Lucky to be Brits?

Yes, the whole Brexit thing has become very messy. And I am not going to solve it through this column – even if I knew the right answer. What will be, will be. But I am intrigued to see what happens in a genuine democracy. I used to think that democracy was an ideal, and, from most of my post war life, it has worked well. Both Labour and Conservatives have been in power and our political changes have been rather modifications than revolutionary change. We don’t, on the whole, go in for fighting on the streets. But now we have learned that democracy itself can also get us into trouble.

Mind you, none of it should ever have started – if I blame anyone it would be Cameron for bringing it about in the first place. And the original set up was a serious mistake: such a major change in our affairs should have required at least a 60 per cent vote. As it was, of course, the votes were guesswork: reliable information was simply not available. I only made my decision on the voting day itself – and could easily have done so by flipping a coin.

I will say, in passing, that I rather admire Theresa May for her constancy. That takes character. If only she hadn’t called that General Election! Or proposed the unfortunate ‘dementia tax’. Whoever originally coined that phrase changed the future. The moment I heard the phrase quoted on the wireless I knew it was fateful. The right two words can change everything.

If I were asked why I voted for Brexit, I would say: Industrial Revolution. It was because Britain at that time really got cracking on this new idea – notwithstanding the opposition which, in this case, could be violent. I do believe this country has a cultural talent for capitalising on new ideas. Our constructive responses led us to the British Empire.

So I continue to believe that we still have the capacity to go it alone, and to do so very effectively. We can still be an entrepreneurial country, and, once again, show Europe how it can be done. That won’t be short term – the next ten years will be tough and demanding, but I do believe that in the long run we will be successful. So I voted, not for my generation but for my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. They are lucky to be Brits.

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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47 Responses to Lucky to be Brits?

  1. Alasdair says:

    I understand that people voted for Brexit for genuine reasons, all-be-they emotional rather than practical in almost all cases. The effect of Brexit has already been very difficult for me.
    My son-in-law has relocated his industrial wholesale business from Aberdeen to Houston Texas under the advice of his business managers. So my daughter and 3 grandchildren live there and are being brought up as Americans.
    My older son is a department manager in a large Netherlands corporation in Rotterdam. He and his girlfriend (a Syrian refugee) are applying for NL nationality.
    My wife has taken Italian joint nationality to facilitate the various activities she carries out over there.
    I do work in EU countries which will depend, in the future, upon my qualification being fully interchangeable with the French, Italian and Austrian equivalents. This levelling of the qualification playingfield is an EU priority which will presumably now cease.
    These are just a few of the effects of Brexit chaos and uncertainty on ordinary people.
    Unfortunately the attitude of most Scots is that, once again, they are being pulled hither and thither by the less well educated southern hordes!

  2. FZM says:

    I understand that people voted for Brexit for genuine reasons, all-be-they emotional rather than practical in almost all cases.

    This might depend what a person’s circumstances are. For example, If you are an indigenous British person who is in a unskilled or low/semi-skilled occupation there will be some economic self interest behind ending freedom of movement. Currently there is a very large pool of motivated, mobile labour available for these kinds of jobs, so the salaries show little movement. Also large numbers of people moving to live in certain areas in a relatively short space of time produces pressure on public services and infrastructure that isn’t being covered by increased government investment so people who use these services a lot may have wanted to see freedom of movement curtailed for this reason.

    I would personally benefit from Britain remaining in the EU but at the time of the referendum I couldn’t bring myself to vote remain. This is mainly because It felt like it would have been writing a blank cheque for continuing the transfer of powers to EU institutions for the next 40 years and endorsement of the ever deeper, ever closer union idea aimed at creating a European federal state. Another decade or two and I doubt that this process would be reversible (except through some kind of social and economic catastrophe of the kind that hit the Soviet Union in 1992). I have doubts that such a state could really be democratic and that it wouldn’t just lead to the disenfranchisement of about 80% of the population, this is particularly aggravated in the case of the UK because of our electoral system.

    This levelling of the qualification playingfield is an EU priority which will presumably now cease.

