Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

BORIS, BREXIT AND EUROPE

I have become very frustrated  by the attempts to stop Boris getting us out of the EU on October 31st. To prevent my anger impeding logical thought, I used Google to find out what he EU is really all about. I found little that I did not know before.

It all started with the laudable desire to prevent any repeat of WW1 and WW2, in which European powers fought each other in appalling conflicts. A repeat is not going to happen. So that motive is no longer influential: the  ideal has been realised. Are there other reasons for promoting the ideal of European Unity? What might they be? What benefits is the EU supposed to bring? Through Google, I discovered the following quote from an article written in January 2019.

It is now well recognised in Europe that it is imperative for the EU to change fundamentally if it wants to survive.

The quote seems to endow the EU with a personal identity – as if it was a living thing. Perhaps that theoretical entity is made up of human beings – people who think that unity is a good thing in itself, or people who perceive a personal advantage (like politicians and bureaucrats). I myself see unity as something that, pushed to an extreme, is stultifying – and also damaging to the opposing forces of variety and creativity. And I don’t much like politicians and I positively hate bureaucrats.

What is so attractive about the EU that almost half our population want to stay in it? Easy travel, for a start, with no need for a passport, no customs delays, a single currency (once across the channel)and communication everywhere by mobile phone and the internet. These benefits do mean that knowledge of other people, other countries, and other habits is more widespread than ever before. That can be seen as a benefit. But to what extent do these capabilities arise from membership of the EU and to what extent do they arise from technology? I suspect that the only difference if we left the EU would be about passports and the need to show them. Europe would quickly become as much as a playground as ever.

Trade, for another thing. Some items we import from Europe will become more expensive after a no-deal Brexit, and some of our exports to Europe will shrink in number because of tarriffs. Will the loss be compensated by deals we can make with non-European countries – deals that we are currently not allowed to make? That is unknown, but it is human to  think more about loosing something currently enjoyed than to anticipate a benefit that is still hypothetical. It is my belief that following a no-deal Brexit we will adapt to a new reality without too much stress.

A major emotional factor is that some people believe that change is always a good thing. It is a matter of leaving behind he old situation in the confident assumption that the new thing must be better. That is an optimistic stance worthy of respect. But is there any evidence for it in this case? I see the gradual destruction of national characteristics, and the variety they offer, as a bad thing. I want Hungarians to remain Hungarian and Poles to remain Poles and Britons to remain British.

A major problem is that some people have become so committed to the idea of ever-closer union that it is emotionally impossible to discard it. Such an action would be tantamount to saying “We were wrong”. Nobody likes to do that. Frequently they will fight to preserve a cause long after logic has departed. Think what happened to the Japanese Samurai at he Battle of Shiroyama on 24 September 1877.

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