Vigenonilateral Negotiations and Stockholm Syndrome

As Lawrence Tomlinson explains in the above excerpt, the reason negotiations between the EU and other nations take so long is because they are not in fact bilateral, but have been vigenonilateral – i.e. not between two parties, but between 29!

This is a long-standing problem in the EU. How do you reconcile the balance between nation states’ sovereign decisions and being able to work efficiently, speedily, and decisively?

The simple answer is that you can’t.

You can have prolonged and tedious discussions to try to elicit a compromise solution between the 28 (soon to be 27) members of the EU, which will inevitably please a minority of member states, probably annoy others, and invariably require some agreements on give and take compromises over other matters, which mean that nobody gets the best of anything and everyone settles for less-than-ideal outcomes.

The obvious (and preferred solution in the EU institutions) is to create a United States of Europe and increasingly erode national sovereignty. This happened in the Council of Ministers following the Treaty of Lisbon, but will be required increasingly across the institutions if the EU hopes to deal with crises and changes in geopolitics in any kind of realistic and sensible timescales.

In the meantime, the UK can get on making plans with the other 168 countries of the world, who somehow manage to survive outside the EU, or at least those which have progressed beyond the Bronze Age.

Regarding any future EU/UK agreement, if it truly takes a decade to hammer out an agreement when we start from a position where our standards are aligned and we incorporate all existing EU law into UK law, that says more about the EU than it does about the UK, and merely demonstrates all too perfectly why we are better off out of the EU.

If the EU prioritises dissuading other potential exiters over the interests of the people and businesses of its member states, is that really a club which appeals? The EU can have a free trade deal with the UK on perfectly decent terms, but says that the four freedoms of movement of goods, capital, services, and people are indivisible. But it is only since January of 1993 that this has been the case.

The more fundamental question is why should the EU need to threaten any member state which wishes to exit? Is that the sign of a healthy relationship? A more confident and self-assured EU would stand by its own positives and appeal to prospective accession countries – in essence, more carrot than stick.

A party which has to lock the doors and demand that its guests enjoy themselves is no party which any sane person would attend willingly, unless they get off on that sort of thing, of course.

A chacun son goût, and all that.

 

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Arrogance in Academia

DawkinsAndBoyleEU

This piece was originally written earlier this year, but I didn’t get around to posting it. However, a talking head piece by Richard Dawkins, someone I admire for his other work in evolutionary biology and promoting atheism, once more reminded me of its relevance in the debate around the EU.

People are getting hot under the collar about this article, but they shouldn’t really. It’s utterly revealing about the bigotry and sweeping generalisations of a certain mindset. In short, it is a clear demonstration of how a free press allows people to show their true colours, and out of anger, to reveal their innermost prejudices.

His caricature of Brexit voters, steeped in stereotypes that could only be possessed by someone wholly out of touch with ordinary people, is one which, had it been applied to any other national, racial, or religious group, would have been countered by howls of revulsion from the brigades of PC virtue-signallers.

So, this is a very useful and revealing piece. It not only betrays the author’s true prejudices, but undermines his own credibility.

In the same way that giving BNP an open platform to discuss its ideas was the best means of defeating it (who could forget Nick Griffin’s car-crash appearance on BBC Question Time?), the best means to expose this kind of bigotry is to give its purveyors a platform—or perhaps a scaffold and enough rope would be more apt.

That last paragraph itself would probably leave Boyle confused.

“Wait, this is a Brexiter who says bad things about the BNP? But if he’s a Brexiter, he’s bound to be a UKIPer, pro BNP and have an instant dislike for anyone vaguely foreign or with a strange accent.”

Rather depressingly, this simpleton’s narrative is one I encounter quite often. It speaks volumes as to the lack of nuanced thinking in some people.

It would perhaps astound Boyle that someone like me could be anti-EU; someone who has something in common with himself; namely an academic, university background in Germanistik; and what is more, someone who shares his clear love of European culture; someone who has been “groomed” by the EU’s Erasmus programme, and under the wings of recipients of Monnet money, to be a helpful promoter of the EU agenda.

Unlike Boyle, however, I make a clear distinction between a supranational organisation and a continent.

But of course, whereas I left the halls of academia to seek my fortune in the heady world of employment in business, he remained in academia, studying the fine works of Goethe, Schiller, Böll, Grass, inter alia, surrounded by his fellow soixante-huitards and successive generations of idealistic youngsters, poised at any moment to throw off the old order and usher in a new utopia.

Given the time, I could explain to Boyle that I love Europe, its people, history, heritage, diversity, and geography. But I particularly love its languages. I especially appreciate being one of the all-too-few (and decreasing number of) Brits who learn foreign languages and treasure the fact that I can travel anywhere in the German-speaking or French-speaking countries and communicate fluently in the local language. My Russian is extremely ropey, but I did learn that as a third foreign language from scratch too.