    It may be the case, on the other hand I know that Belarusian universities are current involved in completely changing the structure of their degree courses to be in line with the Bologna criteria so that they will be recognised in the rest of Europe. And Belarus is in a political union with Russia rather than the EU. If there is a strong economic reason for something it may happen anyway.

  3. Alasdair says:

    For some time I have been an admirer of Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and Borders and Secretary of State for International Development.
    He is now a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party and therefore possibly our next PM.
    His performance on the BBC Questiontime programme last night was impressive. His plan to reunite his party and then the nation was radical. His was the first non-confrontational and even moderately intelligent offering I have heard since the whole sorry Brexit story began in 2016.
    Stewart’s impressive life story and his political views are underscored by his Christian faith.

  4. milliganp says:

    Quentin, your belief that Britain somehow has a surfeit of entrepreneurial talent different in quality and quantity to the rest of Europe is a form of intellectual bucolic “a land of green and pleasant factories”.
    Britain’s success in the 19th and early 20th Centuries was largely down to empire, billions of people to whom we could flog our cotton, cutlery and china. The empire strategies of Germany, France and Belgium in Africa and SE Asia were merely those countries trying to play catch up so they had customers for their industrial output.
    In the early 21st Century Britain dominates in Banking and Finance, we specialise in helping the world’s top 1% increase their wealth while avoiding tax.
    I worked in the technology sector and every major success in this area has either been sold off to multinational giants or off-shored (Dyson has moved to Singapore, ARM holdings is part of Softbank in Japan).
    The final thing Britain was good at was trading but we are deliberately separating ourselves from our largest trading partner. Sadly the vision you propose is from the past not the future.

  5. Nektarios says:

    Since the EU elections, it has become clear, that the right and the left do not want to leave the EU, but they do want the EU to be reformed where nation states will have a greater say.
    It all depends on the future commissioners who will be elected. So far I only heard one with the right approach to occupy as President of the EU.

    I too watched Question Time last night and Rory Stewart MP, who is also a Cabinet Minister, came across fairly well but was short on how he would practically unite the country. The only word he had to say on Farage and the Brexit Party it would lead to further delays in the EU and UK.
    As usual, the antenna of the politicians on QT is looking towards the next General Election as their arguments demonstrated.

    The trouble with the EU is the sheer size of it, which is an unelected centralized body, has lost touch with the member states within the EU and many within the EU are not happy and economically suffering hardship with EU technocrats ruling their affairs.
    With the Brexit Party within the EU being the largest Party, we do not quite know what the overall effect will be. If they start getting candidates for every seat in the UK, it could shake up the British Parliament and the political narrative and practice in the UK.

    • Alasdair says:

      Nektarios’ you said “Rory Stewart MP, was short on how he would practically unite the country” I don’t agree. I clearly heard him outline a bold plan to chair a forum on Brexit consisting of all competent people including both arch-remainers and no-dealers as well as the “radical-moderates”. This is intended to eliminate further delay which would result from factional politicking.
      You used the phrase “unelected centralized body” in relation to the EU. I’ve heard this used over and over again by people as a kind of mantra. Am I mistaken? Have we not just voted for our new Euro MPs? Did you go along and vote? If not then you really must stop casting this aspersion.

      • FZM says:

        You used the phrase “unelected centralized body” in relation to the EU. I’ve heard this used over and over again by people as a kind of mantra. Am I mistaken? Have we not just voted for our new Euro MPs? Did you go along and vote? If not then you really must stop casting this aspersion.

        The EU Parliament isn’t an elected legislative body in the ordinary sense though, it would be as misleading to pretend that it is as to say that there are no elections in the EU.

        Rather than an unelected centralized body it might be more accurate to say that the EU is a sort of indirectly elected centralized body in which there are no clear lines of democratic accountability and low levels of transparency around decision making.

        If you are cynical the EU Parliament can be seen as a type of ‘political technology’ which is used to obscure where power and the responsibility for decision making actually lies (i.e. with the Council of Ministers and the Commission).

      • Nektarios says:

        Alasdair

        What Rory Stewart MP gave was a wish list, not a bad one, if he was elected as the future PM.

        The unelected centralized body of the EU does not refer to MEPs but the Commissioners and President of the EU who decide what will be debated and if they don’t like it will send it back to the MEPs to think again and agree, Ireland is a case in point. It is not casting aspersions at all, but in fact, it is really a gravy train. The finance minister of the EU, for example, earns more than the President of the USA.

      • Nektarios says:

        Alasdair

        I forgot to mention in my posting below, I did vote for our MEP in the European Elections.

      • Alan says:

        Alasdair,

        I watched this episode of Question Time after reading your post. I fail to see what Rory Stewart expects to gain from his idea. The proposal is a “citizen’s assembly” who are offered all the information, facts, expertise and details available about the subject?

        They reach some conclusion. Such an independent group would be free of the political influence that may be stalling the decision making process, but who would be swayed by its findings? Rory Stewart was asked specifically if he would accept what they proposed should they recommend a second referendum. His answer was something to the effect of “I don’t think that would happen”. He didn’t seem to want to contemplate such a group reaching a conclusion he wouldn’t welcome. Should we expect the rest of the government, the other political parties, the economic experts, the population of the UK or anyone else to do so?

  6. Alasdair says:

    To the extent that you did indeed vote in the EU parliamentary elections, I apologise.
    When we in the UK elect the members of our upper house, vote directly for our prime minister (rather than have a PM who is appointed by a vote within their own party) and have referenda based upon quality truthful information – then I will listen to criticisms of the EU institutions – but not before.

    • Nektarios says:

      Alasdair
      We have Parliamentary governance in this country, unlike the EU.
      There is plenty to criticise the EU for. You must realise the EU was thought up by the Nazis between 1938-1942. It was to set in place to have order over all the European countries they had beaten during the war. They lost the war. Perhaps you are telling me they won the peace?
      Germany was not allowed to raise an army after the war, but it seems they are via the EU trying to raise an army now, as the EU over the next decade or so is set to implode.

      The present economic trade deficit is something like 78-40 that is we take 78% of their goods to 40% of our goods by the EU.
      As for a free trade area, the EU is anything but a free trade area. We pour billions into it for little benefit. Not to mention the decimation of our fish in our waters; unbalanced policy on agriculture, it is not really sustainable as the EU makes ridiculous claims on it.

      As for the Irish backstop fiasco, a complete red herring, Ireland does not want it or us and is unnecessary as checks are made at the destination of the goods.

      Some may not like Brexit, but the EU has been wanting to expand its little Empire as it only represents 7% of global trade and bars us from free trading with other countries forming 93%. The EU empire is crumbling.
      There are several other areas we could go into, but your bias in favour of all that the EU is, does and represents you will not in Britains interests brook criticism of the EU but stay in the sinking ship of the EU. Consider!

      • Alasdair says:

        “You must realise the EU was thought up by the Nazis between 1938-1942”. It might be more correct to say it was thought up by the Romans a lot earlier.
        Motorways and free school meals for the disadvantaged were also thought up by the Nazis, so should we also be closing these down?
        I presume you will have no issue with the lowering of food safety standards which will inevitably result from leaving the EU. Chemically-washed chicken and meat containing antibiotics and growth hormone to name but a few issues.

  7. John Nolan says:

    Alasdair

    The 1911 Parliament Act did indeed envisage an elected upper house; the curb on the powers of the then hereditary HofL was seen as an interim measure. Tony Blair’s reform was botched; an example of tinkering with the constitution without having a clear plan.

    The Prime Minister is head of the executive and needs to command a majority in the HofC. A directly elected PM would not necessarily do so. The Labour Party might have a Commons majority following a General Election but its leader may not be popular in the country at large who would probably vote for Boris Johnson rather than Jeremy Corbyn. So what happens then?

    What you are saying is that you will only listen to criticisms of EU institutions when the British constitution is scrapped in favour of a presidential system which in the case of the USA doesn’t necessarily work any better. It’s hardly a sane prospectus.

    Referendums (that is the correct plural, since ‘referenda’ implies that there is more than one question to be referred) are usually used to gain a popular mandate for an existing political situation. You don’t hold one if you think the result may be in doubt. Hitler was happy to allow a plebiscite in the Saarland in 1934 but invaded Austria in 1938 to prevent a referendum on the Anschluss which could easily have gone against him.

