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27 Nasty Foreigners
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27 Nasty Foreigners


There is scene in Tom Stoppard’s “Rosenkrantz and Guidenstern are Dead” in which the two protagonists worry about the royal plan to send mad Prince Hamlet to England. After some discussion they decide not to worry because no one will notice.

The recent speech of Prime Minister Cameron has more serious implications for our British colleagues working in the European Public Service, so we should reflect now.

First off, in principle, a referendum is always a welcome democratic process, even if it is everyone’s fundamental right to be as mis- and dis-informed as half of the British public has chosen to be. As in elections, those citizens who do not know what they are voting for place their future in politicians’ hands.

But it is worth noting that of all the forms of referenda known, the Prime Minister has chosen the one most open to political manipulation; the one-off, run by the incumbent government. The most democratic kind of referendum, famously practiced in Switzerland, is regulated by law and initiated by a citizens’ initiative that collects signatures to get its proposal on the ballot. See Wikipedia for more information on referenda.)

The motives for the Prime Minister’s criticism of the EU’s “democratic deficit” are open to doubt. Why has he chosen the least democratic kind of referendum for his country instead of using his majority to follow the Swiss example? It will also be remembered that the United Kingdom has the least democratic constitution in the EU. The Parliament of Westminster is elected by simplistic majority voting, so that 51% can equal 100% and 49% might be 0%. The Prime Minister campaigned vigorously to protect this antiquated form of pseudo democracy. It is very true the EU needs more democracy, but not the British kind.

What about the perceived need to “repatriate powers”? The single market can only function with a single rule book, albeit translated into the 21 official languages. Trying to substitute gentlemen’s agreements for enforceable laws will not work. European companies are struggling for shares of the world market with our Single Market as the base of their international operations. If that base is eroded, the BRIC will have them for breakfast. Nationalism is little more than collective egoism, often tinged with delusions of superiority, so it is easy enough to understand why nationalistic Tories are so angry to obey rules that were voted together with 27 nasty foreigners. To be honest and honourable, they and other nationalists should warn their followers that the price of independence from the European Union is a lower GDP and a more austere life.

Circa 70% of proposed EU legislation passes through the European Parliament without controversy. The co-legislating Council decides 85% of its proposals by consensus. This means that in more than two thirds of the cases, there are no objections at all from the British side. Things are so harmonious that even compromises are unnecessary.

But it would be a dangerous mistake to fall for the provocations of nationalists by going to the opposite extreme; centralistic federalism. The call for the famous “ever closer union” is utterly unrealistic at this time because nationalism is too strong. If the centralists launch a grand counter-offensive they will discover that their forces are mostly imaginary.

The subjects of empires needed no common language because they were not even allowed to discuss and vote. Steps towards a political union before there is a European language would undermine democracy by making political discussions the privilege of a multilingual elite. A premature political union risks destabilizing the EU by provoking the less educated majority.

Apart from the United Kingdom, only the Republic of Ireland and Malta have English as an official language. This might lead certain nationalists to turn back the EU clock to the early 1990s by trying to eliminate English as a real procedural language. Considering that 80% of the Europeans who are studying a foreign language are studying English, this kind of linguistic payback would cost billions of EUROs in training and lost productivity. There would be a hidden cost; many European university graduates are already fluent in their national language and in English, sometimes in a third one. Becoming fluent in a third or fourth language is a considerable burden of extra work and also a brake on promotion prospects during the first several years of their careers in the European Institutions. This will lead still more of the best graduates to choose an Anglo - American corporation over the European Institutions.

If their country does leave the Union, those Britons who are working in its Institutions should continue under the same conditions as now. It would be senseless to take revenge on the victims of nationalism. It might also prove wasteful. Who knows? Maybe the United Kingdom will reapply for membership before our colleagues reach retirement. And Scotland is almost sure to join.

Created by: admin last modification: Tuesday 12 of February, 2013 [15:21:30 UTC] by admin

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