United Europe?! EU Must be joking!

lion

First off I do hope all readers had an eventful and enjoyable Christmas.. I know I certainly did! I have decided today to write about an issue close to my heart: Europe. As I write this I am sitting at our ‘2nd home’ on the outskirts of Amsterdam (so the location for a blog such as this couldn’t be better) Its bloody cold yet the sun is shining. The frost I feel accurately represents Britains relationship with Europe. Now the common catchphrases of the left include “All Tories are racist and hate Europe”, “Tories have never wanted to play a part in Europe” and “Tories hate Europeans”. None of which are true. Conservatives have always had what I would refer to as a respectful suspicion of closer European Integration that encroaches on the United Kingdom, but ultimately have never been opposed to the idea of a United Europe… for Europeans. Chruchill as far back as 1930 stated:

Every step that tends to make Europe more prosperous and more peaceful is conductive to British interests however we have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and assosciated, but not absorbed

I agree with him. Britain enjoys a unique geographical position which in turn gives us unique strengths. We lay between 3 interlocking circles – those of the Commonwealth, the Anglo-America relationship and Europe. Thus the argument that Britain needs to take a great role within Europe “or get left behind” I feel is hollow. Britain in truth will never get ‘left behind’. If we did pull out of the European Union then it would be of no great detriment to us. Do you really think the Europeans wouldn’t trade with us? Do you feel our diplomatic relations would deteriorate? Because I certainly don’t. Quite the contrary. It is very rare I say this… but I feel General Charles De Galle who so opposed Britains entry summed up why Britains role in Europe will never be constructive:

England is… insular, maritime, linked through its trade, markets and food supply to very diverse and often very different countries. Its activities are essentially industrial and commercial and only slightly agricultural. It has… very marked and origional customs and traditions. In short, the nature, structure and economic context of England differ profoundly from those of other states of the Continent… It is foreseeable that the cohesion of all its members, who would be very numerous and very diverse, would not hold for long and that in the end there would appear a colossal Atlantic Community under American dependence and leadership which would soon completely swallow up the European Community.

De Gaulle was half right: Britain is different. No matter how cooperative British politicians try to be toward Europe we find ourselves consistently at odds with them. Even when Blair became Prime Minister he strived for closer relations with Europe but as history has shown even with the best of intentions his policy fell by the waist side. There remain certain irreconcillable differences between the British and the Europeans and as far as I am concerned this latest treaty (Lisbon) is a clear indication as to why Britain has gone as far as it can go with the EU. The time will come in the non too distant future where we will have to decide whether we wish to remain a part of it any longer and the more time passes the more I realise my vote would be to pull out all together.

Britain has missed the Euro-train, which incidently is not a bad thing, as much of Europe is too closely integrated for Britain ever to play a major role anymore. Much of Europe, even Ireland, now have the Euro as their curency. We do not and thank god for that. I believe that Britains future in Europe will now be determined by our response to that skulking question: Should we join the Euro? If the answer is no as I suspect it will be then we have to seriously question our future in Europe. We will reject the Euro because Britain can and will prosper without the single currency and without being a part of the EU. The British business cycle is far more in harmony with the US than Europe. Unlike Europe Britain is a major oil producer. Much of our trade is with non European countries. However perhaps the biggest load of hogwash as to why we need a single currency is the argument that not being a part of one would inhibit free trade. NAFTA ring any bells?

NAFTA, comprising the US, Canada and Mexico, works perfectly well without a single currency and Britain can too. Further more, despite initial gloomy predictions, the City of London since the birth of the Euro, has thrived and dominated the Euro trade. This is mainly because of the business friendly tax and regulatory regime which exists in Britain despite, not because of, the EU. To add to this Britain is was and will remain the most popular destination in the EU for foreign investment with its share rising for 25% to 27%, almost double that of France and three times that of Germany. So what is the point of this you may ask? Well the point is the facts outweight the fiction. Britain can and will succeed with or without Europe. If Europe wants to become a superstate let them. But we don’t have to be a part of it.

