There’s no ‘I’ in Europe, but there is in Union

Oscar To


 

There are often many misconceptions about the European Union, the history of this institutional stretching back far beyond the birth of many of us. But before we opt to do anything, we should always have a sombre reflection on why something exists. The European Union is not a simple great evil striving to wrap us into an endless engine of bureaucracy but an institution that has evolved to meet the ever changing purposes of the times.

envoys04-042615

This hand mural is approximately equivalent to the state of Europe 600 years ago

Six hundred years ago, Europe could well be called the backwater of the world. Ravaged by the black plague and filled with hundreds of petty princes squabbling over parcels of land, no-one could predict that five hundred years later, it would be the people of these lands that would not only rule most of the world, but also be the driving force of progress in science, industry and thought.

It would not be unfair to say that the force that the petty squabbling of princes is what drove this change as competition created ever greater needs for efficient military forces and administrative states. Indeed, it was this need for an edge that first led the Portuguese to discover India with the Spanish discovery of the Americas following in their footsteps.

But it was more than simple killing that allowed these changes. The onset of the Protestant Reformation left Europe in turmoil for over a century, as the population wiped itself out in the name of God. But the results would be the death of dogmatic thought from the pope and a freer society where independent though would allow the great breakthroughs that would in time lead to the industrial revolution, the golden age of Europe. With a huge industrial capacity far surpassing that of the rest of the world, European trade brought modernity to the rest of the world, and the world to Europe’s mercy.

Of course, Europe has never been a single force like China. Europe has been composed of key players that have risen and fallen; Spain, the Dutch republic, Austria, the pirate state of England. Competition drove these countries into foreign lands with new exploits to be made. This would reach crisis point in the twentieth century when two world wars would cause Europe to tear itself apart in an orgy of industrialised mass slaughter.

And here is where the rules of the game changed. The countries of Europe for the first time found itself defanged at the throes of its two rival offspring; the USA and Soviet Union. No longer were these states rulers of the chessboard; they were pieces. The ruin produced by the catastrophes also brought about a new realisation that no more should European states be able to orchestrate mass destruction on the rest of the world.

The embryo of the European Union would be born in a set of treaties that would bind the economies together of European states. By making countries reliant on each other economically, they could ill afford the isolation of war. However, with economic union, the viability of a political union also became a possibility. The formation of a European Union would allow Europe to stand on its own two feet against the lurking influence of the USA and Soviet Union.

The growth of the EU soon led to certain principles being enshrined, such as human rights, free markets and private enterprise. Nonetheless, these political decisions would be fought tooth and nail by constituent states that had interests in resisting them, such as banking reforms in the UK. Furthermore, the economic nature of the EU would leave a huge democratic deficit at its highest levels, run by bureaucrats rather than elected representatives.

However, with the global economic crisis in full swing Europe once again finds itself in turmoil. With an economic regime promoting austerity policies above all else, the EU is losing touch with many of the people that form a part of it. With Greece on the verge of leaving, why should the UK stay?

Fundamentally, the British situation is not the same as the Greek. The UK has sustainable levels of debt that can for all extents and purposes be ignored, especially with interest at rock bottom levels. Moreover, the UK on its own is hardly a mighty force in the world. Without abusive Empire first policies, and a non-existent industrial base, the UK can hardly function as a country on the world market; in spite of the EU trade, our country still makes a net loss on trade each year, the real cause of the deficit.

British-Empire

See all those bits we used to own? Don’t expect any free money from them anymore.

Leaving the EU also means we no longer have any say in EU decision making, and with the majority of our trade being with the EU anyway, leading to EU standards being imposed on the UK anyway. Norway suffers the same problem, as a result of its inability to convince its population to formally join the EU.

The EU also acts as a protective barrier, safeguarding against human rights abuses such as excessive working hours. Although this has nonetheless failed to stop the Hungarian regime destroying human rights and bringing anti-Semitism back.

Fundamentally, we must ensure that public debate on the EU referendum is not simply a proxy anti-immigration campaign. There must be an honest discussion of what it provides for us and what we lose if we leave. The EU is not perfect but simply walking away from it is not going to solve the problems it produces. Britain needs Europe, but Europe does not need us.

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