Whilst I’ve been away from the UK in Europe, I’ve crossed frontiers a dozen times, and never had to show a passport or identity card, nor declare goods to customs. Eurozone citizens crossing with me did not have to lose money through changing currencies. I lost 8% to the money-changers by having to change sterling.

When I return to the UK on Sunday, I will have show an identity card at Trieste airport as I leave the Schengen zone. When I arrive in the UK two hours later, I will have to queue to show my identity card again.

I’m still trying to discover the supposed benefits of British insularity. Our currency is devalued far more than the euro is. Staying outside Schengen means we are excluded from sharing of security information.

Nobody likes too much regulation, but that’s not the sole preserve of the European Union – national governments do it too. Democratic accountability in the EU? Maybe not great, but Britain has a first-past-the-post voting system that usually gives exclusive power to a party winning around a third of the votes. Not supremely democratic either.

At least I have not only British nationality, but also Swiss, so like most Europeans I can travel around with a small plastic identity card in my wallet rather than a passport. Switzerland doesn’t even belong to the EU, but it has adapted itself to many EU norms and remains safe even after opening up its frontiers within Schengen.

In most respects I love living in England, the place where I was born and grew up, so I’m working hard on my insularity. But for the moment, I don’t quite get it. Just now, I find European harmonisation liberating and convenient.

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  1. Tony Wardle Says:

    Hi Marcus.

    I don’t ever respond to blog posts but felt moved in this case. It’s simple a) we are an island nation that has spent 2,000 years trying to keep undesirables out (remember Hitler) and b) our daft welfare system has long been a honeypot to the economically disadvantaged and socially dispossessed of Europe. They have been trying for years (mostly with great success) to slip past our (extraordinarily incompetent) border controls, sign-up with our NHS (for distinctly dodgy healthcare) and put their name down for benefits of every conceivable nature and scale which they can enjoy with virtually no controls, in many cases even after they return to their own country. Oh and the criminal fraternity of (mostly Eastern) Europe love us too …it’s so easy to make crime pay in Britain.

    Solution? 1) Massive clamp down on welfare system. 2) Massive clamp down on crime (remember “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,” another hollow promise from our beloved labour leader). 3) Make UK a lot less attractive to visit except for a holiday or doing business or perhaps to study. 4) and here’s the clincher, chuck out all the current politicians and civil servants and recruit new ones with eyes, ears, brains and a robust moral code. (Chuck out the Euro politicians at the same time …save us a fortune)

    Then and only then can we throw open our doors to our European brethren.

    Maybe I’m getting a little bit cynical. Be warned, it’s what happens if you stay too long in Merrie England.


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