Opinion: The UK is dead – long live the EU

The English are the last on this sceptred isle to realise that Britain is dead.

It’s hard to remember that the nation-state is a modern invention: the Treaty of Westphalia gave birth to the conception of crown and country. Britain herself was an elaboration on 18th Century statecraft.

Each of our constitutional nations brought their talents to bear on Britain’s great endeavour: the British Empire. A merchant empire defended with regiments of Welsh and Scots infantry and English seamen; managed by a ruling class composed of feudal aristocrats and nouveaux riche industrialists and merchants.

That project is over: we are so ashamed of the damage our imperial ambition wrought that we no longer acknowledge the echoes of colonialism that ring in globalised capitalism.

The United Kingdom itself is a dying echo: the unionist argument is that we remain the same because we shouldn’t risk being different. This state was born to win a war of economic domination over our European rivals. 1884 had more in common with Orwell’s novel than the year of its title.

The Celtic nations are awake to the failure of the UK to deliver on the promise of Britain, which is now only the promise of the City of London. The SNP recognise the sale of Scotland’s natural resources for what it is: an international investment opportunity (some would say a colonial exploitation of native resources) on the terms of the UK government. Scotland knows that the UK can do great things: it just doesn’t want it doing great things to them.

England is the last to awake to the crisis of its social contract. Aside from austerity, we are content with consumer capitalism: we quite like eating burgers in brioche buns and think our new lawn chairs are very tasteful. We haven’t yet noticed that consumer debt, environmental degradation, the job we’re employed for but aren’t sure needs doing (or that we’re being paid enough for) are all connected: that our work, leisure, and aspirations have been themselves colonised by the American nightmare.

The American dream was the finest in the world: it was the dream that a man can leave the feudal tyranny of the Old World and own property free of the obligations of indentured servitude. The bait-and-switch of consumerism has made the American Dream more about property than liberty: this is one axis in the culture war, in which England is now a distant outpost (Did you see Skyfall?).

The decay of the United Kingdom will only be arrested by adopting a new project, but the time of the British Empire has passed. If only the scales could fall from its eyes, England might awake to the 21st Century and realise that it, too, could be free from the tyranny of the Old World.

We must abandon Britain as the final act of decolonisation. To remain together, we must become European or American: we must abandon the 19th Century to officially join the 20th, or 21st.

The European project is more exciting than the American dream, which was long ago realised and subverted. Europe (and Britain) has inherited the trauma of its civil wars: it has reaped fields of poppies and heard the night-time knocking on doors.

Europe is a post-national state. There is no such thing as nations between free people.

Liberals must be disappointed in the state of today’s unions: the UK is a basket case aspiring to be an economy comparable to China, complete with surveillance state. The United States considers the policies of the 20th Century, the most fraught century, to be the best guarantor of peace. The European Union has allowed the pride of its members to stand in the way of compromise.

It is shameful that the right fear that Europe will usurp their power over this country. It is equally shameful that left-wingers who have seen the right dominate the Greek issue consider that they might vote “Out”, now the EU is no longer an extra-national guarantor of left-wing values.

Europe is a democratic union. For any union to fulfil its promise, it needs our belief: we must consider ourselves as Europeans, as heirs to Democracy, as once upon a time we were Britons, and ruled the waves.

* Toby MacDonnell is a Lib Dem member. He is a graduate in history from Sussex university reading Keynes and Baudrillard in preparation for postgraduate studies.

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60 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 12th Jul '15 - 12:59pm

    Wow.
    “we are so ashamed of the damage our imperial ambition wrought that we no longer acknowledge the echoes of colonialism that ring in globalised capitalism.”
    “We must abandon Britain as the final act of decolonisation”
    “Europe (and Britain) has inherited the trauma of its civil wars: it has reaped fields of poppies and heard the night-time knocking on door”

    Less time reading Baudrillard, more time talking to actual voters would seem like a good idea.

  • This article is straight out of the Russel Brand playbook.

  • Michael Berridge 12th Jul '15 - 1:06pm

    “It is shameful that the right fear that Europe will usurp their power over this country.” Quite. That’s why we in our flat in Bromley are against airport expansion in SE England. What is wrong with other European airports such as Schiphol? (Oh, and we’d get less noise from overflights – but that’s not the reason!)

  • Is the author being deliberately provocative by making outrageous statements? Is it the naïve enthusiasm of youthful inexperience? Whatever the motivation, it is an amusing piece.

  • ” The SNP recognise the sale of Scotland’s natural resources for what it is: an international investment opportunity (some would say a colonial exploitation of native resources) on the terms of the UK government. ”

    And what would be so different if the sale of Scotland’s natural resources was done on terms set by a European government? Remember it was the EU who demanded the handover of the UK’s fishing rights back in 1975…

  • It is the EU that is in terminal decline.

    If another EU fudge saves Greece from leaving the EU, it will only be a matter of time before the crisis is repeated. Next time, the debt mountain will be even more massive and the taxpayers of Germany, Finland and others will demand that no more of their money is spent on preventing a Greek exit.

    The money men will start testing the willingness of the EU to bankroll countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal. That will be the end of the Euro. There will be no further point of the EU.

    Meantime, the EU will push ahead with further integration in order to create a treasury and central taxation, both essential to save the Euro. The people of Europe, many of whom were never consulted about joining the EU or the Eurozone, may decide that they do not wish to give up their remaining sovereignty to become part of a federation. The EU does not “do” democracy.

    At that point the EU will cease to exist. I cannot judge whether it will be a peaceful death or an acrimonious implosion amidst social unrest. That will be up to the common sense of the EU leadership, should they be fortunate enough to discover

  • It is certainly an opinion but a weird one with little to back it up. Whether or not the UK is “dead” is a matter for the people, not decided on some arcane academic thesis.

  • The “Treaty of Westphalia” (I assume that Mr MacDonnell means the 1648 peace treaties of Münster and Osnabrück, ending the Thirty Years’ War) has absolutely nothing to do with modern concepts of the state. One can read the treaties through and not find anything relating to current notions of state sovereignty; they are, instead, firmly entrenched in the mediæval notion of the state as an extension of the personal power of the monarch, the state territory as the monarch’s property, and diplomatic relations as a conversation between monarchs (or, in the case of states like Switzerland or the Netherlands, with monarch-equivalents).

    The nation-state idea had to wait for more than a century, until the Napoleonic era and, especially, the new Europe which arose at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. As it was the goal of those statesmen (Castlereagh, Metternich, Talleyrand, and others) to image the new state of international relations as a return to the past and themselves as conservative maintainers of the established order (rather than as the radicals they were) it was of course necessary for an academic literature to be written in the 19th century which would project a relatively recent state of affairs far into the past.

  • Sammy O'Neill 12th Jul '15 - 4:19pm

    “Each of our constitutional nations brought their talents to bear on Britain’s great endeavour: the British Empire. A merchant empire defended with regiments of Welsh and Scots infantry and English seamen; managed by a ruling class composed of feudal aristocrats and nouveaux riche industrialists and merchants.”

    Let’s just ignore the contribution of Ireland entirely here. I mean it’s not like Irishmen made up between 30-50% of the British Army over the course of 200 years, or volunteered in large numbers during WW2 from both sides of the border. That;s before you even get to the obvious omission of the large colonial contribution to the defence of the Empire.

    This is genuinely the worst piece I have ever read on LDV. It’s like reading something published by the Socialist Worker’s Party. I mean “the UK is a basket case aspiring to be an economy comparable to China” is just laughable. Capitalist free market economy with a moderate (albeit declining) welfare state vs planned, centrally controlled communist economy with no real concept of a welfare state or social mobility. Kind of like claiming the Lib Dems are aspiring to become the new BNP.

  • Little Jackie Paper 12th Jul '15 - 5:00pm

    ‘Europe is a post-national state. There is no such thing as nations between free people.’

    Some might say post-democratic, but leave that to one side. This, ‘free,’ bit gets tossed around a lot, but I have a feeling you have no real idea what you mean by it. Even if one accepts that there are no such things as nations the EU is doing a wonderful job at the moment of showing that there are gaping asymmetries.

    I suggest less Baudrillard and more Alan Milward.

  • Oh dear, on so many levels.

    “The SNP recognise the sale of Scotland’s natural resources for what it is: an international investment opportunity (some would say a colonial exploitation of native resources) on the terms of the UK government.”

    Citing the SNP as a source of expertise on oil, hmmm that sounds like a good idea.

    Sammy O’Neill

    “This is genuinely the worst piece I have ever read on LDV.”

    Sums it up nicely.

  • Great article and spot on in every respect. Our future is as Europeans. The UK shows no sign of ever turning into something built on democracy and fairness.

  • Interesting article. However, “the United Kingdom is a dying echo” is just a little melodramatic! As I understand it the argument boils down to this:
    Sooner or later Scotland will probably leave the UK. That would be the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom . The country is politically divided between Scotland, the North, the South, Wales and Northern Ireland. Therefore if we want to keep a stable relationship between parts of the UK, and indeed with other EU countries, we must remain in the EU. This close relationship is vital for trade, the economy and for peace.

  • Steve Comer 12th Jul '15 - 8:41pm

    Great article Toby! I’ve long felt that The UK is essentially an Imperialist concept, but the EU is different, its a coming together of nations build on co-operation not conquest. However it DOES have a democratic deficit. The problem is it is still sticking to structures that were set up when it was formed by 6 adjoined countries. Iter-governmental governance may have worked with 6 states, it started to get more difficult with 9, got really creaky with 15 members and completely imposisble with 28 nation states.

