Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

EUROPE – WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

June 24, 2016

Living in Europe for 35 years, I greatly appreciated the people and their various ways of life. I was happy to return to live in England, since I imagined that within the European Union we could be one. So now that Britons have dropped a nuclear bomb on the relationship with Europe, I am devastated.

That we should have a constitutional crisis, utter confusion, no government and no plan for the future was eminently foreseeable. Yet a majority of voters, including friends of mine, embarked on this apparently reckless course. Why did the Remain camp fail to convince?

Voters knew David Cameron was no friend of Europe, so he had no credibility in declaring he would campaign “heart and soul” to stay in. No more persuasive were statesmen who urged Britain to stay inside the Union to play a leading role in reforming it. If Britain could not fix the defects before, why hang around? As for experts’ prophecies of economic disaster, voters clearly thought economic forecasting had too bad a track record.

A Leave friend wrote on Facebook “Now we will be back in the driving seat again!!!” Indeed so, and the responsibility rests primarily with Leavers to draw up strategies, act and take care of the people of Britain. Just now, they have no Prime Minister, no government and no plan. We Remainers however must realise that the European Union cannot continue as the framework for relating to the continent. Leavers and Remainers have a joint responsibility to end the chaos and devise new ways of functioning with our neighbours.

As for European leaders, they should take this bombshell as a warning. It is not enough to dwell on the Union’s success in ending post-war animosities and providing a democratic framework for liberated Eastern Europe. The people of Hungary and Poland have elected governments that patently care little for this.

It is not a time for European leaders to close ranks to hold the Union together at all costs. Britons are not the only people who are dissatisfied. Who today expresses enthusiasm for the Union? Jean-Claude Juncker, Head of the European Commission, has failed to rise to his task. Angela Merkel performs a useful role as a “nice German” at the heart of Europe but will not act decisively as a leader.

However Europe must have smart people able to solve issues such as the bias of the euro system in favour of Germany. Germans’ insistence that other countries should merely act economically as they do is unrealistic. If limited liability laws enable individuals to go bankrupt, renege on debts and eventually return to economic activity, why can this not be done also for Greece?

The European Union has to resolve the chaotic inflows of migrants, the number one issue in the British campaign. There is talk of “defending frontiers”, but the free passage provided by Schengen has been built into infrastructures of airport and road systems, and can scarcely be dismantled. Britain, for all the boasts of the Leavers about regaining sovereignty, has only a handful of coastal patrol craft, and Italy or Greece have even less chance of sealing off their huge coastlines. However Spain does. It pays money to Morocco and Mauritania in return for measures to head off migrants. Such measures do not choke off channels altogether, but manage the flows better.

Financial stability and migration are among the big issues of our time. They need imaginative ideas and cooperation, far more than exasperated reactions to bothersome bureaucrats.

Advertisements

I don’t wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday

November 10, 2013

h-jungle-uniform

A year ago, I accompanied my late father in commemorating Remembrance Sunday. He served for six years in the Second World War, including in the jungles of Burma.

Remembrance Sunday was created to remember the dreadful slaughter of young men in the First World War. I first joined in as a child, and this memory remains as touching as ever. We regretted war. We did not celebrate it.

My father always told me “no more war.” I think he had a right to be listened to.

I have respect and sympathy for soldiers who continue to die in wars. But I do regret that Britain continues to fight war after war, for purposes which are not entirely clear.

Remembrance Sunday has been turned into a celebration of today’s warfaring. My father was right, and this is wrong.

For that reason I do not wear a poppy.

British driving without winter tyres

January 19, 2013

Here’s a picture of British driving in the latest snow. All over the place, even on a flat road. And why? Certainly because winter tyres are scarcely used at all in this country.

In many countries on the continent of Europe, winter tyres are mandatory at this time of the year. The Swiss rule that vehicles must be “adapted to the conditions.” That means winter tyres when the conditions require. If you have an accident without winter tyres, you can fined or lose your insurance cover.

Isn’t that expensive? Not much. During winter, you don’t wear down your summer tyres. The main cost is to have a garage change them over twice a year. The savings in less damage make up for this – and you are safer.

Winter tyres are not effective just in snow and ice. At any temperature from 7 Celsius downwards, winter tyres grip better.

Perhaps we need a European Union directive …

Photo: Matthew Plucknett,/Oxford Mail https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BA9up9LCYAASMbn.jpg

Last chance to acquire 100 years of history for less than one penny per year

January 15, 2013

A Foot In Both Camps

Today 15th January 2013 is your last chance to experience 100 years of thrilling history, told through people who went through it, for less than one penny per year if you buy A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE as an ebook.

Special Offer: 99p, $1.99, €1.99. Ends at midnight tonight.

“Preserving the Liberties of EUROPE” – that’s what the Duke of Marlborough did

November 3, 2012

File:Blenheim Column of Victory.JPG

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The inscription on the triumphal column to the Duke of Marlborough, one of Britain’s greatest national heroes, says a purpose of his successful campaigns in the first decade of the 18th century was “preserving the Liberties of Europe.”

