Sometime in 2017, the population of the UK will be invited to vote on continuing membership of the 28-nation European Union. The precise wording of the question is still being decided but, right now, looks to be two questions: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The tick-only-one-box responses are “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”.
And so it starts. Already, we have an official anti-EU propaganda team headed by businessman and UKIP supporter, Aaron Banks, and now a pro-EU propaganda team led by Stuart Rose, a former executive chairman of the British retailer Marks & Spencer. For the next 24 months, or so, we will be bombarded by all sorts of people presenting all sorts of reasons either for or against continuing membership of the EU. Politicians, businessmen and church leaders will make disingenuous pronouncements clouded in hyperbole, misinformation, unsubstantiated conjecture and subjective adjectives. Opinion writers will dazzle us with their barrage of facts, fiction and dubious deductions. Pop singers such as Bono, Bob Geldof, Taylor Swift and possibly Lady Gaga will make serious judgements that will be likened to the serious judgements of John Lennon. Professional footballers will say nothing because they think with their boots. The Queen will say nothing because that’s part of her job.
Now, I solemnly promise not to add to the huge firestorm of propaganda awaiting us in the media. This blog will be my first and last word on the topic until the results of the referendum are known but I was intrigued by Stuart Rose’s choice of words when he launched the pro-EU campaign two days ago. He said, and I quote, “In this ever-changing and very uncertain world we need to engage with strength. It is a very strange kind of patriotism that suggests it is in our national interest to retreat from our position of influence in Europe.” Patriotism? That was the word that pulled me from my post-prandial reverie. Patriotism? Why would it be a strange kind of patriotism to vote against continuing membership of the EU? What does to be a patriot mean? My Oxford dictionary defines a patriot to be a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it. Cries of “God for Harry! England and Saint George!” come to mind, accompanied by mental images of drawing up the drawbridge, raising the banner, manning the ramparts, girding up loins, and moving all women, children and animals to a safe place away from the oncoming battle. That’s patriotism. Voting for a corrupt organisation called the EU is not patriotism. How can it be patriotic to vote for an organisation that has not signed off its accounts for 20 years; that allows unlimited immigration from other member nations and, more recently, from outside the EU; that constantly demands greater monetary contributions to pay for sumptuous new palaces in Brussels (the ridiculous and indulgent Europa building) while member-nation Greece crashes and burns; who paid a failed Labour leader and his wife over £10 million in salary, subsistence allowance and pension benefits while one was the UK’s European Commissioner and the other a MEP; and so on? The list is a long one.
I suppose these questions make it clear where my sentiments lie. I will read and attempt to digest the upcoming discussions about our continuing membership but as I do, one question will dominate my analysis: do I want to live in a United States of Europe or do I want to retain my national identity, my culture, my Britishness? It is clear to me that the politicians who inhabit Brussels want nothing less than a Union of European States ruled, and I use the word correctly, by a political oligarchy based in Brussels. Currently, we have a federation of European States but every day the federation is weakened as Brussels takes more and more control.
Am I first an Englishman and second a European, or vice versa? It’s a simple as that.