    We need to build a Europe of Peoples, but we cannot do so while all major issues are decided by government leaders claiming to represent all their people.

    I’m pleased that our Leader in the European Parliament has had so many views and positive remarks for his speech on the crisis in Greece this week, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P84tN0z4jqM&feature=youtu.be
    He has co-authored a book with his Green opposite number which is a roadmap for the future of Europe. Its available from bookshops or here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1479261882/?tag=libdemvoice-21

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jul '15 - 8:51pm

    The article is better than the headline, but we should have no loyalty to any institutions. Liberalism should be about people and we should always look questionably on the UK and the EU. This is the only way to make sure that we serve the people.

    With what is happening in Greece at the moment I still can’t believe Clegg said in the general election campaign “I will always argue for Britain to remain in the EU.”. What, even if the EU throws Greece to the dogs? If a Grexit happens over the next few weeks then the EU will stink so badly that the whole thing will collapse. Make no mistake, a Grexit is the end of the EU.To put it bluntly: France will no longer want to be in a political union with Germany.

  • EU worship is so last century.

  • I wasn’t expecting to raise so much passion in all of you: thank you for your replies. Before I elaborate on a number of points, I’d just like to say that “Mr MacDonnell” is my father.

    Firstly, this article makes no policy recommendations: its point is that nations are sustained mainly by belief, and that the rise of Scots and Celtic nationalism can be read as an epilogue to the history of the British Empire. The acquisition of Scotland’s resources by the UK government has echoes of Britain’s imperial past.

    I don’t think acknowledging that the SNP may have a point here is an illiberal point of view. Our party’s song is about the privatisation of common resources, land given by God to the people, and how the new owner should compensate the public.

    Westphalia in this article is treated as remarkable not for its continuity with medieval politics, which of course it is, but because it is the moment that Europe began to organise territory and rule on the basis of a rational-legal agreement: this is the same reason the Magna Carta is a watershed in the history of citizenship.

    I’m sorry you’ve taken my omission of Ireland to heart, Sammy, but Ireland’s history with Britain is far more complicated and fought than I’m prepared to deal with in this article. Ireland’s place in Britain’s history deserves better treatment than I could afford to give it.

    Whether or not the United Kingdom ceases to be, I believe that Britishness should be left behind. While a great many people use it as a descriptor for being of multiple heritages, I believe that the category of European would be an excellent inheritor term: it would encompass the whole continent, as British once encompassed these islands..

    The EU is not perfect by any stretch, and it is its recent failure which motivated me to write this article. Were each of us to begin thinking as Europeans, before we were Scots, Greeks, or Germans, I am confident that we would deal with one another with more respect and sympathy: were we European, would we any longer need to be represented by states’ governors? European should be synonymous with democrat.

    As to the reference to China, I fear that this is where the Tories will lead us if we leave the EU: a nation dedicated to exporting its talents for ever greater profit, governed by an artificially maintained majority, and policed to absolute conformity. I hope you recognise that the comparison was not intended as hyperbole.

  • ‘Great article and spot on in every respect. Our future is as Europeans. The UK shows no sign of ever turning into something built on democracy and fairness.’

    Spoof post of the month.

  • To be honest, the more slavish the worship of the EU gets the more likely I am to vote out. The problem for me is that it’s looking more and more like a mixture of FIFA style corrupt empty grandiosity , German self interest and a corporate attempt to bypass democracy by the day. Also pulling the plug will alter the dynamics completely because Britain is a major economy, a net importer and the other EU nations will not want to lose the market place. Plus I think you could change Britain in a more progressive direction more easily outside of the EU.

  • Sammy O'Neill 13th Jul '15 - 2:48am

    “I fear that this is where the Tories will lead us if we leave the EU: a nation dedicated to exporting its talents for ever greater profit, governed by an artificially maintained majority, and policed to absolute conformity. I hope you recognise that the comparison was not intended as hyperbole.”

    I don’t really see how China “exports its talents for ever greater profit”. Certainly no where near the Western standard on this. We’re going to go backwards on this then I suppose?

    “governed by an artificially maintained majority”- China doesn’t have democratic elections, so there is no majority. It is a one party state. I see nothing the Tories are proposing that will morph us into a Chinese type state. As much as I don’t particularly like the Tories generally, I don’t think they have some evil plan to destroy democracy. I think the public will be with me on that one as well.

