Make Britain Great Again! First, though, the sacrifices…

Deep in our human consciousness is a memory handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. It is that to propitiate our gods, whoever they may be, it’s necessary to sacrifice something valuable on their altars. This will persuade the god to look favourably on the giver and be good to him. Gods could shape Fate, so to make a sacrifice, part of an act of worship supervised by priests, was a necessary ritual.

I believe that this folk memory of necessary sacrifice to keep oneself safe has surfaced again in the unconscious of British people today, and affects their actions. It may be fundamentally why many Leave voters in the Referendum say they are prepared for Britain to be worse off financially after Brexit. There is a price to be paid to keep us safe.

But what is really the danger people sought to ward off in voting Leave?

According to Andy Daer’s stimulating piece, Countering the fear factor, we have an atavistic fear of foreigners as possibly dangerous, passing down through the generations just as I suggest the belief in sacrifice has done. In any case, foreigners are part of Them, not Us, and in troubled times our instinct of self-preservation leads us to fear groups or individuals we don’t see as part of Us.

Perhaps there is sufficient fear in the national psyche, then, for a majority of the population to have decided that the EU, especially ‘Brussels’, is the dangerous Them which must be warded off now by a huge financial sacrifice.

I want to suggest, however, that there may be another unconscious fear which is significant, though it has only been forming in the recent past, specifically the last 70 years.  It is the fear that Britain is no longer, and may never again be, Great Britain.

For the racists and bigots of his family, memorably described by Frankie in a comment on Andy’s piece (November 7, 10.50 am), there is consolation in being English, therefore special, able to look down on others with ‘a toxic sense of entitlement’. I suggest that underlying that feeling may well be this unconscious fear that Britain isn’t actually a great country any more. Because If so, where is their entitlement?

Our great days as a nation were, for some, ended when ‘we won’ World War Two in 1945. Maybe there was a sense of revival when we won in the Falklands. But now we know we cannot win wars without the Americans and NATO. Now also our nation seems in never-ending debt. Now China is striding the world stage, taking over industries that other EU states haven’t already taken from us. The buried fear, for many more citizens than racists and bigots, may be that we are now really as small as our geographic size suggests. What’s great about us now? We have to rely on the NHS and our Olympic athletes perhaps to show the supremacy of which we have inherited the memory and expectation.

So there is a desperate attempt by Brexiteers to claw back greatness. We have to declare ourselves different from the other 27 EU states (greater, of course). Show that we can still strut it in the world with separate trade deals, and get the world to come begging to us!

But this ‘deliberate act of national self-harm’, as referred to by Dr John King in his piece on Brexit, will, like the deliberate infliction of self-cutting to relieve stress by disturbed individuals, have sad consequences for our nation. Still, some financial loss is to the Brexiteers our due sacrifice to the unknown gods, who rule our fates but who can make us great again.

Irrationality backed by strong emotion is the real danger we have to combat urgently.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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84 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Nov '17 - 3:56pm

    As ever Katharine ,you are passionate and therefore you resonate with the reader of any piece you write.

    Here I understand this highly intelligent and rather imaginative notion.

    But it depends of course on two things , one I agree with , the other I am not so sure.

    As a very patriotic Liberal Democrat, who believes in the values of Liberalism and Democracy ,all the more for that patriotism, I see the good in the history and character of this country more than anything bad, especially with forebears from other countries.

    I relate to the sentiment expressed here , but really feel,that we need to make Britain greater, but not great again, for this is a great country, not merely as Great Britain, but as one with great eternal and enduring values.But those values are not being in many ways , by governments , implemented as policies.This we need to rectify and soon , if an appeal to the making us greater is one that can make an impact , I am keen.

    We need far less complacency , which is the down side of our up side , tolerance.

    But, and this is where I am not sure I share the view herein.Are there really a great ,or rather,great seeking , mass of Brexiteers ,of one, mind set ?

    Are not many really motivated by many things and most of those , various.

    Is it not a liberal and more democratic thing to think of it thus.

  • Peter Martin 9th Nov '17 - 4:20pm

    @ Katharine,

    I always have a problem with phrases such as “Make Britain Great again!”

    It’s mixing the political with the geographical. Most islands that call themselves Great are actually very small. Britain is one of the few islands of significant size that officially calls itself Great. Most islands that claim this distinction are actually very small, and are only called Great to distinguish them from even smaller nearby islands with the same name.

    There is the Great Captain Island for example, lying off the coast of the US. Itis the largest of a three-island group that also includes Little Captain and Wee Captain.

    I’m not sure if any the other islands in the British Isles have any been known as “Little Britain”. But Great Britain is just the biggest island of the British Isles . Geographically, the Isle of Wight, the Shetland Islands, the Orkneys etc aren’t part of Great Britain.

    So even if all us Britons ever get wiped out by a killer virus, Great Britain will be just as Great as ever it was.

  • Steve Trevethan 9th Nov '17 - 4:45pm

    Perhaps it depends upon what you think, believe, feel and know about what you mean by “Great”.

    “Britain’s” contributions to science and technology have been great.

    It’s performance as an empire has inevitably been mixed, as is the case with all empires, for they are ever mechanisms to obtain cheap labour and cheap materials which benefit the few with power.

    Perhaps “Exceptionalism” is a key word. There are two types – one which is benign and one which is malign in the extreme. All nations have the right to consider themselves exceptional or great and work to justify this label. When Exceptionalism is used to justify the abuse of others it is poisonous for people and their World.

    The sooner and more we think about and work for tolerant high quality British exceptionalim, the better. The sooner we stop our imperial delusions and recognise that we are currently a client state in the U.S. Empire, the better.

    Sustainable greatness is not well measured by military and/or financial dominance. It is better measured by high quality competence and the seeking of cooperation.

    International symbiosis is so much greater than international parasitism.

  • Tristan Ward 9th Nov '17 - 4:56pm

    “I believe that this folk memory of necessary sacrifice to keep oneself safe has surfaced again in the unconscious of British people today, and affects their actions”

    This George Orwell piece is worth a read in this context: https://worldview.carnegiecouncil.org/archive/worldview/1975/07/2555.html/_res/id=File1/v18_i007-008_a010.pdf

  • Katharine,
    I didn’t vote for Brexit but to compare those who did to self harming “disturbed individuals” is quite distasteful.
    They think they are entitled to different beliefs to yours and these continual insults are unlikely to convince them to concede that you have been right, all along.
    As to “Great Britain”, my own opinion is that Brexit will accelerate a decline that was foreshadowed anyway. I see no reason for our economic fall to be arrested and no one with the courage to tell the British what they must do. They are fed “we are the British and everything will turn out all right because it always has before and the economic cycle will turn in our favour soon”.
    Desperate hopes that will be disappointed. The British have to throw off their arrogance, smugness, conceit and above all their belief that they are entitled to a lifestyle they haven’t earned and which hundreds of millions only dream of but know they can’t afford.
    Brexit could be the pin that pricks the bubble that the British are sitting on, but bubble it has been for at least 50 years.

  • I believe the analysis is mistaken. Brexit is the judgement that membership of the EU does not provide the best possible long term future for our nation.

    There are many actors involved. Fortunately, many are fairly straightforward.

