Youthful optimism is an oft-used phrase but unfortunately – though I may be youthful – optimism is something I most certainly don’t possess with regards to the European Union. However that’s not to say I’m pessimistic – I would prefer to think of myself as a realist, being only a year older than the Maastricht Treaty, I cannot remember not being a part of supra-national European behemoth and as I’ve grown, Britain’s and indeed most member nation’s sovereignty has shrank and shrivelled until it resembles only a shadow of what it once was. The simplistic explanation I was given when I first asked what the EU was, was “it’s a group of European nations working together to help each other and share ideas” and now rather than simplistic I think it’s safe to say that it’s more idealistic. Maybe once it started off as such a commendable ideal but now it’s a burden that links successful nations to failing and irresponsible ones and means that nations like the UK are suffering because of poorly thought out policies and dare I say blatant lies.
To link our future with growing nations is a beautiful, charitable and benevolent idea but the core responsibility of elected officials is to serve, represent and protect their people – and allowing our fortunes to be linked with states that are dragging us down is certainly not what they’re mandated to do. Idealism and charity has its place in prosperous times when we can afford to, but in the current case of a global economic ice age it’s time to accept that every man (or nation) for itself might be the most responsible policy even if it isn’t the most charitable.
From as far back as I can see the European Union (in whatever incarnation it was in) has been based upon idealism and survived on luck alone. The original principle of preventing further wars was admirable of course, and the ECSC member states did have geography on their side having being ruined by WWII, however the EU in its current form is unrecognisable and is more like a mutated cousin than a successor of the ECSC. As a prospective member the UK should have realised that so many differences in economy, culture, law and society would cause issues with integration, not to mention the stretch of water that has separated us from the rest of Europe. Indeed I would say it’s nearly as ridiculous to expect Britain to profit from such a continental-centred organisation as it is to expect Turkey to integrate well, and possibly for some of the same reasons. This stretch of water protected us from Dutch, Spanish, French and German invasions for many centuries, so to suddenly ignore its existence and enter into a complex and restricting union with these nations and then ignore even the simple geographical implications of its existence is borderline delusional behaviour.
Yet I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate us withdrawing wholesale from Europe but the European Union in its current form is not a friendly or advantageous clique for us to be associated with (I wouldn’t say we were in the clique as we never seem to benefit from it). The fact that we as a nation are a Union in the form of a United Kingdom with its members on unequal terms, allowing students from other EU member states to study for free in Scotland when students from the UK that aren’t Scottish have to pay, suggests that there may be problems closer to home that need resolving, rather than considering bailing out EU states that used deception to gain access to support and aid, and are now needing more aid to get themselves out the mess that their deception caused.
I see Europe as a dark storm cloud constantly looming over our heads and that without reform this storm cloud may unload a rain of problems over Britain – the EU may only look like it’s on a temporary downturn at the moment but this potentially could end up a lot worse and do we really want to get dragged down? The obvious alternative in my opinion is to aim for an EFTA style agreement, which of course we once were part of before we left it for further integration. In my opinion cultural and educational programmes like ERASMUS are excellent but are the ridiculous ideas such as the CAP worth them really (the bizarre nature of CAP was recently explained to me by a farmer who was given subsidies to grow Linseed, as long as it germinated he was paid, regardless of whether he harvested it).
I see it as my generation’s duty to steer the nation away from further unrealistic and ultimately idealistic Treaties and to do our utmost to: encourage trade links with Europe without issues of governance and law being dictated to us, propagate trade links with developing nations in a form that would benefit both partners and to further strengthen ties with Commonwealth of Nations members who we already have a number of things in common with. This in my opinion is our only hope of having a successful 21st Century and also the only way there will be a Britain worth passing onto my children’s generation.