    As for “policed to absolute conformity”, how exactly does the EU save us from this 1984 scenario? Some of the legislation it seems to enjoy pumping out is dubious on the censorship front (just look at the current nonsense about not being allowed to publish photos of landmarks), whilst a number of its member states are hardly bastions of liberalism. What has the EU done about the curbs on the media enacted in Hungary, the oligarch control of media in Greece (well worth reading about, the corruption is incredible) or the continued failure of Romania and Bulgaria to treat Roma orphans the same as other children? The answer is nothing. The EU is not going to be your saviour if anything like what you envisage happens; they’ve shown themselves to not care in all the instances I name above.

  • Matthew Hawley 13th Jul '15 - 8:43am

    “……The American dream was the finest in the world: it was the dream that a man can leave the feudal tyranny of the Old World and own property free of the obligations of indentured servitude. The bait-and-switch of consumerism has made the American Dream more about property than liberty: this is one axis in the culture war, in which England is now a distant outpost (Did you see Skyfall?)………………….”

    Isn’t this a good thing? England and all the UK are therefore distinct from pure laissez-faire consumerism – Or don’t I understand what the author is talking about? -this article does not strike me as a very clear analysis of the present state of affairs or of any future direction our country might be advised to take.

  • How is the eu democratic when it was solely founded by politicians without people’s consent? What the people voted for was the EEC (european economic community), which was only about trading and commerce between neighboring countries. This eu we got here and that eurozone they got there has got nothing to do with democracy. Something in order to be considered democratic has to be approved by PEOPLE first, not just politicans and bankers. I have been traveling a lot recently around Europe and I can tell you that Great Britain is FAR from being dead. The Eu is a sinking boat and further integration will drag Britain down. Not only I’m in favour of Brexit, but I wish each and every country in europe goes-exit.

  • Stephen Howse 13th Jul '15 - 10:47am

    “Europe is a democratic union.”

    *Chortle*

    I have zero desire to see the UK broken up only to see the expressed wishes of 50 million English people – remaining outside of the Euro, for one thing – being ignored and contravened by a distant, unelected, unrepresentative elite of project leaders in Brussels.

    I would very much like further cooperation with other European nations on matters of common interest, such as international crime and climate change – issues where alone we are at best marginally effective. I would like such cooperation to come from nation state level, rather than being imposed from above; imposed cooperation is not really cooperation at all, and there’s certainly nothing liberal about it.

    I would also like decisions to be taken at the most local level possible, in order that they might be representative of and responsive to the wishes of those in whose name they are taken. Subsidiarity, basically – a term not everyone knows but which I think would chime happily with the views of the bulk of the British people.

  • The silliness of some of the responses just goes to show how right this article is. We’ve got all the usual stuff. The person who has made up an imaginary version of the 1970s EEC totally different to the reality that we voted on in a referendum (they fiendishly hid the words ‘ever closer union’ in the first line of the treaty of Rome). There are the people who are convinced that a country with the biggest unelected chamber outside China is a beacon of democracy, while the EU with a parliament elected under a fair voting system is a dictatorship. You’ve got the people who think the EU somehow bans all trade with countries outside it, instead of making life much easier for UK exporters to the rest of the world. You’ve got the people who proclaim how they’ve travelled all over Europe, but they want to make that travel much more difficult for everyone.

    It’s the UK that’s undemocratic, divided by a class system that denies opportunity and ruled by people who were born with the right to rule. The UK needs to change. If it doesn’t it will die and if it doesn’t good riddance.

  • It is time to examine which parts post 1967 expansion in higher education has been of any use to the UK. I would suggest that most of the arts and social sciences departments created in the 1967 expansion has benefited the lecturers and builders . By the comments made in this and other articles by the author I cannot see how the UK spending money on creating the history department at Sussex university has been of use to the UK.

  • I’ve found an earlier piece on pollution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95BzBpBYwNI

  • Toby

    I’m not sure that your comment of:
    “I’d just like to say that “Mr MacDonnell” is my father”
    Was intended to be funny.

    You appear to have an issue understanding identity. You appear to share the view of a minority of people who you hear vocally on LDV about how they hate the concept of the nation state and hate an identity linked to those nations.

    A more normal description of people’s identity can be seen in the way Charles Kennedy described his identity, to the effect of:
    “I am a citizen of the European Union, I am British, a Scot and a Highlander; and I see no reason I should be expected to give any of those up”

    Most people, have multi-layered identity. Most people feel a connection to the different communities that they belong to and the strength of feeling towards each identity fluctuates over time depending on circumstances (something the SNP understand and try to make use of). Your contention that people should feel some kind of shame about British-ness and rejoice in EU-ness would sound rather like the caricature of someone who self describes as spending their time “reading Keynes and Baudrillard in preparation for postgraduate studies.” Even Nigel Farage describes himself as European when the Ryder Cup is involved.