To become a superstate each member will have to surrender what makes them distinct as a nation. To join such a body would be in my eyes tantamount to admitting defeat: They cannot compete effectively on their own and thus must ‘pal up’ in order to prosper. Britain can compete on her own and our independence will be of benefit not detriment to our relations with our European counterparts. Ultimately they are as sick as we are of Britain being the “European stumbling block’. We are an obstacle to them as much as they are an imposition to us. In this day an age war on the continent is all but unimaginable. Britains relations with Europe will not drastically sour and Britains economy would not suffer if we were to opt out of the EU altogether. I think its time we realised Britain and the EU is a match made in hell. We’re just too different. For both our sakes we need to make a clean break.

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9 thoughts on “United Europe?! EU Must be joking!

  1. As a student of history I can not agree with much of that assessment. The arguments in the second paragraph seem oddly enough dated, whilst saying that we are ‘too different’ from a continent we have shared so much of our history with (and not just the wars fought against various European powers) is more full of emotion than logic. Emotion which again springs from the twist the victors (we, the British) have put into our history books for several generations.

    Yet our relationship with Europe, on many levels, is more complex and much more profound. How different might it of been had we joined Germany instead of France and Russia in an alliance in the run up to WWI. Yet that was an option being seriously discussed at the time. Might NAFTA have come about had the US invaded Canada in the mid 1920’s? I doubt it, and yet again, that was seriously being discussed in the US at a time, mainly due to disagreements it was having with the UK.

    The fact that you mentioned NAFTA brings me swiftly to my next point: the potential loss of political influence. Canada and Mexico, whilst being part of NAFTA have little to no real weight when it comes to influencing US trade, economic or energy policies. The UK on the other hand has the advantage of being able to influence, to its advantage, as well as that of others, those same policies within the EU. We lose our ability to do that we are again on the outside of the European political system and with that might come the loss of ability to influence what goes on inside. If we lose influence then in time some of our trading advantages will eventually go as well; I for one would rather we maintained membership of this particular club. On a practical level they deliver benefits our Commonwealth circle does not live up to.

  2. That is all very well and good but let me ask you what influence we currently have within the EU? Its a nice notion, and in theory it should be a reality, but the fact remains britain is and will remain firmly on the periphery when it comes to the EU. We are outsiders looking in. Our history with europe has crossed many times but is never joined. It was never a serious consideration that we should ally with Hitler. As soon as he invaded Poland, Belgium, Netherlands etc that possiblity was long gone.

    And with respect Britain is not Mexico…. nor Canada. Our financial center, the City of London, alone is bigger than most countries economies! Incidently Londons economy is 180bn pounds bigger than: Austria, Beligum, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxemburg, Sweeden to name just a few. In short Britain would be the’America’of any NAFTA style arrangement.

    We do not need the EU. They are a cureaucratic bog imposing unneccessary legislation that only inhibts our growth. We should not be bound to it and I am confident that given 10 years we will no longer be part of this unsustainable ‘union’ which cannot seem to agree on anything.

  3. I’m well aware of the size and power of the City. It has overtaken Wall Street, it is something we should be proud of, and it is is obviously something which gives us more muscle than either Canada or Mexico could generate.

    I said World War One – an alliance with Germany was seriously on the cards for quite some time. Considering our unstable relations with France at the time, and our economic and cultural links to Germany (and the Netherlands) we were looking at that as the more natural option. Naturally no such alliance was considered for very long with an NSDAP led Germany.

    Like the immigration policies which helped lose us the last election I consider this type of mind set counterproductive, illogical, and of a bygone era. The world; its peoples, economies, communications, cultures and politicians are all far more interconnected and dependent on one another like never before. Never in our entire human history have we had this type of globalisation; it presents opportunities and dangers previous generations never envisaged, and in our local environment (the EU) the least we should do is engage constructively with the situation. The furthest we could go at present is to swap the Pound for the Euro; but I am not advocating that. I doubt such a move would be fiscally sound at the moment or any time in the foreseeable future.

  4. I must pull you up on one point: The immigration policies did not lose us the last election. This is a myth that has been circling for far too long. The problem was our image. Michael Howard was a core part of the Thatcher/Major ‘regime’ and thus it was impossible for him to stand on a platform for change. More than this it was impossible for him to connect with the public as he personally had an image problem and lacked the charisma of Blair. Similarly New Labour at this point were regarded as competent with the economy which after all is perhaps the single most important issue to the electorate. If we incorporated the same immigration policies in to our next manifesto I dont believe it would hinder our campaign at all.

