During last year’s refugee crisis, English critic Douglas Murray wrote, “Pro-EU countries are proving harder and harder to find.” In the wake of an on-going migrant crisis, and the possibility of another one this year, the EU is no longer on the winning team. For the United Kingdom of Great Britain, its’ days in the EU could be nearing their end.
The UK currently plans to hold a vote, on 23 June, whether or not to leave the EU. The vote is happening due to a promise made by a desperate David Cameron, who wanted to keep votes from bleeding away from his Tory party and into a rising UKIP.
During his recent marathon bout of negotiation with the EU, Cameron won some concessions from the EU which shed light upon why the EU is a problem. We are told, “His biggest victory was two minor curbs to migrants’ access to benefits. The UK will be able to pull an ‘emergency brake’ to reduce in-work benefits, like tax credits and housing benefits, paid to future EU migrants. New migrants will not be able to claim such benefits from day one of residence, and the amount they receive will slowly grow over four years, after which they will be treated identically to a British worker.”
To American ears, this sounds almost bizarre. Why would a nation not be able to choose how to treat foreigners who choose to live within its’ borders? But the nations in the EU have long since surrendered large piece of their national sovereignty, to the promise of a unified Europe.
The UK has never had an entirely easy relationship with the Continent. Historian Paul Johnson has argued that throughout English history, there has been a deep disagreement between those who favored greater unity with the Continent, and those who favored less. Margaret Thatcher also opposed greater integration with the rest of Europe. She bluntly stated, “What is the point of trying to get elected to Parliament only to hand over the sterling and powers of this House to Europe?”
Whether membership in the EU of benefit to the UK is not easily answered. According to one fact-checking site, “In 2015 the UK government paid £13 billion to the EU budget, and EU spending on the UK was £4.5 billion. So the UK’s ‘net contribution’ was £8.5 billion.” The other numbers of are inconclusive or unknown.
The EUs’ open-borders policy within the so-called Schengen Area has allowed free-flow of labor between the wealthiest nations in Europe. At first this mattered little, since those moving about where largely those with a compatible cultural background to the nations they moved to. But since the early days of European integration others have joined the party. At first the problem was just the influx of Roma, now the problem is an unstoppable flow of humanity from Islamic nations and the African Third-World. The Spectator informs us, “As Sweden and Germany have shown, generous welfare policies and open borders inevitably end in a nasty collision. If you offer cradle-to-grave security and simultaneously invite the world in, you mustn’t be surprised when the world turns up and starts to drain your exchequer faster than your taxpayers can fill it.”
Unity in Europe is too complex an issue to fully delve into, so I will briefly say this. Europe has tried to avoid a repeat of the last century’s disaster of wars, Nazism and Fascism, by creating a Europe which is too unified to destroy itself. This desire was laudable, no one wants a repeat of these errors. But in avoiding them, Europe has embraced the opposite mistake. Whereas in the past, European destroyed itself based upon an imagined history, Nazism, and an imagined future, Communism, the new present is being destroyed based upon an imagined good: greater unity.
But unity for its own sake is a weak platform on which to bind the nations of Europe together. And since this unity has come at the cost of chains upon national sovereignty, it is wholly natural that the United Kingdom should desire to break away from this system.
The UK has always been a part of Europe, as a part of its culture and geography. But that does not entail that it must be bound in an agreement of political union. While this applies to all of Europe, it is especially true of the UK. Its traditions of common law and individual freedom have often set it apart from the rest of Europe. Should the UK decide this summer to reassert that history and cut some of its ties with the European Union, there will be an incredible amount of fallout. But this break must come, unless the UK wishes itself to be further absorbed into a Europe controlled, not by democratically-elected persons, but by an unaccountable bureaucracy.