    Or your simplification of the role of “the Treaty of Westphalia” or even your passing reference to “Magna Carta” (see the wide spread mocking of the Tories celebration of the anniversary while trying to dismantle rights at the same time among the Legal commenters) seem to be rather at odds with your decision to avoid engaging with Sammy O’Neill by saying:
    “Ireland’s history with Britain is far more complicated and fought than I’m prepared to deal with in this article”
    That is before we even get started on the cartoon of: “empire defended with regiments of Welsh and Scots infantry and English seamen; managed by a ruling class composed of feudal aristocrats and nouveaux riche industrialists and merchants”

    You also chose to make very simplistic assumptions and statements about:
    “The acquisition of Scotland’s resources by the UK government”
    Which had you explored in more detail would also have been taken apart by commenters.

  • Contd…
    Periodically on here you hear commenters asking about how the LibDems can have so little appeal to the voters in places like Clacton, well I think your view point is a stereotype of the party view, sneering at them. They identify as British and English, ohh how “19th Century” of you. You “must become European or American” to be ‘with it’ like me and my crowd.

    Perhaps none of this matters to you, if you are going to spend a life immersed in a life studying and teaching about dead thinkers in a University surrounded by people who share your narrow world view, socialising with those who share your narrow views. If by chance you want to engage with people more widely and speak to people outside of a very narrow clique I suggest opening your mind and considering that other people’s views could be equally valid (and perhaps see Skyfall for what it is, and don’t take it so seriously).

    Finally
    “I wasn’t expecting to raise so much passion in all of you”
    A series of bad arguments that have a tone of sneering at people will get a rise out of many people.
    “this article makes no policy recommendations”
    Perhaps that is the problem, if you look to identify a problem and think about a solution people will have something to judge, if you make sweeping generalisations particularly if it has the tone of this piece you will get a strong response but lacking specifics it will not add much to discussion.

  • @psi
    “..would also have been taken apart by commenters.”

    Also? The article’s got lots of inane abuse from some of the commenters.. Nobody has taken anything apart, or even offered any coherent argument against it.

  • There is no singular Liberal Democrat view, much as there is no British or European view. The identity is more important than the institutions: the institutions sit upon the faith that people have in them.

    Britishness, as an identity, is in decline. It has defied definition in every debate because its proudest achievements are also its most shameful, in today’s world.

    Scots haven’t voted to leave the UK yet: even if they do, they might remain British. Who could say? But what is striking about Scots nationalism is how pro-EU it is.

    English nationalism seems to have sprung up as a reaction: it attacks the European Parliament in one breath, and the Barnett formula in the next.

    Clearly neither England nor Scotland has the monopoly on what it might mean to be British: but if one must be exclusively Scottish or exclusively English, then Scottish nationalism has Europeanism in its favour because Europe is the best of Britain.

    Britain as the guardian of democracy and human rights is a very contemporary myth. I agree with Chris that Britain is not yet a democracy: sovereignty resides in Parliament, which makes a nod to the people in unrepresentative elections which are retained by the big two parties to maintain their own right to rule. I think the link between our history and our constitution is so close that to ignore or discount what they are and how they are used would be to overlook a lot about Britain.

    Europe is a democracy: what it lacks is a demos, and I think that is the crux of its problems. So why not consider ourselves to be European first, and see how the world looks through that prism?

    Is Europeanness so different from the story we tell ourselves about being British? It stands for democracy, human rights, and the coming together of multiple nations under a single flag (regardless of how ineffective either state is today). The reason I think this is an experiment worth trying is that Europe sounds so much like the best of Britain.

  • This article perhaps would work better as a foreword to a longer piece exploring identity, historical narratives. But the criticism has struck a sour note. We have people who are vigorously defending Britishness, quoting Charles Kennedy while forgetting that his British identity was many-faceted and that not all identities need a nationstate to validate them. Alongside that, Toby has picked up the Europhobes who can’t see, or refuse to admit to, any of the changes and developments on the European scene since 2012.

    He is broadly right that the UK nationstate is failing to nurture a British identity. The biggest thing the Brit Nats have offered has been EVEL, and if I were trying to design a policy to undermine Britishness I’d have trouble doing better. The article is describing a Europe that doesn’t exist yet, but it is a Europe we can catch glimpses of at times. We saw it last week, when Guy Verhofstadt succeeded in getting the Greek crisis debated at the European Parliament.

    And Psi, on identity, speaking for myself I’m English, European and from East Anglia. I believe that England would be better and more fairly represented engaging directly in the European project on its own terms rather than with its interests filtered through an increasingly obsolete UK structure.

