Right now, the British (and by British I mean London) press are currently obsessed with a single topic: the up-coming BRExit referendum on June 23rd, asking whether the UK should leave (or remain in) the EU.
(This topic is somewhat less visible in the Scottish media because we have a general election coming up on May 5th. Campaigning is currently frantic, with Labour and Conservatives scrabbling to come second, the Scottish Greens (not the same as the English Greens) looking to upset the Liberal Democrats in fourth place, and Pat Robertson presumably saying "I knew it". But I digress.)
I already blogged about the BRExit referendum back in early 2013, when it was still only an idiotic twinkling in David Cameron's eye, and I still maintain that it's basically just an internal Conservative Party power struggle—the stench of hypocrisy and opportunism hangs over the contenders. But I'm not going to bore you with arguments I already went over years ago. Instead, I'd like to kick open a discussion (noting the presence of lots of non-British readers on this blog: I'm intrigued to know how this very British lunacy looks from the outside) with two observations I didn't make the previous time round.
Firstly, the London-based press (who are overwhelmingly europhobic, mostly because they're owned by rich white billionaire tax exiles) are moaning about the Project Fear arguments deployed by the "stay" campaign. What they seem incapable of recognizing is that the fear, uncertainty, and doubt-based arguments directed against the BRExit campaign are identical to the arguments the pro-Brexit press were hurling at the Scottish Independence campaign during the Independence Referendum of 2015, because the proposed courses of action are equivalent. It appears that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as well, and I'm coming dangerously close to overdosing on schadenfreude at the sight of conservative politicians who spent 2015 tub-thumping in the bully pulpit on the subject of how hard it would be for Scotland to maintain trade and travel and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world suddenly having to reverse themselves and defend their position against exactly the same arguments.
Bluntly: any argument that against Scottish Independence from the UK that merited consideration also works as an argument against British Exit from the EU.
Secondly, as with the Scottish Independence referendum, it's not about money. Most of the arguments being thrown around boil down to whether the British voter will be financially better or worse off in event of the BRExit vote passing. This is because most British voters are stupid, greedy, and think in the short-term (so, no different from anyone else) and this is therefore the lever that political campaigners like to pull.
But the UK and the EU are both about rather more than money. In the case of Scottish Independence, the argument was about the continued domination of a distinct Scottish national identity by a political agenda set from afar, by a caste located in the South-East of England. (For an American analogy: imagine if you lived in Massachussets or Washington but your political frame of reference was dictated from Mississippi or Alabama, without representation.)
And in the case of the EU ... the EU isn't really about mediating European arrest warrants or reciprocal rights of residence or setting standards for power consumption by vacuum cleaners. The EU is the current incarnation of an institution established in 1947 to ensure that never again would the nations of western Europe go to war with one another. And it has been staggeringly successful: no army has crossed the Rhine river in more than 70 years, and this is the longest period of peace on the Rhine since before the rise of the Roman Empire. This is the dog that doesn't bark, and therefore doesn't make the news. Some of you might point to NATO as being the instrument of peace, but I disagree: the existence of armies means that war is still possible, but it's the EU that has largely removed the motives for war.
I submit that breaking the institution that has given Europe the longest period of peace in recorded history would be a mistake—especially in pursuit of a goal as parochial as a Conservative Party leadership struggle. There are plenty of things wrong with the EU, viewed from the right or viewed from the left. But if your house has rising damp, you don't deal with the problem by burning it to the ground; you generally look for ways to repair it.