I treasure this linguistic ability. Not only does it allow me to converse with people in other nations in their native tongue, but it allows me to strike up friendships with people with whom I can only communicate through a mutual foreign language—an especially satisfying experience of bridging the gap in communication between peoples, which has allowed me to share great conversations and laughs with people from Spain, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and many other nationals, none of whom spoke English, and whose languages I couldn’t speak. It has even enabled me to assist fellow Brits when dealing with foreign companies.

But I could also explain to Boyle that, routed in history and politics as my German, French, and Russian studies were, they also taught me of the histories, but most significantly of political developments in those nations, including the background to the foundation of the EU, and, in politics lectures and seminars in Germany, the development of the EU.

I would tell him that one of the key skills I learnt during the course of my studies was that of arguing a point dispassionately, and therefore of the ability to look at things rationally and objectively, and the ability to change views through rational discourse; but perhaps most importantly, the value of primary sources of information, the ability to think things through from first principles, and most importantly, to think for oneself, rather than to rely on anyone else’s narrative, be it that of a political party or media outlet.

I would tell him that one of the aspects I enjoyed in essay writing was being a little contradictory, almost for fun, when situations allowed for it, by making points and backing them up with references. I had a good appreciation of certain lecturers’ own particular biases and quite enjoyed ‘prodding them’ in essays occasionally. To their credit, they would generally take this the right way and give credit for supporting arguments, perhaps going so far as to reward contrary views.

In one German essay I wrote, critiquing the book Der Aufmacher by German undercover journalist and writer, Günter Wallraff, I delighted in pointing out Wallraff’s hypocrisy and actions he carried out for which he condemned others. I still have the essay. My lecturer’s notes at the end:

“A sophisticated study. Well expressed. Complex sentence structure and choice of words. Perhaps more pro-BILD than the facts warrant.”

Having read it again, it was actually a fairly balanced essay, broadly supportive of Wallraff, but I don’t think that he was used to arguments which were in the least bit supportive of BILD, or more accurately, the journalists who worked at BILD and only maintained their positions, and therefore their livelihoods, by following editorial requirements.

Boyle would be a prime target for such ‘prodding’, but based on what he has written here, I fear he would not have the same patience so clearly exhibited by my great lecturers, or a sufficiently open enough mind to read contrary views.

I remain a passionate advocate of foreign language learning and have done as much ‘selling’ of it to my children as I can.

Not only has foreign language learning been shown to be extremely beneficial for our mental faculties and to improve our grasp of our own language, but it opens up a world of new experiences and understanding, of travel and employment opportunities, and of music and literature, although I suspect that Boyle and I diverge on literature as a subject of study.

Foreign literature study has been forever poisoned by my experiences dissecting Camus’ La Peste for A level French—sad, because reading the book for pleasure some years later was an altogether more enjoyable experience—to the extent that a fictional book about the outbreak of plague in 20th century Algeria with allegorical references to the Nazi occupation of France could be described as a subject for enjoyment.

I’ve dwelled on the above personal references merely to point out the weakness of Boyle’s arguments. Supposedly, as an Englishman, I fall nicely into his category of “lager louts of Europe.” Hopefully, the above points illustrate the vacuous nature of his assertions.

We’ll gloss over the fact that I’m not keen on lager and not really all that louty. In fact, I’m pretty rubbish at the whole being a lout business—middle class vicar’s son and all that.

But I have gone through the conditioning of middle class academia and I know what that entails. I indulged in it myself at the time—even buying the whole notion of cultural relativism at one point. But then I continued to read, observe events, discuss, and use that pesky, learned ability to think for myself.

Boyle’s portrayal of fellow English people who voted Brexit is not one I recognise at all.

No, it really isn’t.

There is not a single person I know who voted Brexit whom I would describe as the slightest bit xenophobic. And, I suspect my social circles are a little more varied than those of a Cambridge professor—just a hunch. His attitude is one he’s gained from spending too long in an intellectual echo-chamber where the prevailing attitude is that only people who diverge from its group-think are knuckle-dragging bigots.

But make no mistake; as much as I wholly support his right to make an arse of himself publicly, his article is vile and prejudiced and that is perhaps why, in a superb case of people being hoisted on their own petard, it was quite rightly reported by the head of the English Democrats as a hate crime: reference 42/17384/17.

Ultimately though, what makes a small elite think that it should defy the wishes of the people? We all share the same nation—the difference being that ordinary people, away from the “ivory towers” of high acadmia, are rather more exposed to everyday politcial decisions. Even if the public were wrong in its decisions when consulted, it has just as much right to make bad decisions as those in privileged positions do.

There is no politcal consensus and politicians do not always make good decisions. The current state of the world should be a big indicator of this.

And once again, I can’t help noticing that the country which has the highest citizen engagement in regular referenda and through the direct democracy measures of initiative and recall—a country which is the very politcial antithesis of the EU: namely Switzerland—consistently tops the worldwide rankings on a number of measures.