  • “Westphalia in this article is treated as remarkable. . . because it is the moment that Europe began to organise territory and rule on the basis of a rational-legal agreement”

    But it is not. The treaties did not establish any novel sort of “rational-legal agreement” among states and are not really, in form or function, different from scores of preceding treaties. Mostly what they did was to legitimise the further disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire, establish the independence of the Netherlands on a legal basis (though it had been a de facto reality for at least half a century) and allocate the spoils of war to France and Sweden (the real victors). Far from establishing a community of equal and insular nation-states, it showed that the claimed sovereignty of at least one state (the Empire) was worthless, that its predatory neighbours could plunder it at will, and that its constituent parts would only stay together as long as it was convenient, and its yoke did not weigh too heavily on their necks.

    And of course to those nations who were not involved in the Thirty Years’ War — such as the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, now in the concluding states of fratricidal war — Westphalia meant nothing beyond a moderate amount of alarm at the rising power of France.

  • Chris

    Paragraph 1
    No evidence – the rise of English nationalism suggests that the opposite would be true if the premise is accepted (which given the Scots referendum can’t just be accepted).

    Paragraph 2 – See David-1 & jedibeeftrix.

    Paragraph 3 – See Sammy O’Neill – Of course there were never enay English solders or Indian or Nepalese (those Gurkhas are fictional honestly…) and there couldn’t have been any Scots, Welsh, Irish in the Navy (ignoring all the other nationalities that were in there).

    Paragraph 4 – “we” who is this “we” Toby speak for I hope he is not claiming for the 60m people in the UK. As it is very clear that he doesn’t have too much communication with normal people – See Simon McGraph.

    Paragraph 5 – well the substance is rather lacking to identify. A basic straw man about what “Unionists” argue, not anything concrete. No explanation about how 1884 was actually totalitarian trying to impose the views of a single leader on every individual citizen, so again a bit hard to find something concrete to engage with.

    Paragraph 6 – again vacuous on specifics (exactly what is the “the promise of Britain” as was before it was changed to the “promise of the City of London” and what is that?). As to the question of the SNP and Oil – See Roland. Though again as I said lacking in the explanation that would give something meaningful to discuss, including what the “great things” that can be done that aren’t. Again not clear how Toby is not entitled for the “Celtic Nations” but I guess we will see.

    Paragrpah 7 – Ohhh, Sneer “our new lawn chairs are very tasteful.” Aside from that I think you will find extensive discussion of Environmental degradation and consumer debt (something that appears in most economic arguments ‘how sustainable is the recovery’ etc.) no one directly addressed this one but that is probably because the errors were so obvious.

    Paragraph 8 – one inspired by Skyfall, speaking for Americans this time I wonder on who’s behalf Toby is not qualified to speak?

  • Chris
    Contd…
    Paragraph 9 – who knows what that means?

    Paragraph 10 – “we must become European or American: we must abandon the 19th Century to officially join the 20th” well there seems little point in expanding further.

    Paragraph 11 – Again lots of words saying not a lot, but Peter is saying discussing what how effective the EU is which may be what Toby is trying to get at.

    Paragraph 12 – See Little Jackie Paper.

    Paragraph 13 – See Sammy O’Neill,

    Paragraph 14 – “now the EU is no longer an extra-national guarantor of left-wing values” Meh

    Paragraph 15 – See: Peter, jedibeeftrix, Little Jackie Paper, Glenn, Daniel, Stephen House.

    I have missed some people out as I was getting bored. But as to your statement “offered any coherent argument against it” I would suggest any argument against has been more coherent than the original. But if you were struggling to see what the comments were saying in response then I think no help guiding you through will help much.

  • T-J

    “We have people who are vigorously defending Britishness, quoting Charles Kennedy”

    I assume that refers to me as the only Kennedy quote I spotted is me. You missundestand my argument I am not “vigorously defending Britishness” but vigorously criticising a sloppy attack on Britishness. Come up with a well argued price and you will get a better discussion.

  • T-J

    “The biggest thing the Brit Nats have offered has been EVEL”

    You are assuming Brig Nats means Tories. I would assume it would include the DUP and they were pretty scathing about EVEL. I know a couple of Eng Nats who believe in EVEL (and Scots Nats) but don’t see it as a Brit Nat issue.

  • The Scottish love affair with the EU is a consequence of their deep rooted distrust of the English. The EU provides a club, a protector, a supranational government, lots of funding, in fact all the things that Scotland would need if it were to break away from the detested Sassenachs. Except, perhaps a currency. There are some standards, after all.

    The EU is also a socialist organisation, so just perfect for the progressive Scots who currently live far beyond their own means. However, dreams are but a passing fantasy and if it came to the crunch tomorrow the Scots would vote no to independence because they can’t afford it. The oil price has collapsed and the high spending is paid for by the Barnett formula aka the English.

    I think it is unwise to mix up the Scottish case with the above article.

  • I just cannot leave this debate without pointing what I consider to be total nonsense. All this rubbish about the EU being democratic.

