Monday, 6 June 2016

Merely an island

The hardest thing in life is to see a thing coming and be able to do nothing to prevent it.
John Galsworthy - A Knight (1901)

If the UK opts for Remain on June 23rd, what long term effects should we expect to see? Apart from the obvious loss of democracy which too many voters don’t seem to care about anyway.

It is impossible to foresee such a complex future, but there is one factor worth considering and that is our position as an offshore island. We are not the sophisticated thinkers of our fantasies - visceral feelings matter to us, directing our thoughts, actions and reasoning. They direct thoughts, actions and reasoning within the EU too.

Given its geography, how does an island, such as the UK place itself at the centre of EU politics in the longer term? How does the UK avoid a future where it is little more than an offshore whisky distillery and outdoor museum with poor weather, poor people and hopelessly unattractive career prospects for ambitious elites?

If we vote Remain, then able people are likely to be attracted to the EU mainland where the weather is better, property is cheaper, infrastructure is good and opportunities more attractive. The EU is not likely to base anything of real importance on our island. Why would it in the longer term when the EU integration project is more complete and UK public opinion matters even less than it does now?

We’ve always lost able people to other countries, but take a look at our current crop of political leaders. Cameron and Corbyn with Osborne and Watson as their deputies. Are they the best we can do or are we missing out on the best because the offshore job isn’t worth the hassle? Mull over those four names if you will. Again - are they the best we have? If not, then why not?

Even London may lose out as a premier financial centre. Not this year and not this decade, but over the coming decades the EU mainland is likely to secure the best of everything and why would that not include financial activities? City folk won't mind - they will simply move across to the mainland if they haven't already.

This chilly island on the edge of the Atlantic ocean has bred some remarkable people and a remarkable culture. It actually became civilised for a while, if one accepts the inevitable caveats which seem to apply to any civilisation. The time may soon come when all that has been forgotten.


Sam Vega said...

If we do indeed decline within Europe and become a cold and asset-stripped little island, we will still be of use to the Eurocrats. We will be covered with wind turbines and tidal barrages.

There will be one big advantage to living here, though. Once the European project is in its next phase, there will be less reason for millions of Africans and Middle-Easterners to want to live here. Presumably they will find it more congenial in the Mediterranean countries. Although if we complain too much and show resistance, we might be given more than our "fair share" in order to dilute our culture and punish us.

Henry Kaye said...

I live in hopes! If the vote does go the wrong way, I won't be around to see the impact! I can only say:"Que Sera Sera"

James Higham said...

One also feels nervous.

Demetrius said...

Back in the 70's we were persuaded to join the EEC so that we could be if not equals to Germany and France in partnership, then actually the chaps who really ran the show. Because of WW2 and the years after and NATO even our government believed it. In reality it was always a fantasy for all the media gabble of government. If we vote in, then we vote to be a junior state soon to be regionalised on Brussels terms.

Dan said...

You are implicitly assuming here that the EU will continue to muddle along in its current haphazardly bumbling fashion ad infinitum. I do not think that this will be the case, because what is happening in Greece is also happening in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and so on.

Those countries are saddled for the most part with Socialist governments, and financial-legal systems that are in some way badly broken. Italy has a huge backlog of cases waiting to be heard in its highest court (clearly the subordinate courts are broken in that they do not resolve disputes properly), and all have extremely high youth unemployment.

Germany miscalculated badly by inviting refugees to come to it. Many of the refugees were young males from alien cultures, who viewed Germany as the land of milk and honey and free handouts; those not summarily deported are supposed to be shared out throughout the EU countries.

These refugees have few marketable skills, and as such will end up in low-skill, low-pay jobs at the bottom of the economy, further heightening the economic crisis for the youth of these countries. The aforesaid youth are not going to take this lying down; we can expect riots and political change from this manufactured crisis.

Finally, many EU countries are stony broke, and borrowing in part on the basis of being in the Euro and being propped up by the ECB. This cannot continue forever; when the inevitable problems start to manifest, they will do so very strongly and the ECB may well resort to plundering customers' bank accounts to try to plug the hole. An EU-wide bank run will not be a pretty thing to witness, but this is very likely to happen, at least in part.

Make no mistake, some disaster will come and smite the EU in the near future; it cannot survive member states' pillocking about with their national finances whilst still being part of the Euro. Germany might even quit the Euro, which would be a laugh indeed and would herald the end of the union entirely.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I'm sure we have more than our fair share now.

Henry - in the long run I don't think it will make much difference either way, although a Brexit win would stir things up for a while.

James - I'm not. Too old.

Demetrius - that's how I see it - a junior state soon to be regionalised on Brussels terms.

Dan - you may be right. I'm assuming business as usual to avoid complicating the post, but I agree that the EU faces many problems with the potential to gather themselves together into a disaster.