    The British people have never been ‘pro-Europe’ indeed weve spent most of our history at war with them! We have certain irreconilable mindsets and traditions which we should not attempt to intertwine. The British people only wanted to join the EC in the 60s because the french told us we couldnt! The novelty has now worn off. The more treatys such as lisbon are imposed on us without public vote, the more real votes, like those of the Irish, are ignored, the more control Brussels attemts to exert over our national institutions the more British people are being pushed in to the Euro sceptic camp.

    Granted most people are reluctant to pull out all together because it seems a bit extreme however there is a clear majority of the public opposed to the Euro. Therefore as you accept that ‘the furthest we could go is to swap the pound for the euro’ something which I have already said would never pass a public vote… do you not therefore concede by your logic that we have gone as far as we can go with Europe? If as you say all we can do is swap the pound for the euro and we wont even do that… then what else can we do?! Is not remaining a member for a second longer nothing more than counter productive to the nations that DO want closer integration with Europe, that DO want a single currency and that DO agree with treatys such as Lisbon? Why should we continue to be their stumbling block? Why should we be the ‘black sheep’. Britain is atlanticised. It always will be. Our links are with America, our history is far more intertwined with the Americans than it could ever be with the Europeans. Our future lies with America far more than Europe.

  5. Like it or not the UK is part of the ‘Eurozone,’; we are a member of the EU and we are within and a part of that sphere of influence just as much as Europe is drawn towards our sphere of influence. The core of our economy – London, extending westwards towards Birmingham and angling north towards Manchester and Leeds – is merely an extension of that central swathe of Europe consisting of Paris, Brussels, the Rhine and northern Italy. It has been this way for centuries, since the late Roman Empire to be precise. Those in North America do not judge the UK to be an appendage of their sphere, like the Caribbean; we are not some sort of extra border.

    The North American themselves (I am speaking of the US, Canada, and Mexico – but for arguments sake let me stick to the US) are not a continent of Anglo-Saxons with entirely Anglo-Saxon agenda’s: they are of primarily European stock, a mix of all the continent has to offer (and the world at large), and therefore they do not think of the UK first and the EU separately. They look at the two almost together. This has been the case since the Marshall Plan.

    Pulling out of the EU would not have the same effect as when Jamaica pulled out of the Confederation of the West Indies; it will not all fall apart, for Europe or for the UK. However it may weaken the EU, and if the Eurozone is weakened, the UK will suffer as well. Integration and closer cooperation is going to be important for all regions of the world in coming decades. Regions which can not work well together, within their own internal group dynamics, will falter and fail. The very fact that Europe’s squabbles have gone from battlefields to board rooms and conference rooms is a wonderful step forward. Politicians have to put up all sorts of fronts, but in intelligence, military and economic spheres the nations of Europe prosper and are more secure working together rather than fighting one another; and in the history of the British Isles whenever Europe falls into turmoil – ask yourself, how many times have we been able to stay out of the conflict?

    Now I waded into politics (this is the shallow end of the pool) in order to learn more about it, in order to test what it is I feel about different matters, as well as the opinions of others within a party I feel myself most closely aligned too. I get the impression that on Europe my views differ sharply from yours, and probably many other members of the party as well. However I will concede that I require more time to study the various pro’s and cons of EU membership before writing anything more conclusive on the subject. This is simply what my instincts are telling me: that integration and cooperation are more logical, more sensible, and preferable for the continent of Europe (and the British Isles, which is geographically simply an extension of that continental landmass) after centuries of conflict. Peace came when Europe’s secular and clerical leaders sat around and talked about things. That is what our leaders are doing. Our continent is at peace, better able to face the threats of a world it helped create.

  6. I reiterate: a stable successful Europe is in the British interest. What is not in the British, or indeed anyone elses, interest is for us to pretend otherwise that the powers that be in Brussels have one goal in mind: a European Superstate whereby each sovereign member state loses crucial areas of political and social control

    Incidently I am not suggesting for a second that Britain should be seen as the ’51st state of America’ or anything of the sort. I am merely suggesting that politically, socially and culturally we have FAR more in common with our American counterparts. As Thatcher once said ‘We share so many of the same goals and the determination to achieve them’. Our histories, customs and traditions are intertwined far more than with the Europeans. You only have to look in to our recent past to see that Britain and America are far more aligned ideologically than Britain and Europe or America and Europe could ever hope to be.