He was mainly intent on eliminating the threat of French hegemony in Europe. To do so, he engaged with like-minded continental allies. The inscription talks of “the Principal States of Europe being united in one common Cause” – the cause Marlborough pursued on behalf of Britain. His string of victories earned “The Admiration of other Nations.”

Today talk is of “repatriating powers from Europe” and perhaps even leaving the European Union altogether. The Government and a large part of the media pour scorn on all that is European and play up British particularity.

History should teach us this is dangerous and against our interests – quite apart from any obligation we may feel to behave responsibly and decently towards our neighbours.

After Marlborough engaged with Europe by forming alliances, Wellington did likewise to defeat Napoleon, as did British generals in World War I and Churchill in World War II

Each time, it was obvious the British had to. It is foolish to believe this is no longer the case. The rest of Europe wants Britain as a balance, and the experience of two World Wars should teach us that turning our back on these “faraway people about whom we know so little” is disastrous, not least for us.

In an era of spreading knowledge, Britons should look beyond their coasts and see what lies to the East, to the South and to the West. It is Europe. We sit on the same continental shelf and are part of it. Act European. Marlborough did.

European Union wins Nobel Peace Prize – time to stop knocking it

October 12, 2012

By awarding the European Union the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee has exactly identified the most valuable benefit the EU has brought to the people of Europe – peace after two World Wars.

My grandfather was involved in World War I, and my father in World War II. I have never had to fight in anything. Putting a final end to hostilities was the overriding purpose of the founding fathers of the European Union, and they have delivered on their promise.

Peace is one of the greatest benefits mankind can wish for. It is liberating, enriching and ennobling. If the EU has brought that, it is senseless to try to destroy it for falling short in satisfying people’s many other aspirations. No national government succeeds wholly at that either.

It is regrettable that Britain, right up to the Prime Minister, loses no opportunity to undermine the EU. This is undeserved, irresponsible and against British interests. It is time to stop.

LIBERATING AND CONVENIENT

August 23, 2012

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.

“Great Britain” – an old concept with a startling new face

August 13, 2012

The phenomenal haul of Olympic medals won by a team named “Great Britain” has changed the way Britons look upon themselves the morning after.

A year ago, a rioting underclass wreaked destruction across London. The notion of Scottish independence was seducing many Scots, and indeed English. “Great Britain” was a term used mainly by diehard nostalgics.

Last June however, the separate components of the United Kingdom hugely underperformed at the European Football Championships. By contrast, a united “Great Britain” has done better in the Olympics than any nation except the U.S. and China, which have much larger populations.

Who today is for a breakup of the United Kingdom, now that a “Great Britain” team has outstandingly demonstrated the effectiveness of internal coherence and mutual solidarity?

And what remains of the idea of the “underprivileged” after the popular British classes have set their stamp on the London Olympics with such panache? Who could imagine that a team drawing on all parts of society, from the lowest to the very top, could work so well together?

Britons can for a change be proud about citizens excelling in a peaceable activity. That’s a refreshing change from focusing on warfaring exploits.

Above all, Britons can celebrate a real achievement, rather than desperately blow on flickering memories of imperial power and victory in world wars.

Successful, classless, united, peaceable? Who knows how long this will last? But I’m abroad on holiday at the moment, and perhaps it’s time to come back.

The euro? Greece may be on the way out but Turkey has already embraced it

May 16, 2012

If you are one of the millions who visit Istanbul nowadays, you can pay for most things with the euro. Greeks may be about to vote in a government which will take their country out of the common European currency. But Turkey, which does not even belong to the European Union, is already unofficially using it.

Even in the teeming tunnels of the Grand Bazaar, dating back to the 18th century, cash machines offer the euro and dollars besides the Turkish lira. Try getting a euro out of a cash machine in Britain. No chance.

Turkish cars carry number plates with the blue flash on the side used by member countries of the European Union. The plates carry the letters TK, as if it were a member country. Only the yellow stars of the European Union are missing.

The concept of a united Europe may seem tattered to some. But to outsiders such as the Turks, it is still an alluring prospect.

Rude Britain: I’m on the side of the 26

December 19, 2011

I’m appalled at Britain’s veto of a new European Union treaty supported by 26 other states. It’s boorish and selfish. Like Britain, the 26 other members have their national interests to protect. But they chose solidarity at time of crisis, while Britain showed none.

The treaty’s declared purpose is to reinforce fiscal responsibility. Is that really something we should prevent? Protect the City of London? Maybe that’s worthwhile, but possibly also not. Remember 2008.

Doubtless this could also be achieved by normal diplomacy. Instead, Britain offers only the sharp elbows of the cocksure bully.

Having lived on various countries on the continent, I have become used to moving easily among peoples of different nationalities, languages and histories, finding common ground and common values with no great difficulty. In Britain, I regret that emotional xenophobes with fringe-island opinions are to the fore.

I’m proud to be British, but I don’t subscribe to the assumption that only Britons can be right. I’m British, but ashamed of the rude arrogance of those who represent me. I’m British, and very much European too.

I’m with the 26.


%d bloggers like this: