Saturday, 15 September 2018

The EU is all one way traffic



The reason why the UK works as a country and the EU doesn’t work is fundamentally linguistic. Lots of people from Scotland live and work happily in other parts of the UK. We have all likewise met people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have moved to Scotland without any difficulty. Most of us could do more or less the same job anywhere else in the UK. We could go to the same sort of shops and pubs. We wouldn’t find it difficult to make new friends or perhaps even find a wife or a husband. There are only small differences between the various parts of the UK. It would be easy to adapt to a move.


It is this that above all defines what a successful nation state is. Australians, Americans and Japanese can all likewise move about their own countries with ease. It is for this reason too that they all have a single currency that works well. If one part of Japan suffers from a natural disaster, other Japanese people are happy for their taxes to be used to help. If one part of Australia suffers from recession people can easily move to another part where there are jobs. The reason for this is that the citizens of each of these countries have a common identity that has been forged by history and by the fact that they are similar. It is this that the EU lacks.

Few of us could move to another European country with ease and do exactly the same job that we do now. A British doctor could not easily move to Italy and begin treating patients from day one. A British teacher could not get a job in a French state school and begin teaching history. The reason is obvious: language. Even if a teacher spoke perfect French, he would still have to learn the French curriculum. Even if a doctor spoke very good Italian, he’d still have to learn the Italian words for medical terms, the variants of Italian spoken by his patients and how the health service in Italy worked.

For most Brits therefore working in the EU has involved either doing a job that is at such a high level that English can be used or working at such a low level that only rudimentary foreign language skills are required. The vast majority of Brits living in the EU are doing so because they want to live somewhere warmer, not because they do a job that involves speaking a foreign language.

It is for this reason that membership of the EU has always been a bit of a one way street. Thousands of EU students come to Scotland and at the moment get free tuition. How many Scots study in Slovenia or Greece? Hundreds of thousands of French people work in London. How many Brits work in Paris? While Latvians in Britain can claim child benefit for their kids in Latvia, those few Brits who moved to Latvia would find that the Latvian state would not be nearly as generous.

Why can EU citizens easily move to Britain while it is hard for us to move to their country? The answer again is language. Is it that Europeans are better at learning foreign languages than the Brits? Perhaps they are, but it has more to do with the fact that they are all learning one foreign language, English. If we wanted to live in the whole of the EU we would have to learn 24. There is no language that a British child can learn that will be useful in more than two or three EU countries. Almost no-one speaks French in Poland. German is not well understood in Greece or Spain.

The fact that we all speak English in the UK is a benefit to each of us and to our economy, but it also has a downside. The second language of the whole world is English and this means that millions of them would love to live and work in a country that speaks English.

It is for this reason that the EU has never been a particularly good deal for the UK. In order to maintain our character of being a nation state, we need to maintain the fact that British citizens can move anywhere in the UK and still feel that they are in Britain. If any part of Britain begins to feel linguistically or culturally alien, if it were to become difficult for me to move to another British town because the people living there were not much like me, then the bonds that unite us all would begin to sever.

The EU facilitated the mass movement of EU citizens to Britain. This was largely one way traffic. There have of course been benefits to the British economy. We have needed many of these workers. But it has also meant that it has become much harder for low skilled British people to compete. Near where I live there is a fish factory. Twenty years ago the only people working there were Scots. Now the only people working there are Eastern Europeans. It would be difficult for a British person to get a job in this factory, because the common language used is Eastern European. What do the Scots who might have worked in this factory do now?

We will probably still welcome many people from the EU after Brexit. They usually integrate very well and within a generation will be indistinguishable from other Brits, but it would be far better if were able to choose who and how many could come here.

The greater one way traffic that the EU has facilitated however is from people living outside the EU. How many Brits choose to live and work in Sudan? How many decide to retire to Syria? So there is nothing reciprocal at all about the mass movement of people from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean and still less from further afield. What is peculiar also is that just as it would be relatively easy for me to move to Australia because I speak the same language, it would be far easier for people from this region to move to another country where they can easily make themselves understood. But they prefer to live in the EU. It’s impossible to live anywhere else. Moreover, they know that once they set foot in the EU, it will probably be just a matter of time before they gain either citizenship or the right to remain in the EU. Once they have this they can move anywhere they please. Naturally they would like to go somewhere where there are lots of other people like them and where they can use the English they learned in school.

