Those pesky Europeans, imposing their values on us – you know, a belief in the rule of law and all that. How dare they!
Freed from this prison, the UK can forge a new future with the world, based on emerging economies, and Britain’s long-established record for gun-boat diplomacy.
What can possibly go wrong?
China, for example, has emerged as a powerhouse likely to overtake the USA as the largest economy in the world by 2050. Ok, so they execute more people than the rest of world put together and lock up millions for ‘re-education’; anyone who does not support the ruling dictatorship.
Hey ho, at least they want to buy our stuff, so what’s not to like?
Ok, so they actually want to steal our stuff – the stuff they have not already hacked using their superior mathematicians (check out the Olympiad results) – but will then be handed over legally. As the mafia discovered, the easiest way to rob a bank is to own one. And the easiest way to steal from, say, Rolls Royce is to own it. Expect when, not if.
And what about weapons? Well Saudi Arabia is a great client, and the advantage of having an on-going war – namely pulverising Yemen back to the dark ages and murdering children without challenge (let alone journalists) – is that there is such a great repeat-business order book. BAE Systems shareholders are smiling all the way to the bank.
There seems no end to powerful and anti-democratic forces who want our stuff.
Let’s cut ourselves off from the cultures that we spent hundreds of years wrestling with – in war and peace – and ultimately worked together with to create a platform for peace, diversity and sharing, of hope, and collaboration. Be it the scientific endeavours, or the regulations that allow safe medicines across Europe, or the protection of consumer rights in telecommunications or even swimming on beaches (without going through the motions).
Who exactly are our friends?
Those in Russia, China and Saudi Arabia that have a long history of suppressing freedoms or those in the EU that have a long history of non-conformism and defence of freedoms, even in the face of despots (Diderot eat your heart out).
As we confront issues such as the unrestricted power of Google and Facebook, or the issue of man-made Global Warming, do we trust the USA, China, India or Russia to act as our friends, and in our interests? Not bloody likely.
Oh, but <keep chanting in the dark> ‘sunlit uplands’ (you know it makes you feel better, you just have to believe and everything will work out – even Chris Grayling’s 50 mile tailbacks for lorries – no pain, no gain).
Is there another path?
We could work with Europeans to push for change and to continue the tradition of European enlightenment and rebellion against elites, towards a better world however flawed; including radical reforms of the EU?
Inside the tent, we have a chance to make the changes, but outside it we merely become prey to deals with those that neither share our values, nor value them. Those who turn our creativity into death and destruction. Is that what we want?
How would you choose in this turbulent world?
Will the UK ultimately find itself a slave to China, where we will have to attend re-education camps in Milton Keynes; where we will have to unlearn the Glorious Revolution (such a dangerous idea)?
No less so than the sunlit uplands of post-Brexit Britain we have been promised in the false prospectus of Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg; a race to the bottom future of vestigual government, and the power of moneyed elites, who want to frame our future in 19th Century terms.
How about a 21st Century world where we are leaders in Europe, using our talents in genomics, engineering, and yes, regulation (we Brits are geniuses at that), to build a better, safer world. Where we transition our industries to confront climate change, mental health, ecocide, the digital economy and other great challenges; as Brits and as Europeans.
Is that too much to ask?
Richard W. Erskine, 2018.