By Sam Stopp
Ordinary British men and women are confused. “Why are the officials of the European Union behaving like such arrogant, thuggish bullies?”, they wonder. The answer is that the EU represents the inglorious last stand of European "reason." When it falls, what little is left of Europe itself will fall with it.
The only thing more dangerous than a people with nothing to lose is a people with everything to lose. The surrender by the European peoples of their culture over the last few centuries – so that it resembles nothing more than literal monuments to a fading past – has left the continent of Europe with few, if any, certainties. The EU is perhaps the last solid, seemingly immutable bulwark against the ceaseless tides of change sweeping across so many old and famous states.
A casual glance at the last few centuries of European history will explain why the Europeans are so keen to cling to any certainties in a world where they have abandoned the foundations of their societies. Nietzsche was prophetic when he declared God to be dead. He meant then what is obvious now. Europe has unconsciously eroded its very fundaments and replaced them with a toxic cocktail of cultural relativism, totalitarian ideals and empty materialism. The EU is no worthwhile substitute.
The cultural relativists who won the battle for Europe’s soul could not foresee that, by pretending Europe’s Christian identity was irrelevant and replaceable by the gods of capitalism and individualism, they would in one stroke steal from the people of Europe the core of their many varied identities. The English atheist theologian, Don Cupitt, declared as recently as 2008 that, “Nobody in the West can be wholly non-Christian. You may call yourself non-Christian, but the dreams you dream are still Christian dreams.” This riddle is circular and will not go away.
That the EU as a concept is washed-up and worn-out is blindingly obvious. The whole edifice very nearly came crashing down at the height of the Eurozone crisis and it was only the tyrannical way in which the Greek debt crisis was subjugated that held the whole thing together. It is precisely because the EU is so weak and structurally rotten that it behaves so ruthlessly when threatened. The decision of the British people to leave the EU is regarded in Brussels as an existential threat to whole project, and we are therefore to be punished and ridiculed.
The EU is tired because the Europeans are tired. The Germans call this phenomenon, Geschichtsmüde, which translates roughly as “being weary of history.” Now history is marching on and Jean-Claude Juncker is standing there as the very emblem of its fatigue – not entirely upright, grumbling about the amount of time being taken for the whole sorry affair to end and telling jokes that nobody finds even vaguely amusing. No wonder the British want to leave the "party."
But aren’t the British European, too? Aren’t we the western outpost of the European "project," shielding Europe from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean, whilst simultaneously acting as a bridge to our American cousins? Aren’t we equally damned by this surrender to the inevitable end of Europe? I’m afraid, dear reader, that this is simply not how we see things. British identity is defined by exceptionalism, and we have little time if any for the idea of being part of something greater than ourselves.
Arrogant? Maybe. Necessary? Certainly. Our entire story of natural rebirth is based on being the underdog in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. The end of the British Empire halfway through the last century demanded a new national story. So we imbibed the not untrue tale that Britain had stood alone against the Nazis when almost all of Europe had fallen. From that time onwards, we have admired above all the spirit of the isolated power, surrounded by bullies, yet undaunted and undiminished.
The threats of the EU are therefore not alarming to most people in these islands. Rather, they are positively encouraging. The daftest attempted motivational trick ever occurred when Barack Obama was deployed by David Cameron to tell British voters that they would be “at the back of the queue” for any trade deals with the US if they voted to leave the EU. This was perhaps the most rousing thing Obama ever said, except it had precisely the opposite reaction to the one he desired.
This is why a second referendum asking Britons whether they wanted to remain in or leave the EU would produce a far more emphatic result for "Leave." The British are the most tolerant, agreeable people in the world until our backs are against the wall. I for one am convinced that many who voted "Remain" in the first referendum are so appalled by the dictatorial, inflexible way in which the EU’s negotiators have behaved that, next time, they would vote to leave out of sheer fury at the impoliteness of the whole thing. Those who point to polls showing "Remain" would narrowly win a second referendum on the same question as the one before would do well to remember that practically all the polls before the first vote said "Remain" would win comfortably.
In fifteen or twenty years, the European Union as we know it will be no more. It may exist in some divided form, perhaps as a series of trading blocs standing side by side – northern Europe deliberately separating itself from the Mediterranean. But Britain is choosing to leave a project which is already doomed.
It is not good for any European nation – including Great Britain - that the continent has taken leave of its senses. For decades, the EU has indeed helped keep the peace across a continent savaged by war like no other. But if the Europeans want certainties, then they need to look beyond the stinking kleptocracy which the EU has become. They need to build a new Europe on older, deeper foundations. They need to believe in themselves again.
Sam Stopp is a former Labour Councillor for Wembley Central in London. He founded and chaired The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness, and left the Labour Party in early 2018 in protest at antisemitism.
Opinions expressed in View articles are solely those of the author.