  • Helen Dudden 9th Nov '17 - 5:39pm

    I read about one of the most inhuman acts that ever took place. I know my beliefs have at times received hurtful remarks.
    We are a great country. I was born in 1948, a baby boomer. After a serious road crash i lost my husband. My life in total melt down i found comfort in a different belief. I have the freedom to believe no matter what.
    That is what makes us British, freedom, law and the right to freedom.

  • Daniel Walker 9th Nov '17 - 5:49pm

    @Peter Martin I’m not sure if any the other islands in the British Isles have any been known as “Little Britain”.

    “Great Britain” is to distinguish it from “Less Britain” or “Lesser Britain”, which is Brittany.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Nov '17 - 5:54pm

    Those are really interesting responses, particularly on the greatness of our country, and also on sacrifice (though I am not sure, Tristan, that British people these days could tolerate ‘struggle and sacrifice’ deliberately). Lorenzo, I do like your idea of our nation having ‘great and enduring national values’ which are not being implemented by our governments. Perhaps, Peter M., one of the challenges of our age is NOT to see the concept of Great Britain being considered ironically now by the world at large – difficult at the moment with the chaos of the present government. Steve, agreed, we need to ensure that our country is exceptional in the right ways, and it’s good that you point out our great contributions to science and technology. Thank you, colleagues all.

  • Sean Hyland 9th Nov '17 - 8:18pm

    Interesting piece Katherine as was Andy’s.

    Can we not accept, however,that rational people made a rational decision based on a rational study of the arguments whatever side of the argument. Why are we looking for some other reason for the brexiteers to somehow show that only remainders are rational.

    It must be some primal emotions, irrationality driven by emotions, deliberate self harm,stupidity,prejudice, racism,little england mentality,or some rediscovered sense of sacrifice to name a few by different commentators.

    If this is the prevailing view then you will never convince me that I did wrong. Rational debate might.

    As for me I give up. I can no longer offer my support to a party that thinks of me this way.

  • This piece would make more sense if Katherine could explain exactly what it was that made Britain Great, then we could see what it is that leave voters like me would like to see
    reinstated.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Nov '17 - 10:12pm

    My view of Britain’s greatness is irrelevant here, CJ, with respect. I am suggesting that some Leave voters fear that Britain’s greatness has gone, can’t admit their fear of that, and hope desperately that Brexit can somehow restore it. They would tend to be people who gloried in Britain’s victory in 1945 and secretly doubt whether we are still glorious. Unfortunately this attitude is sometimes passed down to young people, as we see when some of our football fans abroad still see fit to crow about defeating Germany, which victory was also now a long time ago. The hope of the restoration of greatness as they see it is just one of the Brexiteers’ fantasies.

    Sean, I feel for your indignation, as I did on reading your comments on Andy’s piece. You give a lovely description in your second paragraph of all the labels which you are exasperated to feel you are associated with. But I think you are a little unfair. The party, as Andy made clear and I repeat, does not think of you personally in that way. Would you please help by repeating plainly, what was the rational thinking and rational weighing of the arguments which caused you to vote to Leave? I should like to read them, so that we can indeed discuss rationally with you. (Though I must admit to an irrational wish to have my first name spelled correctly!) Thank you, meantime, for contributing despite your indignation.

  • This is an interesting take on self sacrifice as a possible attraction of Brexit, an appeal to puritans and those who believe suffering can be of value and serve a higher purpose. In somewhat similar vein I referred to the cathartic aspect of self harm, in own article some time ago.

    I now have a more complex view, in deference to the multiple and disparate motivations of Leavers, a factor exploited by Cambridge Analytica when they targeted voters with a variety of messages to reach different groups during the referendum campaign.

    The problem with the self sacrifice idea is that it doesn’t explain why Leavers voted as they did in the referendum, since at that time leave voters were largely convinced that no sacrifices would be necessary, we could have our cake and eat it, there would be an extra £350 million for the NHS and so on.

    I would suggest a more common reason for supporting Brexit 18 months on is the desire to be conformist. That is, a resigned acceptance that Brexit is inevitable, it’s going to happen and we’ve got to see it through because we’re British. In addition of course, Brexiteers threaten riots and civil unrest if anyone crosses their path, like gangsters who warn doubters not to chicken before the job is done.

    These factors would largely be dispelled given a charismatic leader who roused the country into a belief that Britain could lead Europe again. With a change in direction, many soft Leavers would also turn around and rediscover themselves, probably insisting they had been Remainers all along.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Nov '17 - 11:08pm

    Ms Pindar – Mind if I have a go at this? ‘Would you please help by repeating plainly, what was the rational thinking and rational weighing of the arguments which caused you to vote to Leave?’

    I voted LEAVE not in anger, or out of some latent sense of exceptionalism, but with a heavy heart. To put this at its most basic I just looked at the EU we have and I just couldn’t do. I just could not bring myself to tick a box on a ballot paper that said – More Of The Same – in my name. I just looked at what we have: a decade of utterly lamentable crisis management, institutions and Treaties with a whacking great constitutional deficit, a tail-wags-dog legal outlook, a hard corporatist agenda writ large, a debacle of an A2 enlargement, a currency union with severe design flaws, a ridiculous lack of balance between net contributors and recipients. And, yes, hopelessly asymmetric migration that has (to a greater or lesser extent) stimulated wage arbitrage. And that’s just off the top of my head.

    And this is to say nothing of the top to bottom mess the EU has made in my wife’s country.

    I have nothing against Europe, or even integration per se and I firmly believe that EEA IN EU OUT is probably the best for the UK, at least for now. With hindsight we should have done it 30 years ago. In the mid 1990s I was an EU true believer. But what we have now is not what we had in my view. And what we have is something I could just not bring my self to vote for.

    Just to be clear by the way, I’m not trying to persuade you of anything here. I am, of course, aware that a lot of REMAIN voters has to grit their teeth hard when they voted. Your views and your agenda are your own and you can – should – vote accordingly. Has the idea of Europe done good things? Probably. Give me a Norway option and I’ll vote for it. But this EU – I just couldn’t do it anymore.

    Anyway, I’ll sit back and take my pasting now.

  • Sean Hyland 9th Nov '17 - 11:08pm

    Katharine I am happy to apologise for misspelling your name. It is not irrational to hope it is spelled correctly, you should see some spellings of mine so I understand.
    My only defence is that my disability affects the use of my hands. I normally use the dragon speak program for my writing but at the moment I cannot get it to interact with LDVoice.

    I do feel the comments personally as I am tagged in amongst a general labelling of all leavers. The labels I used came from yours and Andy’s posts and similar ones in both the comments on them a d other posts in the past on LDV. I am perhaps oversensitive but have had this label applied since the referendum and I don’t like labels of any kind. I have just read John Kings post above mine and again it looks for emotive reactions for leavers decisions.

    I will be happy to return tomorrow to offer rational debate on my vote choice but this typing is too much and a phone call tomorrow should enable me to use my program on this site. I think they are used my IT clumsiness.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Nov '17 - 11:10pm

    John King – ‘at that time leave voters were largely convinced that no sacrifices would be necessary’

    Evidence?

    More generally, for all your cod-psychology, is there, in your view, no possibility that people voted LEAVE because they don’t like the EU?

