaranteed to be in this club by the end of the century. States like Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are of little geo-political consequence, we are both small and insignificant despite what our pride would like us to believe. Barack Obama realises that the next century will be defined by pan-Pacific treaties; not North Atlantic ones. He wouldn’t meet the Europeans at Copenhagen; instead he bypassed us, forming a policy with India, China and South Africa. Europe is at a pivotal point in its ancient history, for the first time since the Dark Ages we could become a global back water; rather than making and defining history, we will instead become history.

There is a solution to this, a Federal Europe – euro-sceptics may now vent their spleens.

In order to explore this, we must first face a couple of home truths; firstly Britain is not and never again will be a superpower; secondly the ‘Special Relationship’ is only special to the British and politically expedient to certain US presidents; thirdly a state is only a matter of representation, not identity. The only way Europeans can influence this new order is if the British, French and Germans stop their teary eyed reminiscences for the Nineteenth century, grow up and face the Twenty-first century together. The tinkering at the edges of the EU needs to end, it must be reformed radically and fundamentally to achieve this; I realise this difficult to implement and unpalatable to conservatives and xenophobes alike, however the consequences of not doing this are enormous and should at least be discussed in an open manner within our societies.

I should point out that I am far from happy with how the EU is currently constituted. There are four positions now that can be viewed as the head; EU council president (Von Rumpoy); council president; the rotating residual president (currently Spain) and finally speaker of the European parliament. Insanity is sure to ensue. The commission must be abolished, to be replaced by a senate; the parliament must be given far greater power; the executive must be directly elected. There must be an end to the turf wars between Britain, France and Germany; the behind closed door decisions made in smoke filled rooms must be stopped. The EU has to be open, democratic and fully accountable to all Europeans. A federal law and judiciary must be established. This is all achievable, let’s build a new republic based on the highest ideals of democracy and fairness, and recognise that we have far more in common than we have differences. United we stand, divided we fall etc, etc.

Whenever I have challenged anyone of a euro-sceptical bent to be specific about their disdain for the EU, they will mutter darkly about the attack on the Pound, or bureaucrats imposing silly rules on the shape of fruit, or if they are older, about having to use the accursed metric system. Naturally these are all such tremendously important issues; however the more honest amongst them will tell you that ‘they aint going to be ruled by no Frogs or no Krauts’. So can this aspect of opposition ever be overcome? I believe it could be; if we look at US history then there are parallels with Europe today. The thirteen founding states were largely suspicious of one another and made sure they each retained a large degree of autonomy from the federal government. America seems to have muddled along quite successfully in the intervening two hundred and forty years. For this to happen though, political capital from our governments would have to be expended and the media would have to change its outlook in Britain; neither of which seems probable today.

What most people don’t seem to realise is that in Britain we are governed by self serving elites, it is unlikely that you will ever be in a position of power or influence unless you have very wealthy parents, went to a private school, and followed up with a stint at Ox-bridge. Nearly all government decisions are London centric and usually self serving, benefiting the elites who placed them in power in the first place. In fact, if we view many European countries, they look after their populations far better than we are treated here in Britain. This is the heart of anti-EU sentiment within the governing classes and the press barons; they don’t want Britain to be dissolved into a European union as they might lose their influence – no longer able to exert their God given right play with Albion as though it was their own private little toy.

It seems to me that we have three potential paths ahead of us. If we are determined that we should remain as a sovereign British state, so be it; however we must also accept the consequences of that. We will become a second world nation, another Sweden or Poland, which isn’t such a terrible thing. We will have to stop poking our nose into the affairs of the superpowers, accept our influence is marginal and roll with the punches that are thrown our way. Britain will, without a shadow of doubt, lose its place on the Security Council. India and Brazil have far more right to be there than the UK or France. We will have created the modern world, only to be drowned by its consequences. Another option is to effectively become the Fifty-first state, to leave the EU and like the weak child on the playground, clinging to the big boy’s coat tails hoping to absorb some of his power and respect. Or we can put aside our few petty differences, forge a United Europe, and set aside the xenophobic and self-interested to put forward a European voice on the world stage.

Let us at the very least have a robust, thorough and most importantly honest debate about Britain’s and Europe’s future.

In case you were wondering: France is ruled by the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, a centre right party and Denmark’s prime minister is Lars L√łkke Rasmussen from the Liberal party.

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