Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Why we must stay in Europe

It was a big day. The first of January 1973, when we formally joined what was then called the   European Economic Community (EEC). I wonder how many people remember the 40th anniversary of the moment – a Ted Heath with laughing shoulders moment – when the then Conservative Prime Minister signed us up, lifting his cap to the French hilariously in their own language. “Nu sommes tray tray herruh detre party de la marshay comah”.

If you’ve not heard of him, yahoo Ted Heath. He was a wonder on stilts, loved his music and was good with sail boats of all kinds. Bit grumpy sometimes but good at what he did, when he applied himself. Three-day week. We loved it.

Talking of sailing, of course, there has been much water sous la pont since then. Forty-two years and still counting.

I suppose we must ask: ‘What have the Europeans ever done for us’? John Cleese in the guise of an advanced zealot could tell you [‘Life of Brian’ – if you haven’t seen the film, see it!].

What indeed? Nothing really. Apart from the Working Time Directives and the Social Charter, the one stipulating that we really do not have to work more than 48 hours a week, legitimately, for our employers; the other making the whole concept of Care possible and worthwhile?

Hmmm…but we might have coped in both quarters pretty well on our own without being European Members. N’est ce pas?

Alright then, what else has Europe done for all of us? Well, apart from seed-funding thousands of EU Member infrastructure projects making it possible for other countries to grow their trade base and do business with us; not much else. Oh… Apart from Human Rights Charters, Agricultural policies; massive leverage in global decisions; oversight and insight, and sharing in each other’s nascent and actual problems; mutual understanding, appreciation and the development of twinning, the exchange of food and cultural activities, sharing and co-funding of Art, Architecture, Acting and Archaeology – before even we get to the second letter in the alphabet. Apart from making it possible to join our mutual military might so we could play boots on wings to do some selective rooting out of such problems as exist currently in the Middle East. Apart from presenting each other with leadership and a few more shoulders to cry on as well as to support us. 

Crikey, I’m running out of words to describe this behemoth.

I should add, submissively, that I am massively proud to be English, Scottish and an eighth Japanese; and European to my follicles. Yes, I know these are difficult times but I am sadly pleased that so many people are upset by the biblical exodus of so many others in search of a warm hearth and hospitality – who need a bit of TLC and plenty of shelter.

Are we not lucky with our troubles, and foolish with our hopes? Are we not fortunate enough? If we want more of what we have for ourselves, and should we get it, would it not be like the froth of a cappuccino, drunk in a breeze? Easy to refill if you have the coin.

But I digress; it’s often the way when you have the privilege of time to think, rather than the rat of now and of need gnawing at your stomach. The tears of children elope into the middle distance on our European tellies. Pour quoi? Ce n’est pas necessaire, je crois. Europe can solve it and I believe it will.

copyright Giles Emerson: 22 December 2015

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