18 Jun Brexit – To be or not to be European?
To be or not to be European? Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Europeans. This vexed question came up in a referendum in the 70s and to the relief of those who abhor narrower tendencies, Britain voted for Europe. Now it’s come up again and the answer is days away.
David Cameron had to do it. Fed up by being attacked by his own Party’s right wing and outside anti-Europe parties trying to get support at the expense of the Conservatives, he gambled. He negotiated with his European partners and tried to get the best deal he could. It wasn’t very much but he couldn’t do better. The European Union loathe to lose an important member like Britain, but they conceded on their part what they thought they could without diluting the ideas on which the EU was founded. They could not go beyond this or set dangerous precedents which others might follow or interpret in their own way.
The problem is deeper than Economics alone. Business is by and large clearly in favour of staying. The benefits seem self-evident. It seems madness and a step backwards to quit. But part of the problem is emotional and psychological. Britain has never felt European. They shudder at the thought of it. So very strange the Frogs, the Krauts, the Wops, the Dagos and the rest of them. In turn the Europeans too find them very strange. A separate meal of afternoon tea with buttered toast , milk with tea, sinks with two taps where you scald your hand in one and freeze it in the other, no desire to speak any other language (many Europeans speak at least one other), warm beer in the pubs, the strange game of cricket that can take five days and only a few countries play…the list is long.
The young are more international. If they come out to vote in large numbers the “stay camp” might win. But the polls in general from showing the “stay camp” ahead, came to the two sides being neck and neck and now are dangerously showing the “nay camp” leading. Quelle horreur! There is panic in the City. But that is based on logic. The litmus test may well be the bookies though. The major betting ones were still giving odds of only 36% for the leave camp to win. It is getting closer now but the odds are still in favour of Britain staying.
One of the leaders of the Leave camp has reported having said recently to applause everything not being about GDP. But what else has been the most important thing in Western civilisation for some centuries? Britain is no Bhutan with Gross National Happiness.
The debate is boiling down to simple arguments. Nobody knows what will happen on the 23rd. There is anxiety on the other side of the channel. The UK is a major economy in Europe alongwith France and Germany. Europe is already struggling for direction. With a major member gone, the impact can only be negative, both in real and in psychological terms.
Even if the “stay camp” wins by a narrow margin, once the Hydra has reared its head, it may come up again in the not too distant future.