An option for Bremainers?

EU passport

I saw a link to a change.org petition earlier, calling for the EU to offer European (sic) citizenship to UK citizens. While the author of the petition makes the usual conflation of Europe and the EU (I’m now convinced that the bulk of Remainers genuinely don’t know the difference between a continent and a political construct, given how often they use the term Europe when referring to the EU) and seems to be under the impression that we will be “unable travel and work together in a connected Europe”, there is some merit in the petition.

Namely, there may be mutual benefit for UK citizens and the EU to continue to offer UK citizens a way to opt in to EU citizenship.

From the perspective of those who hold dear the notion that nation states are bad and that it would be better to counter the concept of nationalism by, erm, building a larger nation and to counter the (admittedly imperfect) democracy of Westminster by pushing decision-making powers to more remote and, in the case of the Commission, unaccountable politicians, this offers hope. They would still be able to feel part of this great empire-building project and would continue to enjoy the right to live elsewhere in the EU without the inconvenience of first having to find work and fill in pesky forms. And they could keep their EU flag profile pictures too. I say EU flag, but it is of course the flag of the Council of Europe, which is wholly separate from the EU. The EU decided that it liked the flag and would use it as its own flag too.

On the part of the EU, it would have access to a keen and idealistic section of its citizenship living in a non-member nation. It would thereby exert an indirect influence into the UK through these holders of dual citizenship.

Naturally, citizenship carries responsibilities with rights, and it would seem that the fairest way to offer citizenship would be in exchange for a fee. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. This would be in lieu of the UK’s contribution to the EU. We have to pay for our national passports and given that the EU would be making a special case here, it would be perfectly justified in seeking a fee for citizenship.

Imagine the following scenario, based on what we know from the facts:

  • 16,141,241 people voted to remain in the EU.
  • In 2015, the UK contributed £17.8 billion to the EU budget (or £12.8 billion, assuming we use the number after the UK rebate).

If we divide the contribution by the number of Remainers, we arrive at the annual figure of £1,102.77 (or £799.20, based on the rebate figure). That would cover the UK’s contribution in full. That may be a little high, however, for even the most ardent Remainer.

So, to be truly fair to individual Remainers, and to think about it from their perspective and not that of the EU for the time being, we should probably use a figure based on the number of Remain voters proportional to the total population in 2015. The concession to the EU we should make at this point, however, would be to use the gross figure (without rebate), since the reality is that the rebate would no longer apply.

In that case, using the UK population figures for mid 2015 of 65.1 million, we arrive at a personal contribution figure of £273.43 per person per year, or as the Remainers kept telling us during the campaign in the run-up to the referendum, this represents a mere 75p per day per person.

Taking the idea further still, the EU could widen out the offer to any citzens of the world, or at least those with some level of European ancestry (to preserve its penchant for racial discrimination), who bought into the EU vision, on a similar basis. This would provide futher funds for the EU and a greater potential workforce for countries concerned about declining populations.

If this sounds like a strange notion, consider that people can and indeed do hold multiple citizenships, and that they would ordinarily have to go through the normal process of paying for a passport to hold that citizenship in any practical and meaningful way in the wider world. Indeed, many nations offer citizenship in exchange for money. Consider also that EU citizenship would offer the same rights across not just one, but 27 other member states (at the time of writing).

But maybe this still doesn’t offer EU fans true buy-in or influence into the EU project.

Perhaps then, an additional EU institution could be added; another parliament perhaps, to represent these “subscription citizens”, which wouldn’t necessarily be bound by traditional notions of geographic constituencies, but could instead assign representatives to virtual constituencies, simply based on one representative for the first x subscribers, another for the next x subscribers, etc.

From the EU’s perspective, it’s worth remembering that only a small proportion of such subscription citizens would actually take the opportunity to live or work elsewhere in the EU, and so the EU could look at the opportunity as a means to make a significant income from these people for very little in return, other than to provide for those who feel they have an emotional connection to the ongoing project to create an empire across Europe a way to preserve their dream.

For my part, I am European by birth, history, and cultural values. I don’t need to belong to an artificial political construct to make me feel European. I don’t need the very symbols of nationhood—the flag and anthem—as a means to show how anti-nationalist and very cosmopolitan I am. I don’t need a supranational organisation as a security blanket or as a means to ostentatiously signal my supposedly progressive outlook.

I’m absolutely relaxed about the right of others to claim citizenship of wherever the hell they like. Not only will it make them happier, which makes me happy as a fellow human, but it will stop the incessant whining of the hardcore few among them.

Opt-in EU citizenship seems to offer a win-win scenario for these people and for the EU itself.

So, for the sake of people like Emily*, please sign the petition.

*Make allowances for her broad, sweeping, racist, anti-American comments and factual errors. She’s upset, damn it.