  • Katharine, apologies for the misspelling of your name. I would however contend that your argument that I may think that Britain’s Greatness is gone surely deserves a description of what I may fear is missing. For my part I do not believe that Britain’s Greatness came from military victories but was confirmed and sustained from the revolutions of the 18th and 19th century.
    As to the defeat of Nazi Germany I am proud of my families and this countries sacrifice in that victory for liberal and democratic principles, incidentally principles that Hitler despised.

  • LJP-
    Sure, many voted Leave because they didn’t like the EU. Or rather, the EU as painted by the right-wing press. A self-serving bureaucratic elite, unelected and undemocratic, stifling us with red tape, etc. The problem is that this bears no relation to the truth. In reality the EU is a great organisation founded on noble ideals, an oasis of civilised values in a troubled world, and in which Britain played a leading role. The motive for its denigration was the removal of the constraints stopping extremely rich offshore billionaires from becoming even richer, as Nick Clegg has documented in his book, and other investigators have also confirmed.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Nov '17 - 12:52am

    Well said, John – the EU ‘a great institution founded on noble ideals’ indeed, and one could add, a guarantor of peace in a continent that had been habitually devastated by wars. But in your earlier comment you segue easily from the vote for the Referendum to the views of Leavers 18 months on: I don’t disagree with your latter opinion, but I am suggesting that in the actual vote Leavers may have had a subconscious inherited understanding that some sacrifice would be required, at the same time as they accepted the surface reassurance. (Perhaps I am groping after Jung here!)

    LJP, Dr John King is the last person to accuse of ‘cod psychology’, since he is a retired consultant, I think in psychiatry! You have perhaps forgotten that I am reluctant to debate with you, because you decline to explain the basis of your own seeming expertise or why you have chosen such a peculiar pseudonym, even after inviting me to speculate but then not having the courtesy to follow up my reply.

    Sean, please do come back later with another comment. But I think it would be mistaken to suppose that people take huge decisions out of pure reason, detached from their emotions and the influences of their past and present environments.

  • I had to look up cod psychology, one learns so much on these pages, and I now know it has nothing to do with the behaviour of fish.

    LJP has lost faith in the EU since the 1990’s and indeed most people accept it is very much a ‘work in progress’, far from perfect. But is it not more courageous to stay in and fight to make it better, rather than run away and hide?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Nov '17 - 8:31am

    Katharine, I don’t know if you often look at Facebook, but please have a look as I sent you some private messages, trying to answer a question you recently asked more than once on Lib Dem Voice. Nothing to do with the EU, and too off topic to explain here 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Nov '17 - 9:13am

    Will do, Catherine, later when I return home. John, I totally agree with you that it will be better to stay and fight in the EU. One overnight thought I had for you was, how can you explain ‘the deliberate act of national self-harm’ except, in part, by suggested subconscious impulses?
    However, I am hoping people will also comment on the idea that a hidden fear that Britain’s ‘greatness’ may be gone and desperate wish to restore it could have been a motive for many to vote Leave. Do we tend to believe it is indeed failing, or can we be sure that in important matters, such as our national characteristics and values, we are truly still a great people?

  • In the very unlikely event Brexit is stopped, it would very likely be by more votes from outside England. If the tail wags the dog, I look forward to an independent English State.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Nov '17 - 6:53pm

    Strikingly, I see that the Times feature writer Phillip Collins (@PCollinsTimes) has written in the paper today about our country’s national decline and the futile hopes of the Brexiters
    to usher in ‘a new epoch of national glory’. Their hidden fears are realistic, if the picture this sad article paints of our nation inevitably losing its status in the world is a true one. I suppose it may be a supreme task for our party, to help our country reassert itself in ways that will gain us universal respect and relevance once again.

  • Katharine-
    Your formulation in this article will be most meaningful to those with a psycho-analytical orientation. Some have gone further than self harm and called Brexit a death cult. Freud described a struggle between the life instinct, eros or Libido, and the death instinct, Thanatos. Death always tend to win in the end but then life springs back, and with it hope.

    In physics, the corresponding concepts are free energy – the constructive force – versus entropy, the tendency of things left to themselves to decay and dissolution. Brexit is entropy, the embodiment of chaos and uncertainty resulting in long term decay.

    Nowadays the psycho-analytical approach is a bit out of fashion and brain science is all the rage. An article in the current Guardian looks at Brexit from this angle and makes some valid points

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/nov/09/the-neuroscience-of-no-regrets-why-people-still-support-brexit-and-trump?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

  • John King
    “Brexit is entropy, the embodiment of chaos and uncertainty resulting in long term decay.”

    I’ve got some bad news for you John King. Everything eventually suffers the demise of entropy. Entropy is ‘the’ default position. It’s the energetic ‘poetry’ of the universe, and how it has decided to wind itself down.
    That hot cup of coffee on your desk going untouched, and growing cold, is displacing its heat energy acquired from electricity, which in turn was probably derived from fossil fuel, which in turn was derived from 5 million years of sunlight, which in turn was derived from the fusion ‘dance’ between hydrogen and helium. And on and on.

    From your link:

    “As a result, our brains reflexively downplay or dismiss any information that causes us to doubt our decisions, because that casts doubt on our very ability to function.”

    So, could that same premise of doubt [of ability to function], apply not just to the Leaver position, but also to the Remainer position?
    What if Brexit turns out, [on balance!], to be O.K? Are you, and other remainers, psychologically ready and willing, to countenance the possibility, that Brexit might not be a ‘leaver’ folly of historic proportions, but instead, the proper appropriate response, and a collective democratic manifestation of the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’?

  • Riccardo Sallustio 10th Nov '17 - 11:49pm

    John King is indeed right (as usual).

    I can add that cognitive dissonance and the fact that the human brain doesn’t like changing its views makes any exit from Brexit – through a 3rd referendum – quite a laborious exercise.

    Clearly, there has been a shift in favour of Remain but we have to accept that the Leave camp, the Russian bots, the right-wing press, BlueKIP and Comrade Corbyn have been playing well the will of the people argument, notwithstanding the shambolic Tory’s campaign at the last General Election and what followed after. Lack of clarity from Labour has helped this incredibly by ensuring eventually that an advisory referendum was deemed by many to be binding contrary to the rule of law and by avoiding a proper debate on Brexit. This had a clear impact on the general public which felt confused at best. We LDs were perceived to be the odd one out by wanting to run the arguments (again) in a debate even if the referendum vote was not about arguments but about lies on a red bus.

    Now Labour is finally trying to redress the balance by asking for the 58 impact papers to be released but it looks more like an embarrassment campaign aimed at the Government rather than a strategy aimed at a proper parliamentary discussion on Brexit (which incidentally could be the first one on facts).

    Brexit – thanks to the 2 main parties – is causing the entropy of parliamentary democracy and the recent scandals and ministers’ lack of honesty and credibility make Leave voters actually believe that they are even more so in control of the country’s destiny at the expense of Parliament. They see that the Government’s incompetence is likely to deliver a cliff-edge Brexit and the last thing they want is to empower the Parliament or to have another referendum, so it works well for them that the PM wants to enshrine in law the Brexit date.

