Thursday, 23 June 2016

Britain decides today

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was the nearest to a federal Europe that I could have accepted. Though the Hungarian half was idiotically mismanaged. But it had a demos and in the end became democratic, which the European Union never can.

Yugoslavia, a Serb told me, was the EU before the EU. I was not sure this was a happy augury.

Now today the UK is voting on whether to leave the EU (Brexit) and if it does this could precipitate the beginning of the end of this attempt at uniting Europe, seventy-one years after Hitler’s failed.

The EU has, on balance, done a lot of good in Eastern Europe, though harm too. Elsewhere since 1999 it has been a disaster. The Euro has destroyed the economies of Southern Europe, Schengen has failed to protect countries from invasion, the EU has shown that it cannot be a player in foreign affairs and now leading Eurocrats plot to give the EU the power to control tax rates across the Eurozone.

Immigration, by the way, is not a key issue - Brexit might not affect immigration at all - except that people who want a million or three million migrants to enter Europe without papers in a single year are very dangerous people - mad, bad and dangerous to know.

The one strong argument for Britain staying in the EU is that Scotland might secede in ten years time. If we do vote for Brexit expect the EU to come up with a counter-offer. And more referendums till we get the answer right.

In fact I don't think we shall ever escape. And young people are educated in the pieties of internationalism, so this is our last chance.

The latest polls say it's 50-50. John Curtice, the Strathclyde University professor who oversaw last year’s accurate election exit poll, said two days ago: "After weeks and months of basically no change, it does look as though there has been at least some movement towards Leave in the wake of the advent of purdah.”

It may be that the Jo Cox effect – the effect of a young pro-diversity MP’s murder allegedly by a man who has been linked to the far right - is not crucial.

The linkage between the murder and the Brexit camp was very carefully managed. Any murder is terrible, and especially of an elected member of Parliament, but how different the reaction to the murder by the IRA of poor Ian Gow and Airey Neave. 

To a large extent this reflects the new English habit of mass emotion which had not begun in the 1980s. Still, worth mentioning that Ian Gow and Airey Neave were killed by the IRA for political reasons in 1979 and 1990 but were not treated as martyrs - as fervent Unionists they were considered with suspicion. Private Eye character assassinated Neave even though he was a war hero.

Even poor Drummer Rigby who was beheaded last year by Muslims in the streets of Woolwich didn't get this treatment - quite a few people seemed more worried about EDL demonstrating for fifteen minutes about the murder than anything else. The authorities tried to persuade us that the crime had no link to Islam or to politics.

Had Farage been murdered or an Official Ulster Unionist of impeccable patriotism I wonder what the reaction would have been. The Diana-like outpouring of grief for Jo Cox is linked to her passionate belief in diversity and the benefits of immigration. I am not quite sure why.

It is no doubt largely spontaneous, but has also certainly been carefully managed by Remain. Her funeral yesterday - rather soon? - may also have an effect on the vote though I hope not. Her murder is irrelevant. Yet a number of people in the papers openly say it is a reason for voting Out and implying Brexit is the far right racist option.

Leaving and staying both seem to have more disadvantages than advantages at first sight, but staying is not choosing the status quo but signing a blank cheque. Last summer, Europe’s leaders came up the “five presidents’ report” that laid down a step-by-step plan to achieve a United States of Europe: banking union, then a common budget and finally political union. Electorates will not put up with this - at least for now - but these people are running the EU.

Both options in the referendum are unattractive and scary. I think leaving is on balance the lesser evil. Perhaps, in the end, the strongest argument for the UK leaving is that staying is writing a blank cheque to people who dislike the idea of nation states or ethnic states. 

I think Remain will win by something like 55% or maybe more. But no-one knows and for another few hours Brussels will be scared of us, which is a novelty. 

Strangely enough, when historians look at our era, the most important British Prime Minister since 1945 - the one with the biggest legacy - is not Margaret Thatcher, nor Tony Blair or C.R. Attlee, but Edward Heath. He took us into the Common Market as the EEC (now EU) was called.

If Britain votes to leave the EU today, David Cameron (whose idea the referendum was) and Nigel Farage (whose party's success led Cameron to promise one) will eclipse Heath and be responsible for the most important event in our history since our Pyrrhic victory in 1945. Only Nigel Farage intended to do so, of course. Only Nigel Farage intended to do so, of course. 

1 comment:

  1. The UK, Italy, Spain, and Belgium are the EU before the EU too.