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Forgetting the ones that really matter
by Thanos Kalamidas
2016-04-25 10:45:51
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Most Brits like Barack Obama, actually most Europeans do. Somehow he seems more European than what we usually get from the other side of the ocean. John F. Kennedy was a similar case and he was also very popular in Europe. Actually, following latest events in USA with Trumpism in its heights, I get the feeling that Obama is more popular in Europe than he is in USA.

oba01_400But his advice against Brexit had the worst possible timing, shown very poor knowledge of the British psychic – not much different with the Brussels – and somehow he did more bad than good to the pro-European cause. Especially his warnings that felt like threats and were no different from the ones coming to London from Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

Economic catastrophe, isolation, backyard foreign relations, the end of exports, terrorism. Apocalypses now the day after UK exits EU. Actually this is not the first time I heard all these. I heard them less a year ago in Greece when people were called to referendum for or against the memorandums. The Greeks said NO by a 62% margin but …who cared. Brussels and Berlin had decided that a Grexit didn’t really work for them so magically NO turned into a YES and the Greek people actually found isolation and an economic Armageddon for a third time.

But UK is not the same, is it? The fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe after Germany. Pound sterling is the world's third-largest reserve currency and the United Kingdom has sovereignty over seventeen territories which do not form part of the United Kingdom itself: fourteen British Overseas Territories and three Crown dependencies. The Commonwealth of Nations is an EU on its own with most of the old colonies in. And all that with probably the third best armed military in the world. And the British people are very well aware of all the above, they are actually part of the British national identity and never forget a strong historic identity that goes for centuries where UK plaid essential role.

The same time the Brits never really felt Europeans the way the French or the Germans feel and this has nothing to do with geography, it has firstly to do that they always felt the nation of the seven oceans, the island between Europe and America and secondly with the cocktail, history and politics. Actually this reached its peak after the WWI when French felt that could dominate Europe and European economy. Later even though gradually full member of the EU, the UK kept feeling antagonism and competition from the Franco-German pact in too many levels consequencing further antagonism that heighten during Margaret Thatcher’s era and somehow eased during Tony Blair’s period at Downing Str. But that never reached the people.

In addition to all that - and especially the last thirty years - British governments from all sides used EU or better the Brussels bureaucrats, as the scapegoats to pass legislations and economic measures not favoured from the British public. Sometimes two obvious the misdirection but gradually it became business as usual …blame it on the Brussels bureaucrats. On top of that and probably intentionally, the British politicians even though often reminded to the British people how much it costs to them the EU membership – a Thatcherian triumph, to cut part of the annual support to EU and get back some of what Britain had paid all these years before – while forgetting to mention how much the British people had profited in subsidies.

Agricultural subsidies for example represent more than 20% of the farmers’ income which counts in billions all coming from Brussels, in case of a Brexit will the amount UK will save enough to replace those subsidies? No way! Simple as that. And we are talking only about the agricultural subsidies, but UK does also take subsidies for the industry, fishing, commerce, education, health, unemployment. Actually if the truth comes out a lot of British policies won’t look any more like economic wizards and savours but as opportunist manipulators with George Osborne leading the group.

Still this is not enough to radically change public opinion about Brussels. The wound is very deep and it has not to do with the British pocket but with the British heart and pride. And this is the part Brussels miss and Obama didn’t get. This is not about Farage and Boris Johnson, this is about the British public fully aware of their strong historic and national identity and you come and tell them that if they don’t stay in a club which dominated from Germans, French and a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t understand them, that if they vote against EU they will become a backyard republic with a museum style queen and a Kardashian life style royal family.

On top of that they have to face from one side a group of euro-bureaucrats who are ready to cut more from the annual fee UK pays, accept immigration changes Cameroon wants and increase subsidies – and why they didn’t do it for so long? – and from the other side another group led by the German financial minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who says, “tough, we don’t need you, you need us.”

How little they all know UK and the British people is amazing and fascinating the same time. Actually it shows how wrong EU is today about nearly everything. And if they continue with direct or indirect threats, they only thing they will manage to do is to get stronger support from the George Osborne and David Cameron alike but lose the ones that matter. The British voters.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-04-25 18:39:27
Indeed, your assessment is on target Thanos, Obama is more popular in Europe than in America, for no other reason than the fact that the immoderate extremist Republicans for the last eight years have managed to demonize him and considered him illegitimate since he was born in Africa, as they claimed and continue to claim; I have always suspected a racial component to such obvious slander; never mind that he saved the US from a great depression which would have made the first one look like a picnic in comparison. Now the Frankenstein monster who created the birther issue and was tolerated for so long is coming after them and their party and there is much anxiety in the land; poetic justice? The truth remains no matter how many insults and ad hominem arguments one manages to hurl against those who insist on it. And it is in this respect, it seems that those truths are better recognized in the EU than the US. I suppose we are too close to them to fully appreciate them.

On England and her old imperial-nationalistic glory days, the reverse seems to apply: here too your assessment is correct: the EU seems to be wrong in almost everything, especially on the issue of the alleged irrelevancy of religion vis a vis its immigrant population; all in the name of progress, democracy and tolerance. An issue this dealt in Ovi for years now, but fallen on deaf ears, it would appear. It is hard for England to give up those glory days; but one ought to ask: were they really so glorious after all? The glory of England, to my mind, and that of a C.P. Snow or Christopher Dawson, or Matthew Arnold, were the days of Shakespeare, not those of the abundance of coal with which to move trains and industries and build empires. C. P. Snow compares the missed opportunity of Venice and its maritime empire to that of England and its empire built on the pollution of the earth. There was a failure to adapt and move on to a higher conception of what it means to be a great nation. Here too there may be some poetic justice at work, but the truth, as mentioned, can be spotted better from a far away perspective in time and space, from the other side of the ocean perhaps, than when one is close to it and swimming in it. The question arises: isn’t a multicultural approach, that is, one that is less extreme and less nationalistic a more “enlightened” approach? The answer so far is blowing in the wind.

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