    Unless and until most credible and honest parliamentarians have the courage to stand for a democratic process carried out through a properly functioning parliament which refuses to set a Brexit date before looking at the details of the deal and analyses facts, Britain will never be able to set the path to becoming great again.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Nov '17 - 12:28am

    Varied and disparate are the motivations of those who voted Leave, as you said earlier on, John. However I don’t think people will have needed psycho-analytic ‘orientation’ to follow the suggestions made here or in Andy’s article. For one thing, you and I have proposed slightly different things. You mused on self-sacrifice, and have explained a wider implication of that, the idea of the death cult – both these being possible ideas that might have been advanced to explain some Brexit motivation. But my piece does not actually begin by discussing self-harm, but rather, the age-old practice of sacrificing something valuable to propitiate and please a god. People did not sacrifice themselves to do that.

    Thank you nonetheless for the further interesting ideas of your last comment. I was not aware of the physics analogy, and so the idea of Brexit as entropy. But as to brain science developments as opposed to psycho-analytic theory, I am aware of how they have for example affected consideration of child development, but I do not see brain science theory in the link you kindly provide. This is more like behavioural science, surely, and easily comprehended. It is a convincing contribution to the debate ,however, suggesting that our decisions become part of our self-definition and sense of self, and are then strongly defended. That seems a very valid point, as is the more commonly known group identification, and both may be relevant to keeping Frankie’s relatives and other Brexiteers immovable in the face of reason.

    Remainers may also have a disinclination to change their views, as Sheila points out, and I don’t think either you or I would dispute that. An earlier point you made, that there is a resigned acceptance of the inevitability of Brexit, seems more debilitating to the Remain ranks than any present indication of the Brexiteers having credence. The Irish question came up again in the news reports tonight, and seems, as before, insoluble. As for ‘the wisdom of crowds’, Sheila, I think that is a very dubious proposition. But you and I know by now that we will not shake each other’s convictions one whit. I wish Sean would have another go, though.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Nov '17 - 12:50am

    Palehorse, I have just caught up with your comment, thank you, and can assure you that I was not associating self-harming individuals with Leavers. It was simply that when I was using John King’s striking suggestion of the Referendum vote being ‘a deliberate act of national self-harm’, the comparison with unfortunate people who harm themselves seemed apt. I was not in any case agreeing or disagreeing with John’s conclusion, but just pointing out that Brexit however described would have sad consequences for the nation.

  • Sean Hyland 11th Nov '17 - 2:04am

    Been trying to post but have to keep editing to fit word count allowed. So key points only happy to expand later.
    Emotion does play a part in decision making but not when of this magnitude or impact.
    Don’t read right wing press – only print i have Private Eye and Economist. Rest on line or books -always try to research author etc to understand any bias etc.
    UK nationals in EU should have been in vote even if would have changed result.
    EU founded on noble ideals and has maintained peace in central europe. Not sure it is great institution despite its many achievements. Not sure UK has ever had major voice/impact past governments tended to be at best ambiguous and at worse openly hostile. Last to try Blair but ended with his private war mongering and rejection of Euro.
    EU seeks to impose austerity on others whilst demanding bigger budget and failing to address fraud and waste. Seeking increasingly to centralise decision making including fiscal control for euro-zone and by changing voting procedures. Euro parliament despite changes still lacks powers in many areas. Commission has ceased to have impact and power resides in Council of Ministers.
    Glad not in Euro. One size does not fit all – will only work if one central bank, one budget making body for all members. Have no sentimental attachment to pound – if can make Euro better would be happy to join.
    Happy to accept free movement – aware of fact that my vote impacts my friends/family. Spend much discussion -they remain friends/family.
    EU has achieved much but think risks losing it all with direction taken. I don’t think it can or does it want to be reformed.
    EU never had positive cheerleader in position of power in UK – that is factor in leave vote. Areas that had structural funds still voted leave.
    Have doubts over democratic accountability of EU. Concern over disparity between nations -have /have not. Political system french design – economic German design. Germany has done much good but risks becoming seen unfairly as bad guy. Great that has current account surplus and undertaken structural reform but at what cost. Its solution not right for every country. Better economic posters than me to expand this if want. Hope this good start and why don’t like label.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Nov '17 - 9:47am

    Thanks, Sean, for that concise summary of your comprehensive thinking! There is much in what you say. Probably both Leavers and Remainers tend to dislike the centralising tendencies of the EU, are thankful we are not in the Eurozone, and will have nothing to do with the Federal States of Europe project, having plenty of scepticism about how the project is working out. But how much does it matter to us if they decide to have a finance minister and stronger central bank, so long as we remain in the outer tier of non-Euro states? As to imposing austerity, our own government managed that for us, and it appears that Greece finds it worthwhile to stay in the Zone.

    Our country just has so much to lose, Sean, from separating from our closest trading partners, from threatening our services, from having to rewrite so many sensible regulations and renegotiate so many useful trade pacts, and so on and so on … so much waste of national resources, and for what?

    If we stay in, we can be constructive partners, seek to strengthen the Parliament perhaps giving it powers to initiate legislation and elect the Commission head, work to increase subsidiarity and democracy there. It won’t be easy but it would surely be worthwhile.

    I only disagree strongly with you on one point – I am sure that emotions do play a big part in individual decision-making, which is affected by everything we personally have become.

  • Sheila Gee-
    I’m glad to say I can agree with you on something here. Yes, it’s important that we are open to being proved wrong. Previously I spent much time as a researcher and I believe in the tenets of science, that our theories are only temporary constructs until they can be disproved by more observation.

    Those who believe they are right for all time are perhaps exemplified by religious evangelists but these people, like Brexiters, are superconfident and do attract many for this reason. In contrast to them are the doubters, sceptics and remainers.

    So yes, I very much hope that I am proved wrong and Brexit all turns out for the best. I have to say though, that I don’t think it’s likely. It’s more probable in my view that the Irish problem will be solved by leprechauns. Still, if I see a leprechaun tomorrow I am prepared to revise my whole outlook.

  • Katharine Pindar Thu 9th November 2017 – 3:15 pm:
    …foreigners are part of Them, not Us, and in troubled times our instinct of self-preservation leads us to fear groups or individuals we don’t see as part of Us.

    Only if they have low-skills 😉

    ‘Leave voters back migration of skilled EU workers – poll’ [September 2017]:
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/04/leave-voters-back-migration-of-skilled-eu-workers-poll

    Four in five people who voted leave in the EU referendum would accept migration of high-skilled workers from the bloc to increase or stay the same, according to research, though both remain and leave supporters back a reduction of low-skilled workers.

    More than a third of those surveyed by the thinktank British Future said they would like to see numbers of high-skilled workers increase, with just under half satistifed with current levels.

    The poll found wide support from both leave and remain voters for a new immigration policy which would put a cap on the number of low-skilled migrants arriving but ease the path for specialist workers.

  • I think that increasingly the EU will be developed solely to the benefit of the euro- zone countries. As per the Lisbon treaty the automatically have qualified majority under voting system. The latest assertion countries of the last few years are automatically deemed to accept membership of the euro as soon as meet criteria.
    Euro crisis may have forced some of the changes to protect the euro but supposed he centralisation narrative. Eventually think it will be a eurozone of at least 25 and decisions will always be made for its protection.
    There are decisions without emotions – for example my own and John Kings c!inical practice. It was a hard decision I took so can see your point.

