This has been an unhappy week. Alexander (Al to his family) Johnson, stage name ‘Boris’, is now our leader. The vainglorious popinjay has shuffled disingenuously onto centre stage in the role he has long craved, spouting from the “Bluffer’s Guide to the Classics” to impress his unsophisticated supporters, while preparing to lead his country into the wilderness.
Like millions of Britons, I’ve been suffering from a chronic, almost crippling depression at the prospect of leaving Europe. My concerns aren’t just about money, although it’s clear that the costs to industry, agriculture and the City will be significant; the Office of Budget Responsibility predicts a serious recession after a no-deal departure which will damage our economy for decades to come.
My principal reasons for wanting Britain to remain in Europe in a post-imperial world are fundamental to modern concepts of the harmonious co-existence of all members of the human race. But there are strong emotional reasons too; I have enjoyed and been proud to be part of such a diverse geographic and cultural grouping. It has been a pleasure to welcome people from all corners of Europe as dentists and farm-workers, bankers and plumbers, artists and chefs. They’ve given extra depth to a nation which has already had great benefits from many waves of immigration since the arrival of the Celts in the 1st millennium BC, the Romans of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the Angles and Saxons, the Vikings, the Normans of the C11th and, over the last millennium, the arrival and integration of Jews, Huguenots, White Russians and Poles, Caribbeans, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, people from India and Africa. A large proportion of these people brought with them talents and a determination to succeed that have complemented and strengthened our cultural heritage and our economy.
It is my profoundest wish that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together flourish as important, influential members of the European Union common trading territory, with its unfettered passage of goods and EU citizens throughout the area.
I wish as an individual to be a member of this community of over 500 million people; a community which can use its unequalled depth of knowledge and accumulated wisdom to exert substantial and relevant influence over international policies on resources, population and world ecology; where research and knowledge are widely shared between British and European Universities; where, in a post-tribal world of evolutionary imperatives, the fate of humanity as a whole is more important than that of individual nations.
I hope deeply to be part of a coming together of nations whose priority is co-operation, not combat; consensus not diktat; whose people aspire to an understanding of the world’s social priorities, the just and balanced distribution of food, water and energy; the value of the arts as tools of communication and a source of joy; who strive to overcome xenophobia and to embrace tolerance and empathy; who celebrate the world’s cultural diverseness; who deplore the prospect of war anywhere in the world, and especially among neighbours, and who yet understand the need for effective physical defence through the possession of visible muscles that will be flexed only when just and appropriate.
I also wish to have leaders of our community who are strong, and committed to the continuing harmonisation of world populations and a fair distribution of natural and financial resources; leaders who view the needs of the many as more important than those of the elite.
I wish that we and our leaders will come to understand that far more is resolved by love; Philia as Aristotle expressed it, than by hate.
I wish that we and they will learn that far greater benefits for both sides will be achieved by forgiveness and reconciliation than by revenge and reprisal.
The European Union as an executive body is far from perfect, but as one of the oldest democracies in the world, Britain’s committed presence within it will remain an important element in the way it develops. We understand that there will always be differing views among governing bodies, through parish councils, county councils, regional parliaments, national governments, the European Parliament and Commission. Differences within these groups can be and are reconciled when people listen to one another, and accept that compromise is sometimes necessary. This is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of “philia”, of pragmatic empathy, than the brazen championing of national interests.
We must remain in Europe.
We must remain in Europe to ensure that our departure doesn’t trigger the collapse of this vital enterprise, and to avoid being caught in the crossfire between the self-interest of Trump’s USA and the rest of the world.
We must remain in Europe and do all we can to understand our fellow Europeans as they must do for us, while, despite the rumblings of minority nationalist groups, there is manifestly a majority consensus to achieve reciprocal respect and mutual support among all the peoples of the Continent.