So long as the UK has to follow EU law, so long as we are constrained by the rights that the EU confers on anyone entering the EU whether legally or illegally, we will be unable to decide who lives in the UK. Brexiteers realised that we were losing control of our country. Parts of Britain were becoming unrecognisable from even a few years earlier. So long as we remained in the EU there was nothing that could be done. This is why UK law must be supreme and why Parliament must be able to decide who has the right to come to Britain, and who has the right to stay.

There is so much negativity about Brexit. We must not lose sight of the benefits. Most Brits are fair minded, but we want two-way traffic and mutual benefit rather than feeling that we are being taken advantage of. The EU wants our money but doesn’t much want to cooperate. It wants us to continue to defend them, but would still like to punish us for daring to leave. We can do better.

I would far rather have a reciprocal arrangement with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and perhaps even the USA. We all speak the same language. We could all easily live and work in each other’s countries. We all have more or less the same kind of law, the same ideas about democracy and freedom. Wouldn’t it be better to deepen the relationship with those with whom we have something in common rather than those we merely live next door to? At least it wouldn’t be a one way street.

27 comments:

  1. This would be a plausible argument if, and only if, the following premises obtained:

    1. There were not nearly two million British subjects making their lives in other EU Member-States (quite how anybody could, or would want to, live in all 27 of them simultaneously, Effie does not explain);
    2. There were not thousands of young people from the UK annually benefiting from programmes such as ERASMUS and COMENIUS;
    3. There were even the remotest prospect of the granting of equal residential, employment, health and welfare, and local government voting rights, to British citizens by countries such as the USA (delete references to health or welfare), Australia, etc.

    As they don't, it doesn't.

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    1. Effie's ill-informed perceptions would not in themselves matter a great deal, were they not shared by people in positions of power. Mrs. Teresa May's inclination to use people as bargaining chips was worrying enough. However, the UK Government has since then been executing some measures which will disturb anybody concerned for the rule of law - indeed, for plain human decency.

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    2. Simon, everything should be a bargaining chip in our dealings with the EU. Absolutely everything should be on the table - including right to remain, intelligence sharing and military cooperation. If they want to secure favourable terms from us on each of those things, then the solution is simple - give us a comprehensive free trade agreement covering goods and services.

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    3. British citizens resident outwith the UK were already angry at being denied a voice in their destiny. Now that the UK Government has started being creative (I am on my best drawing-room behaviour here) with the statistics, more and more of these unhappy people find themselves airbrushed out of the picture altogether. In effect, the UK Government has written them off. It is no surprise, then, that more and more of them have returned the compliment: in seeking citizenship in their countries of residence, they in turn are writing off the State which has written them off.

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    4. I'm not too bothered about expats Simon. Let them assume citizenship in the country of their choice - in reality they abandoned Britain long ago. If they couldn't vote in the referendum, they'd been gone for over 15 years. So apply for Spanish, French or Italian citizenship etc - just don't appear back here in another 15 years with their dodgy knees, hips, hearts and heids, looking for a lovely old dollop of British socialism to help them through their old age.

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    5. This could, of course, have adverse psephological consequences. Even if the disenfranchised and abandoned people can be disappeared, they will have families in their former homeland, families who will remember with mounting anger. That is why a redrawing of constituency boundaries, skewing the Heath Robinsonesque first-past-the-post system at Westminster even more strongly in favour of the current governing party, will be a matter of urgency.

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    6. If I had a relative who had lived in Spain for the last 20 or 30 years, I would believe them to be more Spanish than British. These people have made a choice. If they wish to return, they can - and maybe the government should put something in place to assist returning expats. But if they want to continue living in Europe and even claim citizenship there, then let them get on with it. I really don't care.

      The First Past The Post system is actually skewed against the tories Simon (yet they won in spite of that). All the changes seek to do is level the playing field once more. We are working with boundaries that have been in place since around the year 2000. That can't continue.

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    7. What rankles with many is that the Conservative Party has habitually treated them - not without their consent - as convenient ballot-fodder. To add injury to insult, they now find themselves increasingly airbrushed out of the statistics.
      This is, of course, par for the course for Mrs. May, who as Home Secretary managed to alienate the Police Federation, formerly the most reliable contingent of working-class Tories.
      Baldrick, thou shouldst be living at this hour ...