  • David Raw. Yes and still is.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Nov '17 - 7:06pm

    It’s heavy going for us, Riccardo, as your yesterday’s thoughtful comment notes. I was shouting at the radio during Any Questions on Radio 4 at hearing yet again the line that ‘the country has voted and we have to accept their verdict’, as if the country isn’t allowed to change its collective mind. As you suggest, we do have to hope for more enlightenment from our parliamentarians, if Britain can ever be considered great in the future.

    Thanks, Jay, for reminding us of the poll that suggested migration of skilled workers need not be a problem. I have felt sure all along that there can be movement on free movement!
    Sean, thank you for taking the trouble to write again, and I suppose you are right to think that the Eurozone leaders will want the greatest say in the future development of the EU; but if we stay in, surely there may be some readiness for compromise, so that the prospect of our ever wishing to leave again can be banished?

    David, thank you for joining in, likewise CJ! I have been having some thoughts on the greatness question myself, all tied up with reflection on Remembrance.

  • David Raw. Alas no, worked on the buildings all my life.
    Britain is Great because most importantly we don’t (with one or two exceptions on the Celtic fringes) do extremism. Mosely, Griffin the SWP all laughable. I could go on but I would end up one fingered typing for ages.

  • Here’s an observation from Gisela Stuart which differentiates the UK from other EU countries…

    ‘Leave voters can’t be dismissed as “old, racist and stupid”’ [November 2017]:
    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2017/11/leave-voters-can-t-be-dismissed-old-racist-and-stupid

    The other thing to consider is that the UK has had a supranational identity since the 18th century – and that identity is at the core of being British. World War Two did not leave the Brits disillusioned with the nation state – in stark contrast to the mainland. And whereas most European countries held onto the EU as the key institution that offered an identity bigger than the nation state, the UK had a plethora of global institutions of which it was either a founding member or a leading participant. From the IMF and the World Bank, to the UN, the Council of Europe, NATO, the OEED, and GATT.

    Some of these institutions have succeeded in adapting to the changes we have seen since then and some have not. The UK is comfortable with change, and no one institution is central to its identity. So there was no crisis when the World Trade Organisation succeeded GATT, or when the Organisation of European Economic Co-operation was subsumed by a worldwide organisation, the OECD.

    The UK always has been and will continue to be outward looking, international and welcoming. But since the Maastricht Treaty of 1994 – when we opted out of a single European currency and common travel area (Schengen) – there was an inevitable distance from the rest of the EU. The road to our eventual departure was set in motion then. And it was sped up when the Euro was introduced because it became increasingly difficult to have a political and economic union which did not institutionally acknowledge the different needs of member states. The EU’s response – which was to plough ahead with “the project” without acknowledging that the world around us was changing – was also key in edging us further to the exit door.

  • Katherine I think our moment is gone. They cannot risk the failure of the Euro. They know we will probably never join so if what ever we say is felt to be contrary to this aim it will be ignored. They don’t need our votes. The eurozone countries are automatically regarded as a majority under the present voting system.
    The move to “negative” acceptance principles for new proposals means we could never muster enough blocking votes amongst non euro countries. Any new proposal is deemed accepted unless a qualified majority vote against. Also as new countries meet the euro criteria and have to join their votes are added to the tal!y.

  • Sorry Katharine using my Kindle and I didn’t notice initially in changed the spelling of your name. Note to self check and check again.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Nov '17 - 11:48pm

    @ Jeff. Thanks, Jeff, that’s an interesting quote, and I suppose it really boils down to the fact that we are geographically separate anyway , an island nation never surrounded by other principalities which could be and often were dangerous. We were semi-detached mentally from the start, and have now decided to be detached. Unfortunately, as with my idea when young that it would be good some day to live in a big house in the countryside, you don’t get the same services available there. (I never did, just as well!)

    Sean, yes, it’s true that we will never be in a majority of states if we stay in, and we will never join the Euro. But I think the other eight non-joiners can’t be discounted, and that there will have to be concessions to them which might result in a more loosely organised system altogether. We shall see.

    David: no, I didn’t know about the Memorial Stones and their design, thank you – how interesting and apposite. Sad about the expensive inscriptions though, as you say.
    I thought, changing the subject, that Layla sounded confident and did very well for her first go, though she didn’t always win the audience over – as with football, you tend to be scoring better from the stands! ( Glad Town is holding its own – and hope your little London family is doing well – but don’t feel obliged to answer. I shall be singing a fine Malcolm Archer anthem, For the Fallen, in church tomorrow morning, carrying on Remembrance.)

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Nov '17 - 11:52pm

    CJ. good point, that we don’t do extremism. Brevity also appreciated sometimes as a useful breather in a long thread!

  • I understand your thinking Katharine but again fear that of the 8 countries at present outside 6 are obligated to join the Euro unless they take the deliberate act not to meet criteria for joining.
    If wrong I am happy to be corrected but I believe as part of Maastricht 1993 all countries that have joined since have been required to commit to the Euro as the part of being allowed to join the EU. I believe Poland,Romania,and Hungary has already said they will join as soon as they meet the criteria. Czech Republic,Bulgaria, and Croatia are also said to be inclined to join. That will just leave UK and Sweden who have said they do not wish to join and adjust their policy to avoid meeting criteria.
    EU therefore does not need to make concessions barring some unforseen catastrophic event.

  • Sorry forgot Denmark with opt out.

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Nov '17 - 9:14am

    The EU has both, a bold vision expressed in its treaties and by its leading representatives, and the slowly grinding, meticulous administration that forces a continuous reality-check. It is this tension that produces measured progress towards ambitious (but variable) goals. But it also offers plenty of attack-points for the superficial critic. Does anybody seriously believe the current Great Britain produces less, or better-quality ambiguity?

    Logically, no country will join the euro against its will, irrespective of the stated vision. A currency-change is technically unimposable, and arguing otherwise is superficial, to say the least.

    My, very hesitant, take on “Greatness” would be the following: collaborate with the world by contributing your strengths and being augmented in your areas of weakness. It is clear that the EU is the ideal platform for this. Such greatness logically implies also low-skill immigration, not just academics, of which the UK already produces plenty. Another example: the EU is your best defense for the world’s financial center. Out alone on the north-atlantic, New York, Singapore, Shanghai and Hongkong will wrestle it away from you.

  • Arnold I see your point of view. There is much to admire in what the EU has achieved but it has flaws. Up to a few years ago I was a European supporter.
    As to currency the 6 countries I mentioned have limited options. Their membership was agreed only on the basis that they were committed to EMU II and the Euro as soon as they meet the convergence criteria. Their only way out is to do as Sweden has done and actively ensure they don’t converge.
    Denmark has negotiated an opt out. The other 6 have said they want to join and are working to meet convergence requirements. Only internal political changes of government or policy can change that. A eurozone of 25 is going to happen at some point. Any country seeking to join EU also has to make the same commitment.

  • Peter Martin 12th Nov '17 - 2:20pm

    All countries have to balance their trade somehow. For a country like the UK with a freely floating currency the movement of the currency helps achieve that. It doesn’t necessarily close the gap completely because capital flows have to included in the balance too.

    The major problem in the eurozone is there is no provision to allow for this. Currencies can’t float. Tariffs are outlawed. Any country running a trade deficit, and some countries have to run deficits so other countries like Germany can run surpluses, can only correct the imbalance by throwing their economy into steep recession, even depression. This impoverishes the population, meaning they can’t afford imports.

    It’s a flawed model and the sooner the PTB in the EU realise this the better the chances of the EU’s survival.