    That is why Cameron came badly unstuck in 2016.

    • Alasdair says:

      “What you are saying is that you will only listen to criticisms of EU institutions when the British constitution is scrapped in favour of a presidential system which in the case of the USA doesn’t necessarily work any better. It’s hardly a sane prospectus”.
      No John, I’m not saying that – but you’re right to make the point. In fact I actually am listening to the criticisms of the EU – insofar as the criticisms are fair – which knee jerk reaction type criticisms are not. Usually one has to have one’s own house in order before heaping criticism on others. And, no, I’m not a republican (small r).

  8. John Candido says:

    Apologies for daring to comment about Brexit to the citizens of Great Brittain in SecondSight as the very last thing that any person would like to read is smarmy advice from an outsider!

    With all of this in mind, these are the thoughts of an Australian.

    As not an economist and without experiencing any of the frustrations of living in the European Union, if the UK were to leave the EU, this would be a catalyst for economic difficulty for both the UK and the EU.

    It would be far preferable to stay in Europe despite whatever negativities the citizens of the UK will come across by remaining in the EU.

    Sir Winston Churchill alluded to the future by perceiving a need for Europe to unite in some form of an economic entity that was beneficial to all, and a means of combatting the ultranationalism that led to two World Wars.

    Any person will genuinely find what Alasdair has experienced as outlined in his first post, utterly repugnant.

  9. FZM says:

    Sir Winston Churchill alluded to the future by perceiving a need for Europe to unite in some form of an economic entity that was beneficial to all, and a means of combatting the ultranationalism that led to two World Wars.

    The origins of both of these wars lay in variants of European imperialism and rivalry between large multi-national political entities in East- Central Europe. Putting Poland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary back into a major alliance in a state of latent tension/competition with Russia and Russian speaking peoples may or may not be beneficial for long term peace.

    And there is at least one current armed conflict in Europe in which there is some EU involvement on the side of one group of ultra-nationalists.

    Any person will genuinely find what Alasdair has experienced as outlined in his first post, utterly repugnant.

    Everyone who works or lives in a non-EU country has to experience things like this. In fact in certain cases the expansion plans of the EU itself has caused this kind of thing (if not outright warfare, as mentioned above).

  10. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    When we joined the then EEC in 1973 Australians were somewhat miffed in that Europeans were given priority over Commonwealth citizens.

    The world has changed dramatically since then, and so has the EU which now numbers 28 states of very diverse backgrounds. Tying oneself even closer to what is increasingly looking like a failed project now makes neither strategic nor economic sense.

    When Britain voted Brexit three years ago Australia and Canada, better allies in the 20th century than most European countries, were the first to seek trade deals. The strategic outlook is now markedly different with the end of the Cold War and the emergence of China as a regional power which is flexing its muscles, economically and militarily.

    Canada and Australia have announced their intentions of buying substantial numbers of the new type 25 frigate or ‘global combat ship’, which is of course interoperable with similar RN units. With two new supercarriers and overseas bases in Bahrain (and possibly Singapore) the UK is once again looking ‘east of Suez’ and the Americans, who can’t be everywhere, have welcomed this.

  11. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    I see we agree with what you posted to JC above especially, “When we joined the then EEC in 1973 Australians were somewhat miffed in that Europeans were given priority over Commonwealth citizens.

    The world has changed dramatically since then, and so has the EU which now numbers 28 states of very diverse backgrounds. Tying oneself even closer to what is increasingly looking like a failed project now makes neither strategic nor economic sense.”

    Quentin will be pleased on this we agree.

  12. John Candido says:

    What is not understand is why the European Union is a failed project.

    Why do people in the UK believe that the EU is a failed project?

    How has the EU been a failure when someone of the stature of Sir Winston Churchill predicted and backed the idea?

    To also underline Churchill’s point, since the end of World War II, in 1945, Europe has not had a single war between nation-states, which is 74 years.

    Consequently, not a single soul was lost to war over the last 74 years, partly as a result of the formation and culture of the European Union and the establishment and work of the United Nations and its Security Council!

