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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  • 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:

  • 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

  • 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’


    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

  • 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]:

    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]:

    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.

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