Thursday, 31 August 2017

The European dream

I imagine most people are getting fairly fed up with the topic of Brexit. So my 2p will be short.

Our local German bakery and deli has come up with a new biscuit. It is called the Europäischer, and it is round with blue icing and decorated in a circle with yellow stars. There is as yet no picture on the internet but I'm sure you can imagine it.

I didn't buy one as it looked a bit too biscuity and sugary, but it's a sweet little gesture of defiance. I like our local German bakery, it's a small island of quality in an otherwise slightly depressing line of shops. I try to order stuff in German as my own contribution to European solidarity.

Hardly a week goes by without some aspect of Brexit being potentially watered-down. We won't suddenly tell all the Poles, Germans, Lithuanians and others to up sticks and go, because we actually need them. We might continue to pay into the EC budget in order to keep tariff-free trade within the EC. We will probably keep the border between Eire and the six counties open. We shall have to retain in some form legal arrangements for deciding jurisdictions in cross-border legal matters, and we'll probably have to be subject to the European Court of Justice at least insofar as matters pertaining to trade with Europe are concerned. I don't know, I'm just repeating what is in the news.

No doubt there are some areas for which it will be pleasant to have sovereignty. We could sell jam (as defined in the UK) in pound jars, for instance. Less irksome bureaucracy would be nice. Less trivially, we could open up trade with countries such as Australia which suffered from trade barriers with us when the UK entered the EC. We can continue to avoid the problems inherent in the Euro currency as we have so far.

What is overlooked in all this is the European dream that I suspect underlies the whole European project. That is, the idea that a group of countries united by a common interest will not go to war with each other. People in power now had parents of the generation that lost relatives in the 1939-45 war (my uncle's headstone read that he was 'un aviateur Anglais qui mort pour la France'), and of course there has been brutal war and genocide on European soil in much more recent times. Perhaps because we live in an island that has not been successfully invaded (leaving aside the Battle of Medway) for almost 2000 years we as a nation are a bit complacent.

On the positive side there is something rather wonderful about acquiring a European and ultimately and international identity that celebrates unity in diversity. We as a mongrel nation from the earliest times should be able to understand that, what with our Royal Family having from time-to-time been French, Scottish, Dutch, German and even a bit Greek.

Anyway, my prediction is that when all's said and done we'll still be eating pizza and chorizo and we'll still have German bakeries and Polish shops and we'll still drink French wine and Kronenbourg and Guinness and play Mozart and read Yeats and we'll still be speaking our great mongrel language, absorbing and transforming foreign influences with hardly a blink as we always do.

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