I’m a Europhile
Having lived on mainland Europe for almost 13 years, there is no doubt that I am much of a Europhile. It did take a while before I could bring myself to think of living and working outside the UK.
My first foray outside the UK was in 1992 when I visited the Netherlands, it was a bus trip that included a ferry ride to the north of France, through Belgium and up to Amsterdam. I felt lost, but it was somewhat an enlightening experience.
Then in 1995, I flew out to Berlin and with that began my love for mainland Europe, soon with my partner it was Paris a few times and Barcelona. In 1999, having acquired a strange fear of flying, this affecting someone who first flew at 5 between continents and into my teens flew a number of times in Nigeria, I went on a tour.
The Imperial Tour
I booked what was the Imperial Tour [The Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium to be completed in 2 months.] from Liverpool Street Station, it was one of those crazy ‘have a credit card, will travel’ adventures that I planned within 10 hours and was a ferry ride to the Hook of Holland and over 3 weeks I was in the cities of Amsterdam, Hannover, Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich, and Brussels.
Earlier in the year, a 7-year relationship had ended and with that was the exploration of possible job opportunities on mainland Europe, I concentrated on Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, I interviewed in Germany, but eventually, the best offer came from the Netherlands in May 2000 and I left for a new life and experience.
Life in the Netherlands was laid-back, the quality of life was high and there was means to extend travel to Portugal, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and further afield.
We have our identity
The ties with the UK were still strong, but with each election season came a spot of bother, the growing Euroscepticism that threatened my status in Europe, you just didn’t know what to expect.
Having returned to the UK for almost 4 years, I am no less a Europhile and my love from Europe is borne of deeper consideration than the political talking points of immigration, economy or sovereignty.
The Netherlands is by many factors a smaller country compared to the UK, yet I never felt the Dutch were losing their identity nor sovereignty from being in the midst and centre of the European project.
What gets to me is this incipient exceptionalism exhibited by the #BREXIT camp and sometimes in the #BREMAIN camp that suggests the United Kingdom has no control of its borders, can’t make their own laws, are being held back by Europe and many other supercilious and superior sounding arguments as if Europe is an imposition by the other 27 members of the union.
We’ve done ourselves in
Herein, is our problem, we are in a group that we have railed and carped about since the times of Margaret Thatcher, a setup that requires agreement and consensus, but we send people whose starting point is to antagonise rather than negotiate and we expect to win the argument when there is a difference.
In my view, we have a place at the table, but we have the worst representatives at the table, for instance, we have the highest number of representatives in Europe from Ukip, we are constantly in some sort of détente and suspicion thereby having none of the engagement that can carry anything even if well-reasoned in our favour.
We have become a nuisance in Europe and then expect a better deal from Europe, we are the cause of our own European handicap in the main, the rest is a matter of consequence.
We are not superior
I feel quite threatened by the prospect of #BREXIT because we are not necessarily better or superior to our other 27 partners in the scheme and the people who front the somewhat isolationist stance have not promoted any new thinking of a great future beyond denying, debunking and rubbishing the ideas and advice of others.
The thought of the UK cast adrift in the hands of an untrammelled Tory leadership whose austerity and government ideas have brought many into mystery. The whole concept of cutting costs by surreptitiously granting autonomy to schools and hospital trusts, thereby shifting responsibility elsewhere and burdening the setups without adequate means.
We belong in Europe
The laws and directives are not made with us excluded, they arrive because we are not participating enthusiastically enough. I do not believe the money that comes back from Europe will go back into the services that are under strain.
We live in a more tightly integrated world, I think we need to belong to global and regional blocs for us to project strength and clout, we belong in Europe and that is where we should remain.