  13. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    Winston Churchill was not suggesting Britain joined a European union; he thought imperially, which was partly nostalgic and, as things have turned out, in a sense prophetic.

    In the 1990s there was a bloody war in south-east Europe as a result of the break-up of Yugoslavia which was never a viable nation-state in the first place. The EU could only look on impotently, the UN intervention failed dismally, and it was left to NATO to sort out the mess.

    Multi-national empires always fall in the end. The very size and diversity of the EU would indicate that its demise will be sooner rather than later. When it does collapse, I would rather be on the outside than the inside.

    • Alasdair says:

      “Multi-national empires always fall in the end” Oh dear, we’re on a sticky wicket here in the United Kingdom then.

    • John Candido says:

      The war in Yugoslavia was a civil war.

      Other examples of civil wars or civil unrest and conflict inside Europe are ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland, between the Basque region and Spain, and in the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Cypress.

      All of these examples are located within a nation-state and are not a war between nation-states, for example, an international conflict between France and Belgium, or Italy and Greece.

      There most likely is no current provision in all of Europe’s laws in how Europe can or should deal with a civil war, in a single nation-state within Europe.

      Multi-national empires may fail in the end; however, the European Union is not an Empire that historically owes its existence to the force of arms.

      • John Nolan says:

        The Balkan wars of the 1990s were not ‘civil wars’ since they took place after the collapse of the artificial state of Yugoslavia. Do some research.

      • John Candido says:

        OK, you are right about the Balkan wars not being civil wars.

        Whatever civil disturbances, or regional conflicts, or wars of independence, or ethnic conflicts there have been in Europe.

        They are not international conflict as witnessed by either World War I or II.

        International war was what I originally referred to in my first post when I stated that there has not been an international war in Europe for 49 years.

        You have incorrectly objected to this by referring to the EU’s inability to do anything significant in preventing or halting the breakup of Yugoslavia and the descent into hell that these regional disturbances, ethnic conflicts, or wars of independence proved.

        The European Union has at least done that apart from any synergies gained in economic and political co-operation.

      • John Candido says:

        My apologies, Europe has not had a single example of an international war for 74 years, not 49 years.

  14. Alasdair says:

    The Nobel Peace Prize 2012 was awarded to European Union (EU) “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. To that I would add prosperity, freedom, health and safety. More than any single nation could possibly have achieved.
    Not a failed project in my book – rather a spectacular success.
    Those who would undermine it and cause it to fail, may bear a heavy burden of guilt for the likely consequences.

    • John Candido says:

      If the European Union were to play its cards with great care and sophistication, I cannot for the life of me wonder why it should not enjoy a near permanent existence based on the rule of law, freedom, and democracy.

      What sustains multicultural nation-states such as the UK, the United States of America, and Australia, is the particular implementation by a democratic government for the policy of multiculturalism.

      What should sustain the European Union, which is a collection of European nation-states that have freely entered the EU, is also multiculturalism.

      Multiculturalism is universally understood or realised through principles such as inclusiveness, equality, diversity, opportunity, and harmony towards every person living in a community.

      These same elements also form the basis of civil society.

      An appreciation of the continuum undertaken by new migrants towards the makeup of their identity, from the first day of their arrival to what elements constitute their current identity, generations later, is an essential piece of knowledge that all people be cognisant.

      All migrants must have the freedom to incorporate as many or as few elements of the general culture of their adopted country.

      The speed or slowness of the human process of acculturation is a part of their human rights, and by its nature, non-negotiable.

      However, the abiding principles of a democratic society such as the rule of law, democracy, patriotism or personal allegiance to their adopted country as new migrants, and respect for the human rights of everybody else, are non-negotiable demands by their adopted country on them.

      • Nektarios says:

        John Candido

        In 1981 I wrote to the Home Secretary, Lionel Biffen on the subject of Multiculturalism.
        In it a referred to a fact, where multiculturalism was accepted, it never worked out for the host country. The reason for that is, once a certain culture reaches a critical mass, it makes demands for their culture to be upheld and imposed on our laws by law. In the Hof C on one occasion a certain politician stood up and demanded the introduction of Sharia law be introduced and upheld with specific laws in the UK. Needless to say, it was not upheld.
        David Cameron PM brought it up in the Hof C that multiculturalism was not working in Britain a couple of years or so before he resigned.
        What we have seen in recent days of violence, rape and murder by immigrants and being told by the present Mayor of London, ‘that we just need to accept it.’ This is happening in Sweden, in Germany, in Italy in France and in America.
        Australia took a quota of immigrants, then more and more were arriving by the shipload and they were turned away, were they not? This is still the present situation on immigration in Australia, is it?

    • John Candido says:

      ‘The Nobel Peace Prize 2012 was awarded to European Union (EU) “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. To that, I would add prosperity, freedom, health and safety. More than any single nation could possibly have achieved.’

      ‘Not a failed project in my book – rather a spectacular success.
      Those who would undermine it and cause it to fail may bear a heavy burden of guilt for the likely consequences.’ (Alasdair)

      Well stated, Alasdair!

  15. John Nolan says:

    ‘More than any single nation could possibly have achieved’ gushes Alasdair, who then is predictably high-fived by John Candido.

    So Switzerland and Norway, never members of the EU, couldn’t possibly have achieved democracy and prosperity. And Britain owes her democratic traditions, health, safety and respect for human rights to the EU. Really? We needed lessons from Germany and Italy?

    As for the Nobel Peace Prize, when it was awarded to Henry Kissinger, Tom Lehrer famously announced that political satire was now obsolete.

    • Alasdair says:

      I remember Tom Lehrer and the quip to which you refer. A very multi talented and funny man. And yes the award of the Peace Prize has often been misguided. Aung Sun Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) being a recent example.
      I do however believe that the EU’s award was richly deserved.

  16. Alasdair says:

    I read and reread your piece but I don’t entirely get what your driving at.
    Firstly Switzerland and Norway’s prosperity was achieved in large measure through their close association with, and proximity to, the EU. In the case of the latter this was added to by the accident of the huge energy resources beneath the continental shelf on their patch effectively shared among their small population.
    Health, safety and respect for human rights are indeed highly developed in Germany and Italy – in large measure due to their membership of the EU.
    Also the EU has provided a forum within which Britain has been able to make a valued contribution to democracy, health, safety and respect for human rights in other countries without resorting to the colonial approach of the past.

    • FZM says:

      I read and reread your piece but I don’t entirely get what your driving at.
      Firstly Switzerland and Norway’s prosperity was achieved in large measure through their close association with, and proximity to, the EU. In the case of the latter this was added to by the accident of the huge energy resources beneath the continental shelf on their patch effectively shared among their small population.
      Health, safety and respect for human rights are indeed highly developed in Germany and Italy – in large measure due to their membership of the EU.
      Also the EU has provided a forum within which Britain has been able to make a valued contribution to democracy, health, safety and respect for human rights in other countries without resorting to the colonial approach of the past.

      Is a single currency, single economic policy, development of a EU police force, EU armed forces and so on, as well as growing involvement in places like Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey necessary for improving health and safety and the respect human rights?

      Why would a federal European state be necessary for achieving these things?

      There seems to be a certain amount of trouble in the single currency area with countries accusing others of treating them like colonies; Italy accusing France of this, Greece accusing Germany of the same thing.

      • Alasdair says:

        A federal European state and all the other things you list are not necessary for achieving health and safety and human rights etc.
        These have been and will be achieved with the much looser structures that already exist. Fears about a European superstate are exaggerated. There is simply no taste for it.

  17. FZM says:

    What is not understand is why the European Union is a failed project.

    Why do people in the UK believe that the EU is a failed project?

    How has the EU been a failure when someone of the stature of Sir Winston Churchill predicted and backed the idea?

    To also underline Churchill’s point, since the end of World War II, in 1945, Europe has not had a single war between nation-states, which is 74 years.

    In the post war years Churchill may have been in favour of some kind of European idea. Stalin was in favour of some kind of European idea at the same time as well.

    The European Union only came into existence in 1992 after the Maastricht treaty. The EU in its current form came into existence in 2009 after the Lisbon treaty. From the 1950s until the present there have been a variety of manifestations of a particular European idea, with different member states and with different political relations between them. The European Union is going to continue to change in the future, it is not a static thing.