    Let me be clear. The EU does not have a shred of democracy. Even the EU leaders know that, they designed it that way. They have introduced the flimsy appearance of democracy out of embarrassment.

    The Commission makes the laws. How do you get rid of a bad commissioner? You can’t. There is no democracy.

  • Peter,
    The EU is not remotely socialist. Scotland would do well with or without it because Scotland has a small population, less than a tenth of England, in a land mass of about the same size with decent resources.

  • I really can’t wait to read about the EU in the textbooks 50 years from now. I can imagine it in the same chapter as the League of Nations and the UN. Nice idea, didn’t work, move on and learn the lessons.

    After all, the EU is a tool for expressing unity that doesn’t exist. The UK has far more in common with Australia than with Estonia. Hungary has more in common with Russia than with Sweden. There are no European ideals, there are Western ideals, but Canada is a better expression of them than the Czech Republic.

    Britain will survive because there are British ideals. Free trade, free contract, equality under the law, the rule of law not of men, a respect for ancient liberties. In short exactly the freedoms the liberals/Whigs have always fought for.

  • Peter, I cannot let your departure go without returning the favour and pointing out some errant nonsense coming from you. How do you get rid of a bad Commissioner? There is an impeachment process. The European Parliament can force a resignation of a Commissioner. I would say that, like your views on Scotland or on climate science, your opinion is stuck twenty years in the past. But in this case even then you’re wrong because about that long ago the Parliament forced the resignation of the entire Santer Commission on account of its incompetence. It isn’t perfect, and elsewhere I’ve said what I think would improve it. But I do not recognise the caricature of a stagnant socialist bloc you draw.

    What we have with the EU is a series of power grabs by the Parliament at the expense of the Commission, starting back in the seventies with its demand for direct election, though the Santer incident and most recently the change that makes the lead candidate of the European Parliament parties into the candidates for Commission President. This will no doubt be characterised as grubby by the phobics, but in my view it constitutes the transition from an intergovernmental agreement where the democracy is at the member level, to a federal structure run with democracy embedded at the higher levels as well.

  • some errant nonsense

    Arrant nonsense. Errant nonsense would be sense.

  • Minor point, but the British bit of America was founded on religious intolerance.

    The pilgrims wanted to create a society imbued with, and constrained by, their own specific puritan beliefs. And no other beliefs were to be allowed.

  • Other minor point. EU Commission doesn’t make laws, it only has the power to propose.

    Any legislation has to be agreed by the Council (elected Heads of State) and the Parliament (elected parliamentarians)

  • You studied Keynes and Baudrillard ! ?
    Geees Toby,..You do realise you’ll never get that three years back?

  • Perhaps we should think of democracy in terms of democratic effectiveness. As a citizen of the EU my vote is one in 500 million.

  • I am an EU sceptic. EU scepticism is a well known characteristic of Conservative backbenchers, but not of Tory leaders , who signed us up to most of the treaties. It was traditionally the policy of the Labour Party to be sceptical. Who knows with the Labour Party of today? I suspect that many sceptics still reside within the Labour ranks.

    What about the youth of today? I don’t know the answer to that.

    Now, why should LibDems be enthusiastic about the EU to such a degree? Do they all think the Euro is a superb currency? Is EU democracy the best as suggested above? Is being ruled by unelected bureaucrats the ultimate dream?

    I regard being part of the EU as a huge drawback. Frankly, I do not understand why any Brit would want to be part of it. Please, if you love the EU, could you explain your thinking?

  • Michael Parsons 14th Jul '15 - 8:21pm

    I would have thought the end of UK means the restoration of an independent England – pretty well the only country in Commonwealth and Empire with so far no semblance if self-government and c ertainly in need of it. Liberal policy of Home Rule is the right inheritance and we need to extend it.

  • Peter

    “Please, if you love the EU, could you explain your thinking?”

    Now I don’t “love” the EU but I am on balance in favour, but also heavily in favour of reform.

    As a free trade area it is on balance better than being out. On issues where there is intra-state disputes on matters such as regulation for protectionism it is better to have the ECJ than some alternative. The free movement of people is much more convenient for both citizens and businesses employing those people. The idea of structural funds is something I support where we help out our eastern neighbours who were so brutally oppressed for most of the last century. I could go on but it would miss the most important point.

    There are many problems and we could list them but the question is should we dump it all and walk away demanding something new or take something that has been established and try and move it in a better direction.

    I believe if you were to scrap it it would be an almighty effort to get something else started which it self would develop some of the drivers behind the current problems (power structures are targets for pressure groups to try and win their own advantage at the expense of the rest).

    I would rather we had a clearer idea about what we wanted and worked towards that. The idea of “ever closer union” has to be dropped, partly as it is illogical but also it had created a mind set where if something is tried (e.g. the Euro) people are affraid to reverse a bit (countries leaving, the block fracturing, or return to old currencies) as people consider it a sign of unravelling so are averse to undoing mistakes along the way and trying a different approach.