    Yes Britain must always play a part in Europe. I am all for that. However the direction that the EU is taking is toward federalism and a European superstate. Every year some other piece of tripe legislation (such as Lisbon) threatens to infringe the liberty and sovereignity of the UK. Closer miliatry, economic and diplomatic links is one thing… but why does that have to come at the expense of our sovereignty? Why do we have to cede control over areas of policy which frankly do not concern Europe? Why should our democratically elected parliament play second fiddle to Brussels? Parliament should ALWAYS be sovereign.

    So my position is simple: so long as the EU encoraches or threatens to encroach on our national sovereignty, so long as they continue this long march to federalism, so long as they continue to willfully dismiss legitimate votes that go against their own position then I believe our only choice is to pull out altogether. Having said this if the EU returns to what it was always meant to be: a trading market which encourages closer economic and diplomatic ties then I am all for remaining a part of it. As it stands it promotes nothing other than federalism. So personally I wouldnt be bothered if we pulled out altogether.

  7. Dan, I really enjoy your eurosceptic blogs as they are the source of much amusement… The EU institutions really aren’t seeking to create an EU superstate and killing off the nation-state… Look at any academic literature on the EU and this will become clear. And please do enlighten me how the Lisbon treaty would have infringed upon our liberty and the UK’s sovereignty?

  8. haha Fabian! I wondered how long it’d take you to respond to this :P Well forgive me but the attitude of some European leaders is giving me great cause for concern. Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty did it not? We were promised a referendum and have been denied it have we not?

    Along with many of my fellow British, Irish & European counterparts, I was offended to hear Sarkozy ( a man whom I have enormous political respect for) say that Ireland would have to vote again. Like Gordon Brown, Sarkozy himself has denied the people of France a vote on the Lisbon Treaty saying and I quote “if there was a referendum in France, there would be no treaty” For Sarkozy to tell Ireland to vote again is a shocking indictment of the anti-democratic attitude of some European leaders.

    This is where my belief that European leaders have no respect for the nation state emmerges from. They are treating us like naughty children. Democracy it seems is too important for ‘the little people’. Until the people are given a fair voice I will never accept nor support the legitimacy of the EU and its barren pieces of literature which arent worth the paper they are written on, as they dont have the approval of the people.

  9. Approaching midday UK time as I write this (its in fact 4am in a freezing cold Alberta) on the first day of a new year, I am not going to deal in rhetoric in this post – but simply, for the sake of my own restless mind I am going to throw out on this blogsite a little historical tale (one of many) demonstrating Britain’s many links with Europe.

    And this is one of many. But since I’ve read Braudel, since I am studying this period for my BA, since I studied it during my A levels, and since many of you are familiar with it: The Reformation. Origin? European surely. It swept forth from Germany, through the Netherlands, and into the UK in the early 1500’s, co-insiding usefully with Henry VIII’s troubled marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The early progenators to this schisimist way of moving were religious heretics based in the south east, London, and Anglia. The books they read originated from the Continent. The money they used to fund their underground religious groups came, more often than not, from wealthy patrons and traders who mainly traded with (especially in the case of Anglia, with its wool trade with the Netherlands) Europe. Luther of course was German. Henry VIII did earn the title Defender of the Faith (a title the monarchy still holds – inscribed ‘FD’ on Pound coins) for his attacks against Luther and his ilk, but soon got turned around on the pragmatic usefulness of breaking with the Holy Catholic Church. Although he remained a devout Catholic the rest of his life; despite his prosecution of those who tried to hard to defend the old church, especially rebels in the north, who were probably also quite upset at all their monasteries being liquidated for the good of a very empty Treasury.

    The movement was European wide in nature. The threat to the Monarchy in the UK wasn’t merely from Barons with dynastic ambitions (remember, his father only came to power after a long and fearful struggle generated by similar fighting for power) but from very strong European monarchies who shared territorial ambitions. Hence Henry’s urgent need to attain a son and heir. The combination of the two – a European religious / intellectual movement away from Catholicism (and money from a complex pan-continental trading and finance system which encompassed [and still does encompass] London and the South of England) – and the national dynastic challenges of the Tudors – created the circumstances under which the Church of England was born. Something we think of as a quintessential English institution.

    Like many other times in our Islands history, something we come to think of as being ‘British’ has strong European origins. We can chose how we relate to the continent we share so much of our history with in the here and now, but the past is already in the history books, and much of our history has a distinctly European flavour.

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