    Your last paragraph seems to be a concession that in fact, peace in Europe has not been dependent on the EU. It couldn’t have been. The presence of NATO, very large allied armies in Germany, the Warsaw Pact, very large Soviet armies in Germany and two huge nuclear arsenals are more likely to be what guaranteed peace in Europe until 1992. Stalin’s success in ethnic cleansing and forcible population movements at the end of the Second War are another likely cause of peace in Eastern Europe, as well as things like Comecon and the integration of the economies in the east under Soviet supervision.

    Now, since the EU has grown in size and made a significant eastward shift, I would argue that it has contributed to war in Europe and to the death of Europeans. This is because of European involvement in the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution/coup and the outbreak of the war in eastern Ukraine. The EU is involved on the side of the Kiev government, including various kinds of Ukrainian ultranationalists who look back to the fascistic Ukrainian nationalism of the 1930s (these guys were called on to do a lot of the early fighting for the government side). Russia and Russian nationalists, as well as volunteers from the Russian armed forces are active supporting the separatists.

    Ukraine is just too desirable given its economic potential and resources for business interests in the UK, Germany, Poland, to not want within the EU orbit. Equally it is too desirable and connected to Russia for the Russian government to allow this kind of hard border to develop.

    This would be an example of the kind of situation which can arise if the EU continues on the path of constant expansion (into Turkey and Central Asian, North Africa, more places where major strategic conflicts might arise with other large power blocks).

    The current version of the EU is also at risk from within via the fragmenting of the pro-EU consensus in various of the core member states which will, if nothing is done, undermine its democratic legitimacy. I doubt it will disappear, but it may change if the present leaders can’t come up with some creative solutions to this

    • Alasdair says:

      Thanks for that detailed analysis. I’d be interested therefore to know what your Brexit position is – if you don’t mind sharing that.

      • FZM says:

        Alasdair,

        Yes, it is okay. I think some kind of ‘soft’ Brexit seems to be the best option at the moment.

        Unfortunately it looks like in general positions are becoming more polarised, at the same time as neither side has a clear mandate. Quentin mentioned in the O/P that it would have been desirable to have a stronger mandate for Brexit. I agree with that but also think that a similar thing applies to EU membership, this works best and is most clearly democratic when there is a robust level of public support for EU membership, pooling of sovereignty and transfer of powers etc.

        Up until the middle 2000s I suspect there still was this level of public support in the UK. Since, the referendum has revealed that it likely no longer exists and, damagingly, that the views of the MPs who were, and would be, in charge of managing UK membership of the EU have views that differ widely from and don’t reflect those of the electorate.

        I’m not sure what the path forward is unless people start to think about how to reach a compromise or build some kind of consensus again. Maybe electoral reform (towards genuine PR) and the creation of a second elected chamber in the UK are relevant now, so that it is harder for a situation like this one to arise in the future.

  18. John Thomas says:

    This interesting post raises a question I have thought about a lot – as a blogger myself. Viz: just WHAT are our blogs actually about/for? So far, I have avoided writing about any political things – like Brexit – because I stick to the claim that my blog is about defending orthodox Christianity (Not that I don’t have strong views on many such subjects!). This present blog says “A SHARED EXPLORATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SCIENCE AND FAITH” – and I do feel that Brexit, etc., is outside this. I DO know how easy it is to get knocked off-subject, but I try to resist it – and you may say that Brexit is very relevant to our faith’s position in the world (apparently Christianity is very alive in many parts of the EU: church-going very prevalent in Germany – mass-attendee-figures now high in France, of all places – Britain, by some accounts, is the great secularist society in Europe, now).
    Oh, alright, I’ll say it: generally I agree with Quentin. The real death of democracy was Cameron’s introduction of the greatest change in human society in many 1000s of years, with no referendum (as the Australians had), no manifesto reference, and nothing in the Queen’s Speech: he smuggled same-sex marriage in under the radar.
    Incidentally, my blog, Affirming The Faith, is currently being re-built, but “normal service will be resumed as soon as possible”.