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    8. Mind you, the running-down and incipient privatization of law enforcement is all of a piece with other decidedly unconservative measures by the current administration at Westminster. Abandoning all interest in British subjects' welfare at home is entirely consistent with abandoning it abroad. The Government was quite right to create Police Scotland and, having done so, to set out to bring all law enforcement here within its remit. This may well go down as one of the great conservative policies.

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    9. Conservatism decentralises Simon. Also, the attempt to merge British Transport Police with Police Scotland is just bonkers. All it will do is create confusion, allowing the terrorist or criminal to slip away / slip through the net.

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    10. However, there is no cause for complacency. The reckless mood in the Conservative Party has already motivated a particularly aggressive power-grab vis-à-vis competencies of European relevance. If they remain in power and manage to impose Brexit despite the growing rejection by the electorate, we can be sure that they will be emboldened to perpetrate even more destructive measures. It may, I fear, be necessary to defend very integrity of Scots Law.

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    11. Given the uncertain goals and divided counsels of the UK Government, and the reckless mood of their dwindling band of supporters, there can be no doubt that significant measures will be necessary in order to conserve the status quo before we even think of trying to improve it.

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  2. Many Brits living in the EU are retirees - in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal in particular. Who in their right minds would retire from those countries to live in the U.K.? Similarly not many Brits would go to France, for example, to set up a business with all their restrictive laws on business (despite Macron’s promises for change). However, many more come to the UK to work or start up a business.

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  3. Not being in a political union was never a barrier to travelling anywhere. How many British people live and work in the United States for example? Yet we're not in a EU style political union with them. Granted, you can't just rock up and say you want in - you probably need a skill they are short of or a ludicrous amount of personal wealth that means you will never be a burden on the state. They also wont take criminals or people with a shady political history. That's fair enough. Those should always be the rules.

    Hey Running Man, what do you make of Tommy Sheridan's screening of Braveheart in Glasgow today? Best laugh I've had in a while! :0)

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  4. There are NOT 2 million UK living in EU. There are est 1.3 million but only 900,000 who live long term in EU. There are 900,000 Poles ALONE living and working in EU, not that I've anything against Poles, just facts are facts.

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  5. Blast!!!...that should say 900,000 Poles living and working in UK...

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  7. Why is the Irish Republic, also English speaking, not having the same perceived experience?

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  8. When we joined the EC, the antis said we were betraying the Commonwealth + turning our back on it. But Australia, NZ, Canada, had already before then chosen to end citizenship union + free movenent with us, despite the common language, + in the process split families, so that their emigrabt branches can no longer return + tbeir British branches can no longer emigrate. It used to be good to have so much of the world in free movenent. It was after human nastiness ended it, that we sought it with Europe instead.

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    1. Quite so. Those countries are no longer British colonies. They have their own interests to defend, and their own strategies to pursue. The notion that any of them might recast their policies for the benefit of an unstable and unreliable State off the coast of Europe is, quite simply, delusional.

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  9. Happy Union Day everyone! It's four years since we rejected provincial nationalism and voted to maintain our glorious union. In doing so we dodged a bullet - Scotland would now be completely broke and governed by some of the most Orwellian people you will find anywhere in the world. But it didn't happen. We stopped it. If necessary, we will stop it again.

    Enjoy this day.

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  10. Even though Brexit has not yet happened, I know households on both sides of the Channel on whom its prospect is already inflicting major anxiety and expense. If this destructive measure is carried through, then the misery and impoverishment callously visited on countless families will engender generations of resentment and alienation.

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    1. One particularly chilling feature of all this is the lack of consideration by most Brexit supporters for the likely deleterious consequences of their goals. More than chilling is their indifference when their attention is drawn to the probable outcomes. And when many of them actually welcome the prospect of chaos, penury, and strife then we have good cause to be afraid.

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  11. By the way, I couldn't find a copy of 'Teach Yourself Eastern European' in my local bookshop. There are no evening classes available in Eastern European. Perhaps Effie might check with one of her colleagues in the University administration as to the availability of Eastern European courses along with French, Gaelic, Norwegian, Russian, &c.

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    1. Evidently, the European Union is pace Euphemiæ a dual carriageway. One lane represents English, and the other represents Eastern European. This must change our understanding of many of Effie's dicta.

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    2. The widespread use of English has afforded employment opportunities in other Member States of the EU for many UK citizens. The most likely outcome of Brexit, however, if the UK Government carries on as at present, will be to make the one-way street of Effie's nightmare into realize.

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  12. Recte, '... into reality.'

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