    But on balance it is better than if it wasn’t there.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 10:27pm

    Actually the only issue that I have really felt emotionally was the EU.
    The Prime Minister’s application to join was vetoed by President De Gaulle .
    I now realise this emotion was a mixture of patriotism and anger, tempered by the knowledge that a previous British Prime Minister had told the General that “I will have you executed”.
    When De Gaulle’s attempt to reform the Senate was defeated in a referendum, there was a small sense of satisfaction, which later became an understanding that he had had enough and was committing political suicide.

    When Roy Jenkins led a cohort of Labour MPs into the YES lobby on the main principle of joining, there was elation.
    A Labour MP became an unofficial whip and organised a variety of abstentions and absences, until the Labour Party drove him out. He joined the Liberal Party and wrote “Time to explain”.

    When a Hungarian Minister, accompanied by press and media, in a nominally communist governemt took wire cutters to the Iron Curtain border he let out East German tourists who travelled through Austria to West Germany. Later the Berlin Wall fell. An orchestra was formed and played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from his ninth symphony. A Hungarian MP contested a parliamentary by-election firstpast-the-post against the communists and won. I met him in Canterbury where he was giving a speech and again at a Liberal International event in Budapest, where Irish President Mary Robinson was given the LI Prize for Freedom.

    Spain and Portugal overthrew right-wing dictatorships, became democracies and joined the EU. Spain had a referendum to approve a constitution, including the monarchy. I subsequently met the former Spanish Prime Minister at a Liberal international meeting in Luxembourg, shook his hand and spoke to him through an interpreter.

    I went to the Scottish borders to campaign for Better Together, but it felt like being at a divorce hearing.

  • My thanks to those who answered my question. I respect your views.

    My own position is that I have no wish to join the Euro. I have no wish for the UK to abandon its identity and sovereignty and become a region of the Federal States of Europe.

    That is the direction and raison d’etre of the EU and for these reasons we should accept that we do not fit and we should leave.

    Those who wish us to remain in the EU should come clean and explain their ambitions in terms of the Euro and federalism.

  • “When a Hungarian Minister, accompanied by press and media, in a nominally communist governemt took wire cutters to the Iron Curtain border”

    Only now the Hungarians are building anti-migrant border fences rather than taking them down. That says a great deal about what Europe has become, and is becoming.

  • “The UK has far more in common with Australia than with Estonia.”

    Australians might argue with you on that one, mate.

  • @Mark Platt — not all of the North American British colonies (which became the United States) were Puritan theocracies! New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut were, but Rhode Island was founded as a haven for Protestant dissenters who were neither episcopal or congregationalist in polity, and protected freedom of conscience. Likewise, Pennsylvania, founded by Quakers, protected religious minorities. New York, a colony with a large Dutch landowning class and immigrants from many countries, practically had to permit a fair amount of religious latitude; New Jersey had similar diversity. Maryland was intended to provide freedom of worship for Catholics (though this only lasted a short time). From Virginia south, the colonies were (originally) royalist and Anglican.

  • Some polarised points here. You’re, wrong, the Uk is widely accepted as one of the wealthiest and best places to live in the entire world, which accounts from some of the problems we have with all those people wanting to move here. So many of our problems are about how to share that wealth, not whether there is any.

    Sure, the empire is dead, though its zombie corpse keeps getting up and whining about going back to the days of glory, forever gone. Gone for pragmatic economic reasons. It always was an empire ruled more by consent, illusion, cunning and economic common cause than by arms, and the moment the members refused to be part any more was when it died. Others encouraged this process along, but their own efforts to replace the british empire have had mixed success.

    England is a little country and frankly I am slightly baffled how it has done as well as it has. Maybe it needs comparison with the city states of old, which controlled massively larger territories than their native ones. The British empire was the same phenomenon, but on a larger scale. Even if the solidity of the empire was mostly illusion, it was real enough to give England clout. And that is what I see as the importance of the EU.

    I do not think europe is ready for a single state, the EU. The eurozone is a shambles, frankly, with a central bank that has repeatedly, utterly, failed in the central task of ensuring the stability of the retail banking system and the free convertibility of money. Its one vital task. But on the other hand, I have yet to see any real argument for repatriation of any particular powers to the Uk, which is already outside the eurozone. It may be we are already placed exactly right.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Aug '15 - 10:23pm

    In order to get Germany into the eurozone it was necessary to copy the Bundesbank. Germans still have a political memory of and fear of hyper-inflation. Other countries with different histories are in the eurozone. According to The Economist magazine the problem was not with the admission rules but with the lack of enforcement after entry.

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