  19. Geordie says:

    May I ask those who are singing the praises of the EU what about the corruption in the EU. The Mafia have been claiming grants for olive groves (that don’t exist) for years and very little has been done to stop them. All those in EU government have claimed massive expenses. The parliament moves from Bruxelles to Strasbourg and back twice a year at great expense. The British Fishing Industry has been all but destroyed by over fishing and stupid rules about throwing catches back into the sea if they exceed the quota.
    I know British MPs and Lords have been on the gravy-train but it is negligible when compared to the EU.
    What about youth unemployment in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, caused by the idiotic euro?
    I didn’t vote to leave EU for any right-wing, nationalist reasons. After all I have a small euro pension from France and I am one of the few Englishmen I know who like the French. I voted to leave because I believe all the problems that have occurred can be best dealt with in smaller entities like nation-states. If the countries mentioned above had their own currencies they would have been able to solve their debts and unemployment problems a lot quicker and in their own way.

    • Nektarios says:

      Geordie

      What we hear on the BBC is more or less biased in favour of staying in the EU as are the MPs who are supposed to serve us. They are just as biased against the President of the United States.

      I agree with what you have said in your posting above, but it is much worse and threatening now.
      The EU is Globalist, Communistic, Socialist, expansionist and aligned with the Chinese Government.
      Extricating ourselves from the EU should have been a relatively easy political thing to do, but the EU every step of the way has made demands but not really negotiated at all in good faith.

      It is a doomed project as the next decade or so will prove. Some member states will inevitably leave and the EU will contract in size, it might be sooner if the euro collapses.

      I like the French too, and the other member states of the EU, have visited some of them, but we cannot let our personal or economic matters cloud our judgement regarding the EU
      and the way it is run.
      Certain member states want to see reform with more control to the individual states, but the President and Commissioners have resisted this for years, but it is coming to a head pretty soon.

      My own longing here is our own Parliamentary system would get over fear which they have talked themselves into and trying to do the same with the population. Why can’t they all just wake up and smell the coffee and the opportunities ahead?

    • Alasdair says:

      “The Mafia have been claiming grants for olive groves (that don’t exist) for years and very little has been done to stop them”. I can’t answer to that specific example but strenuous efforts have been made to combat the black economy in Italy, so much so that it has threatened to bring down the whole economy. For example, tipping by cash is illegal in Italy. Gratuities can only be paid using a IVA (ie VAT) handset and therefore are subject to tax. I’ve seen the Guarda della Finanza police (grey cars, yellow writing) sending diners back into a restaurant to get IVA receipts, otherwise they were going to be charged with complicity in tax evasion.

      “What about youth unemployment in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, caused by the idiotic euro? Remember we’re discussing Brexit. The Euro is not part of that.

  20. Nektarios says:

    John Thomas

    My computer security is coming up that your ‘Affirming Faith website is ‘not secure’ at the moment.
    I do not know what you can do about that as I have not created a website for myself, well not yet.

  21. John Nolan says:

    I suspect that many who voted ‘leave’ were, like me, fervent Europeans forty-odd years ago. I even saw Europe as a potential third superpower. In the 1980s I distrusted the Tory Eurosceptics and applauded the Earl of Stockton (Harold Macmillan) when he observed: ‘What is sovereignty without power? The Prince of Monaco has sovereignty, but he has no power.’

    I was conscious of a shared European culture and opposed ‘multiculturalism’ which would deny this, which was in fact condemned by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I was aware of the Catholic roots of the EEC (Adenauer, Schuman) and the EU flag has obvious Marian connotations.

    Over the years disillusion has set in. The French never really wanted us in and would no doubt be glad to see the back of us. The EU, knowing that Cameron had promised an in/out referendum, could have offered concessions which would have kept us in; yet Cameron came back empty-handed and the ‘remain’ campaign was entirely negative.

    The Eurocrats’ main concern is that if we leave, others might follow. So they have to be punitive.

    The very size of the EU has scuppered the federalist concept. This might be justification for staying in, but then the world has changed greatly since the 1970s and the EU is mired in the past.

    We’re better off out of it.

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