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Nov '17 - 2:23pm

    Sean Hyland,

    do you seriously believe that eurozone countries will recruit new and unwilling members by force? There are enough problems with those who urgently wanted to join. This would be impossible, undesireable and self-defeating. You continue to overlook the visionary pragmatism of the EU behind the contracts. A eurozone of 28 will happen at some point, entirely by voluntary accession.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Nov '17 - 3:11pm

    This is an interesting discussion of the position of the nine outside the Eurozone. Apart from Arnold’s point, that the EU as an organisation is unlikely to force members to convert currencies to the Euro, of your six states which you tell us are committed to do so when they meet the criteria, Sean, two are Hungary and Poland – states with which the EU has serious problems, due to their increasingly autocratic governments and unwillingness to accept quotas of refugees demanded by Brussels. The pressures within the EU politically, with authoritarian populist movements by no means suppressed either, would seem reasons for some future rethinking by the central powers.

    As to the economic situation there, Peter, I have for some time understood your point about the difficulty of non-floating currencies in the Eurozone, but yet Greece puts up with extreme imposed austerity to stay in the EU and therefore the Zone. Do you know why that should be?

    David, so glad to know your wee ones are fine, and that you will be able to enjoy a visit both to the family and to see Town play Arsenal! Excellent. I can understand your feelings about your Dad, since I also lament that my own father never knew that my detached interest in the football he loved became a real involvement after he had passed on.
    Thank you for your good wishes for this morning: indeed, hearty singing in a moving Remembrance service in Keswick, with stirring hymns and anthem, and the army cadets and scouts and guides bringing up their banners to the altar in the packed church with solemn dignity.

  • Sean Hyland 12th Nov '17 - 3:20pm

    No force is necessary Arnold. The treaty requirements are clear. Since Maastricht any country that applies to join the EU is required to accept membership of EMU and as soon as convergence criteria met that means joining the Euro.
    Sweden is in the same position. A referendum of citizens rejected the Euro. The only action Sweden could and have taken is to ensure they never meet the criteria.
    The other countries have already stated they wish to join and are actively working to meet the criteria. This is the same action taken by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
    So if they chose to they can follow the Swedish example but have chosen not to.
    Any new countries seeking to join will be subject to the same treaty requirements. If after Brexit the UK applied to rejoin it would also apply to us.

  • Sean Hyland 12th Nov '17 - 3:37pm

    Good point Katharine and I am not sure how the EU will manage this. I think it goes to the point that I made re the introduction of the Euro currency. France and Germany had not met the criteria to join so the rules were changed. They had to be seen to be on a clear track to meet the criteria. I guess,because I don’t know,that if required rule changes could be made if need to block a nation for political reasons.
    After the Euro crisis they need to protect the project and continue to show its benefit to the population. The German public have not been happy with paying for the bailout and the German constitutional court has passed the relevant legislation but with reservation.
    As to Greece I can only think the Greek people think a return to the drachma would be worse. I also think that they blame the EU and Germany in particular for their troubles. They same to blame the policies rather than the currency requirements. I don’t think they even accept that they have done anything wrong as a nation or that they shouldn’t have joined as they needed to lie that they met the criteria. The EU are at fault here also and I think recent regulations have tightened up the checks made.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Nov '17 - 3:48pm

    Arnold, postscript, you made as so often more good points I thought in your paragraph on greatness this morning – thanks. I was busy singing. There’s been a comforting sense of unity about the country in this Remembrance weekend. Which also reminds me that the discussions with Sean above have shown, I think, just how much Leavers and Remainers actually have in common. (And Sean, I hope you may have also decided the Lib Dems are fair-minded enough for you to stay with us!)

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Nov '17 - 4:17pm

    View the euro as a triumph of political will over the tyranny of the financial markets. Despite all its systemic faults: it is irreversible, the bumblebee does fly. Aren’t the impossibly related desires to Brexit and end austerity (“take back control”) fed by similar romanticism for bold political action to break free from unloved market imperatives? Strange: you reject the euro out of economic purity, and you embrace Brexit in defiance of economic rationality.

  • Sean Hyland 12th Nov '17 - 7:19pm

    Katharine I am still likely to be voting Lib Dem as I have done for a few years. Will try not to take some of the comments as personal and can see some people trying to understand why leavers voted as we did. The sweeping general dismissal of leavers will still,i think, be applied by some as an easy option. I have enjoyed our discussions .
    Still not convinced to join the party though at the moment -think my first branch meeting might be interesting.

  • Sean Hyland 12th Nov '17 - 7:30pm

    Arnold I don’t personally reject the Euro from economic purity. I reject the increasing centralisation of the EU. Not sure what constitutes defiance of economic rationality. Its no clearer what will occur over the years as the Euro grows and the impacts on the outer layers. Yes we have single markets at the moment but will an increasing price be asked to retain admission.
    We already have the Euro group having their own summits and councils. Rightly they will reach decisions and policies in their best interest and that may have consequences for the outer countries.
    I am not sure what will occur post brexit and some are convinced we may never get there.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Nov '17 - 7:31pm

    Well, Sean, why not give it a go? You have the rational and fair-minded approach that befits a Lib Dem. And Arnold, not ‘you’, please, but ‘they’ – I believe you also are with us, that is a Lib Dem at heart. Though, of course, I am NOT going to divide the people living in our country into Them and Us!

  • will reconsider in the new year Katharine.

  • Little Jackie Paper 12th Nov '17 - 11:31pm

    Katharine Pindar – ‘You have perhaps forgotten that I am reluctant to debate with you, because you decline to explain the basis of your own seeming expertise or why you have chosen such a peculiar pseudonym.

    Oh…terribly sorry. To be honest I don’t remember that at all. I don’t really follow these boards all that closely.

    I don’t really want to say too much about myself. For about two decades now in both personal and professional life I’ve been in a position to see the good and the bad of the EU. As I said earlier, come referendum day I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    My name – look up Puff the Magic Dragon on the internet. Little Jackie Paper was the young innocent who truly believed. The song is about the loss of innocence and the symbolism is as he lost innocence he stopped seeing the magic dragon. My magic dragon is politics. All of it.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Nov '17 - 7:21am

    Little Jackie Paper, I was aware that your name came from that lovely but sad song, Puff the Magic Dragon, but I’ve often wondered exactly why you identified with this particular character. I made a comment to you (which you may not have seen) on another article a while back, saying “what is the dragon you have outgrown or ceased to believe in?”.
    So your dragon is “all of politics”. But at least unlike your namesake you have not completely abandoned your “dragon”, as is clear from your involvement on Lib Dem Voice.
    One interpretation of “Puff the Magic Dragon” is, of course, that Puff was Little Jackie Paper’s imaginary friend, in whom he ceased to believe as he grew older. But another interpretation is that Puff was real, but he was diminished and lost his power when Jackie ceased to believe and abandoned him. Something to think about…
    Katharine, now you will understand the clue I tried to give you!

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '17 - 9:07am

    Thinking citizens of a democratic state should surely not abandon politics. It is part of life, to be engaged with in constructive ways, unless one bows out completely for whatever reason. If obliged to be involved because of work or family, would it not be better to try and influence constructively, particularly if well informed, rather than opting out and lamenting from the sidelines?
    Thanks, Catherine, you make some very good and interesting points there.

