Let's play a game: can you guess which country I'm describing?
a) the United States of America
b) the European Union
(Of course, the EU isn't really a country, it is a trade agreement, so this should be easy.)
Here we go. The country I'm thinking of has:
- A flag
- A national anthem
- A national day
Have you got it yet? No? Okay let's continue.
- A constitution
- A President
- A legislative body comprised of directly elected representatives from each member state
- Founding Fathers
- A foreign policy and foreign affairs representative
- A supreme court whose authority supersedes that of individual member states
- A populace who self-identify as its citizens, carrying passports bearing its name
Still struggling? Shout it out when you know.
- Its own currency
- Its own central bank
- Clearly defined national borders
- Laws allowing the free movement of people across and between member states
- Laws controlling the movement of people coming from outside its borders
Hmm. Okay I'll give you a big clue:
- It has its own standing army.
That gave it away. The answer is of course the USA. While the EU now has integrated defence initiatives, such as EU Battlegroups, it does not have its own army... yet. However, since the only real objections to total integration came from the UK, it is surely only a matter of time before troops are marching under the banner of the EU (or perhaps USE ?).
And all this makes perfect sense. The EU is a new country; its institutions openly speak of a "united Europe" as a founding aim; the majority of its citizens seem to be very much in favour of it. I say, sincerely, best of luck to them, and I have a good feeling that the project will be a success.
It is only in Britain that politicians wrestle with language to avoid saying the obvious. I imagine this must seem strange to our European neighbours as they enter the home stretch of nation-building.
Inevitably, as part of that process, reluctant nations have to step back in order for the others to keep stepping forward. It is natural, and shouldn’t be misinterpreted as anything else. We think it’s great that all the other families on the street are moving in together, but ultimately we feel more comfortable remaining in our own house. It doesn’t mean we have anything but warm neighbourly feelings toward them, and of course we wish them well.
The EU may have started life as a series of trade agreements, but its course was set right from the beginning, and it is a journey with only one destination. The mosaic of small, quirky and overly warlike kingdoms that used to make up the continent is history. A bright, peaceful, unified (and uniform) future surely awaits.
After all, as the voiceover proclaims when you step through the doors of the EU 'Parlamentarium' in Brussels:
“National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times….The only final remedy for this evil is the federal union of the peoples.”
But I would humbly suggest – risking the inevitable accusations of jingoism – that Europeans are not sorry that Britain existed as an independent sovereign nation in 1939.