  • Arnold Kiel 13th Nov '17 - 9:26am

    Sorry, Katharine, I did not mean you but contributors who feel the need to opt-out not only from the euro, but from Europe as well.

    Sean, you “reject the increasing centralisation of the EU”. You are not alone, quite possibly a majority in the UK, and that is very unfortunate. European integration is the only answer to the increasingly anarchic power of the USA, the productive scale and power ambitions of China, and the resource-rich aggressiveness of Russia. The UK is already geopolitically irrelevant, and if it continues on this calamitous Brexit-course, it will soon also be economically marginalised.

    Europe is your country’s inescapable destiny. The temporary excursion out in the cold you are advocating will eventually bring massively diminished England/Wales, Scotland, and NI, most likely separately, back to the EU. It is a shame so many livelihoods will be destroyed in this superfluous learning loop.

  • I respect and understand your viewpoint Arnold. As I said before it was not an easy decision for me to vote the way I did. I did it based on my principles and conscience. I know many people on both sides did the same. I respect people on both sides for that. I do regret that some of the leave vote has been driven by the ” little Englander”element. I would still vote the same today.

    The UK has been losing its geopolitical importance for some time. Much of what we have left rests,I think,in our continued seat in the security council and an acceptance that we are a good role model for democratic governance.

    Its a shame we have not always lived up to ideals. I also think we still have a large debt to pay to for our former imperial past. We have neglected, I believe, our role in the Commonwealth.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '17 - 4:22pm

    That is a useful way to look at the more contentious subject of ‘greatness’, I reckon – Britain’s ‘geopolitical importance’. I think, Sean, we still have it not only because of our seat on the Security Council and democratic governance, but because of our strong involvement in international organisations and conferences (Nato,, and the Paris Climate Change Accord

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '17 - 4:42pm

    I have accidentally cut myself off! – continung – for example), and the valuable contribution of our armed forces worldwide. And though I agree with you, Arnold (incidentally my last comment was rather to LJP, as I should have explained), that we shall be diminished if we leave, politically and economically, I would question one aspect of what you have just written. Why must the EU be still more centralised, to remain a vital player on the world stage? It would help, no doubt, if the world knew which Chair of which Council counted for the most, but that is surely an argument for a more rational structure, than for one more centralised. I don’t see that it will matter if the Eurozone has a Finance Minister as well as a central bank, and I don’t think a European Defence Force is sensible when we have Nato. It seems to me we should be working out how to make the entire system, inner tier and outer, more democratic, perhaps less bureaucratic, with more subsidiarity, and a clearer outward face to the world. But it doesn’t surely need to be either more centralised or more integrated to continue to stand tall in the world, envied and admired and sometimes longed for as it is now.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Nov '17 - 5:11pm

    Catherine in clearing up what for some is the mystery of the name utilised by our friend here, makes me say, if you like a good and meaningful song, head to my facebook posts , today and often !

    What hippies we are even those of us after that era !

  • Arnold Kiel 13th Nov '17 - 8:22pm

    Europe without US protection and shared values is weak. NATO article 5 is formulated much weaker than article 42 of the Lisbon treaty.

    Putin is again losing popularity at home, requiring the next adventure. He has already stated that he could stand in Kiew in two weeks, and knows nobody would stop him. Trump enjoys aligning with dictators like him much more than collaborating with parliamentary democracies. Putin must be tempted to test his luck soon. If he succeeds, what’s next? The Baltics? Warshaw? Budapest? He already controls their light-switches and heating regulators.

    China is asserting its own “region of influence” in the south-china sea and along the belt and road initiative. Xi Jinping will not compromise on HongKong and neither on Taiwan, again, unchallenged for the next 3-7 years, possibly longer. China is moving up the industrial- and services-value chain, and disregards intellectual property rights. The current modus vivendi to ship simple products West and advanced technology East is ending, and the chances of managing the transition rule-based are diminishing.

    While Europe was enjoying the post cold war peace dividend, it took powerful US protection for granted: a superior military, the deepest capital markets, control of SWIFT, all deployed based on shared values.

    Today, all three countries are effectively undermining our value-system (anyhow never defensible in itself). Brexit, LePen, AfD, Wilders, Catalunya being Putins most gratifying early sucesses, now strongly supported by Trump, not to forget a little help from Erdogan.

    Europe’s combined defense budgets are half the US’s, but buy only 1/6th of the battle-strength, because of platform-proliferation and lack of interoperability.

    Our options are: give up any ambition based on military force, i.e. let others determine our territorial and institutional integrity or shape up. Stronger European defense is useless without central command, which in turn is impossible without aligned strategic imperatives. Hence integration.

  • Arnold Kiel 13th Nov '17 - 8:23pm

    continued:

    Now to the UK: being a beacon for democracy is evidently of no value in this game, NATO is no longer reliable, and the seat on the security-council an equally valueless anachronism in a superseded concept. The last important case of security-council unanimity, the Iran nuclear sanctions, is currently being dismantled by Trump. You may keep your seat (they know how proud you are), because the three know you will not be able to freely cast your vote anymore. The Commonwealth-countries (another romantic source of pride that has not produced any common wealth for decades) are already aligning with the real powers. And so will the British isles.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '17 - 10:30pm

    That is a grim picture you paint, Arnold, of the threats to Europe you see and dread. But Britain will surely be no less ready to defend Europe than before. All my life I have taken it for granted that there were British troops defending the Continent, and NATO High Command in Belgium. Have Putin’s European ambitions not been stopped, at some cost, in Ukraine? Do the joint military exercises not show NATO’s resolve to defend the Baltic states? Besides, a friend of mine, the widow of a German and with a German family, points out that Russia may feel threatened by the troops and exercises on its frontiers. And might it not anyway weaken joint Western command of defence if the EU sought to have separate forces as part of the integration you feel it should have?

    Then again, though I have no expertise here, is it not the case that Putin has carved out a role to satisfy his ambition by making Assad’s Syria now virtually a client state? Besides, Russia must always be aware of China to the east, and it is surely inconceivable that China, with North Korea and Japan to deal with, could ever work in joint aggression with Russia. And China historically has not been aggressive, and seems set only on economic expansion in the west and in Africa. I cannot see the threats that you envisage coming to pass, nor the USA with its aggressive though volatile President failing in necessary defence of our Europe.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Nov '17 - 6:22am

    Katharine, it is often suggested that Leave voters did not really know what they were voting for, because Leave could mean so many different things – that, in Tim Farron’s phrase “they voted for a departure, but not for a destination”. But your discussion with Arnold Kiel illustrates the fact that exactly the same was true of Remain.
    There is Soft Remain and Hard Remain. I’m sure most people who voted Remain in the referendum were like you, Katharine, in thinking they were just voting to continue the status quo, assuming that if we remained, the EU and Britain’s position in the EU would continue more or less the same as before. But there is also a Hard Remain, which Arnold advocates, with much greater integration, and an “EU army”. If Hard Remain had been on the ballot paper, then I think there would have been an overwhelming, rather than a narrow, vote for Leave. But during the referendum campaign, the Remain campaign spoke only of Soft Remain, and dismissed talk of greater integration or an EU army, as myths put about by the Leave campaign. Yet it has become clear that Hard Remain is not a myth. Greater integration and an EU army may not necessarily happen, but Junker clearly wants them, and they seem a real possibility.
    There really should have been more open debate about this during the referendum campaign. It could be argued that the Remain campaign was more misleading than the Leave campaign, as it repeatedly denied any possibility that voting Remain might result in a Hard Remain that was not on the ballot paper.

  • Arnold Kiel 14th Nov '17 - 8:01am

    Catherine, there is a big difference:

    What you call hard remain is neither mainstream, nor could it have been brought about by a UK government. No UK party could therefore put it on any national ballot paper. It is a gradual (and IMO desireable) development that would require democratic consent of all societies involved, and is therefore not very likely. A vote to remain would just have meant that the UK continued to be a participant in these debates. Nobody was misled on this.

    The hard Brexit that might happen would be the result of unilateral action by a minority-government taken hostage by radicals and unchecked by moderate MPs who have given up exercising their conscience in the national interest. Leave told everybody that all benefits of membership could be easily and immediately retained, and never even mentioned the fact that there are existing financial and ongoing humanitarian commitments to honour. Not misleading but outright lies.

    Besides, remain took no money or PR-support from Putin. Funny, how the circle closes: Putin and Trump promoted Brexit, Brexit then propelled Trump, e.g. through support by a victorious Farage, in addition to Putin’s by now proven meddling in the US election. Brexit was the decisive first step in dismantling Europe’s NATO-protection, always quoted by leavers as rendering EU-based defense unnecessary. Misleading? At least a fatal misjudgement.

    Katharine, we shall see…hope always dies last.

    Another angle to this: Paradise Papers. Should you wonder why nothing will happen to dismantle the UK tax havens, the reason is simple: China and Russia are great places for a few thousand people to make money, but they are bad for storing and enjoying it. A great business, and a necessity for a defenseless post-Brexit Britain without the luxury of choosing its friends.

  • Arnold, I am afraid you are wrong. Just because ‘hard remain could not have been brought about by a UK government’, does not mean it is not a valid consideration for all liberals, whether or not they are pro Remain. Certainly if further substantial movement towards integration were likely, many liberals would be much less pro remain than they are, so it a valid concern and could be put on a ballot paper. To say it can’t is simply not true. Some people might not want it to be on a ballot, but that would simply be a denial of liberty.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Nov '17 - 2:28pm

    It does begin to seem clear that if Britain is allowed another Referendum, the advocates of Remain will need to make it plain to the rest of the EU that moves towards a Federal States of Europe and a European defence force are not thought to be acceptable to the majority of the British public, and that there must be continuing arrangements for the nine states (including ours) which are not in the Eurozone to remain in a viable outer tier. Simply continuing not to comply with the conditions to enter the Euro, as is it appears is the case with Sweden, cannot be a long-term solution; and there is also the question of the current demand that any future state joining (or rejoining!) will also accept the Euro.

    All of which seems to me to imply that there may have to be major negotiations on treaty change, and acceptance of change of direction and reform by EU leaders. Would it be worth it to them, to have Britain back in as a full member but of a less centralised system? Or is the future going to be a fully integrated central EU with numerous as-it-were ‘planets’ like Norway and Switzerland circling round the tight central ‘sun’? It would be good to know the thoughts of our EU experts.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Nov ’17 – 2:28pm..

    Katharine, if we do decide to stay/rejoin, making a ‘shopping list of what we want will not wash…
    They are not stupid; if we stay/rejoin it is because the future we see outside is a lot worse than the worst they can offer….’Cap in hand’ comes to mind!

  • Arnold Kiel 14th Nov '17 - 4:06pm

    Evidently, the last and any possible future referendums on EU-separation or membership did and would confront the electorate with two highly dynamic options with unpredictable consequences. Spelling all of that out would have been very helpful, not only to enlighten the public, but more importantly to show that this subject cannot be pressed into a generally comprehensive yes/no question. The last referendum was a grave mistake that should not be repeated.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    Arnold. I tend to agree with a great deal of your analysis but if you think that parliament can just ignore the result of the Referendum you are living in a different world. That course of action would unleash a constitutional crisis the likes of which this country has not seen since Oliver Cromwell. The only way the UK can stay in the EU is through another referendum and we will just have to take our chances. For any other compromise (EEA, Customs Union, Norway etc.), I think we will have to see the end of this Tory Government. It is pretty badly wounded after the G.E. The down side would be a Labour Government under J.C. which I fear would have it’s own negative effects on the economy. Rock and a hard place comes to mind. Both Europe and the UK will be weakened by this whole process and the Italian elections next year will be a challenging time for the EU. Putin must be grinning from ear to ear. Our politicians are a disgrace.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Nov '17 - 5:34pm

    I completely take your point, expats, we are in no position to apply to stay or rejoin with a shopping list. As you suggest, the EU powers know as well as our negotiators that we have a losing hand, since we will be worse off out than we can be staying in.

    Arnold points to the continuing difficulty of a yes-no referendum, and seems to suggest that it is therefore impracticable, given the complex questions to be addressed, but David reckons the complexity can be addressed in a ballot. I guess we have to wait till the outcome of the negotiations, themselves to be affected by the challenges in Parliament, to pursue this particular thought-train much further.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Nov '17 - 4:09pm

    Pesco, I learnt last night, is not a sauce concocted for Tesco, but a new defence pact agreed to by 23 EU nations. The European defence force which I was arguing with Arnold would not be acceptable to the British public must then be considered a possibility, though one of the first projects of the pact is only a medical evacuation and field hospital, and defence procurement and training are to be considered. It seems as if the EU is as alarmed by Putin (who is at any rate conducting cyber warfare) as it is now sceptical of a Trump-led America’s sufficient commitment to defend Europe, perhaps in response to the US dissatisfaction with the amount of GDP EU states in general are contributing to NATO. This is indeed a sign of deepening EU integration, but is it one which, if we remain in the EU, Britain would wish to opt out of?

  • Simon Banks 10th Jan '18 - 5:21pm

    You hear repeatedly from not a few Americans that theirs is “the greatest country in the world”. One might ask if they’ve been to all the others and studied them. But perhaps what they mean is “most powerful”, in which case they’re right, but should realise that it won’t be so forever. “Great Britain” of course was merely to indicate that it took in all the bits. There is every reason to want to make the country we live in excel, for British justice, renewable energy, TV drama or whatever to be excellent; and no reason to want it to be more powerful unless we have good reason to think it’ll use its power for good.

    As for the us and them thing, this is indeed deep in the human psyche and can be observed among our closest relatives, Chimpanzees. But it can be expressed in all sorts of ways. A nationalist is not necessarily a racist. Divisions like Yorkshire/Lancashire, Wolves/West Brom or the residents of the terraced houses versus those in the high rise estate may ignore colour or religion. For Liberal Democrats it’s often productively channelled into “lets (something undignified) up the Tories (or Labour)!” It becomes most dangerous when, as you say, people are fearful.

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Jan '18 - 6:42pm

    “There is every reason to want to make the country we live in excel, for British justice, renewable energy, TV drama or whatever to be excellent; and no reason to want it to be more powerful unless we have good reason to think it’ll use its power for good. ”

    Quite. Patriotism in its good sense. The “My country right or wrong” sort of patriotism – which is what I perceive goes on among many Americans – is just downright dangerous.

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