The Croaking of a Boiled Frog
The European Union, an enormous and dysfunctional agglomeration of squabbling nations with less in common than the average cast of I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here, has a north-westerly sort of province called the United Kingdom. About this place the other provinces know little and care less, but they have a nebulous idea that it is inhabited by an uncooperative, usually inebriated and almost completely irrational collection of hideous-looking savages who apparently gave up on evolution after the invention of the deep fat fryer. Mysteriously, however, not only have these people somehow managed to be a bastion of freedom, pluralism and liberal democracy for centuries, but have even been responsible for either restoring or introducing those things to the rest of Europe, frequently after emerging victorious from yet another horrific war started by the other provinces themselves. Naturally, those other provinces chafe at any sense of obligation and relative failure vis-à-vis a people whom so many of them despise, but what appears to make some of them angriest of all is that many Brits seem to find the idea of living in a political union with other Europeans to be about as alluring as sharing a toilet cubicle with a rabid dog.
In fact, they are about to have a vote on whether or not to leave the Union! Just think of it, one imagines Guy Verhofstadt muttering to himself as he fiddles with the nightly dental floss: these greedy vulgarians are actually spurning us! Can you even conceive of the sauciness of a people like that deciding that they would be better off without being joined at the hip to Luxembourg and Bulgaria? In the interests of the eternal rightness of things, and also for their own good, they must be brought to see that they need to share a polity with the rest of the continent, through whatever trickery, bullying and bare-faced lies may be necessary. But fear not, Euro friends, for you have forgotten one important thing: these people are as insane as they are repulsive, and therefore will vote to remain in the EU even though they know perfectly well that it is a corrupt, undemocratic and remorselessly anti-British racket run by bungling nobodies whose institutional framework appears to have been designed by Coco the Clown. The JWC is here to reassure you about just how insane they really are.
First, the economy, because as we have written elsewhere the people of the UK love nothing better than a pettifogging statistical argument about the estimated cost or benefit of something divided by the number of people in the country, e.g., would the compulsory serving of asparagus at breakfast make the average family £4.26 per annum better off or £2.08 worse off? They just can’t get enough of this meaningless garbage. Now, a small part of Britain’s economy is derived from exports, and about half of those (and declining) are sold to other members of the EU. If they left the EU, import tariffs would either remain at zero through a free trade agreement or at worst would be negligible under the supra-national General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade (GATT). To avoid either of these terrifying outcomes, the British prefer to play it safe and stick with the status quo, i.e., having their domestic economy stuffed full of European regulations like jam in the Mad Hatter’s pocket watch and enough corporatist rubbish to keep lobbyists and commercial lawyers remuneratively employed until the end of time. It’s almost like living in America. But the British are seriously concerned that, if they make any changes at all to this enviable arrangement, their economy will quickly become something like Mad Max, with blood-crazed gangs preying on starving families as they cower in burnt-out vehicles. They are insane.
On the related topic of international influence – although it is a moot point why the British would want to have anything to do with a world full of jihadists and Putins and celebrity climate activists instead of, for instance, filling their coastal waters with sea-mines and aggressive sharks and painting NOBODY AT HOME in giant letters along the cliffs – it is urged upon the UK that, in order for her voice to be heard in the world, she should ideally not have one: rather, she should let the EU speak for her instead, negotiate trade deals and international banking rules and the latest cripplingly expensive environmental obligations on her behalf, and eventually replace her on the UN security council and take command of her armed forces. That this utterly ludicrous notion is actually capable of wining over a greater number British supporters than zero is definitive proof that they are insane.
As we have mentioned coastal waters, we also note that the UK’s territorial seas are now more or less fish-free thanks to the Common Fisheries Policy – a stroke of brilliance by which the EU declared that all its provinces’ fisheries were a common resource, sneakily omitting to mention that all the fish except for one elderly and inedible tuna off the coast of Portugal were in British waters. Almost immediately, Britain’s fishing fleets were destroyed and its seaside towns came to resemble the Mad Max scenario outlined above. Similarly, the Common Agricultural Policy was enacted with the apparent objective of being a very expensive means of allowing French farmers to drink red wine and smoke Gauloises all day while ensuring that all Europeans pay more for their food and that developing countries’ impoverished producers get paid far less for growing it. Neither of these things was even mentioned by the British Prime Minister in his recent request for reforms to the EU before the Referendum. You see, they are insane.
The British government has said nothing about the EU having devoted thousands of people’s salaried time to coming up with harmonised rules on fruit juice packaging and the curvature of bananas and the seasonal ferrying of its entire governmental apparatus between Brussels and Strasbourg, like some latter-day Raj moving its filing cabinets from Calcutta up to Simla accompanied by brass bands and elephants, while tens of millions of its ‘citizens’ are unemployed and after fifty years there is still no common standard electric socket. The Prime Minister is apparently entirely unconcerned that the EU is so institutionally corrupt that its auditors have refused to sign off its accounts since he was still at Eton, and that our entire annual membership fee could probably be given back if Members of the European Parliament discovered the home-made sandwich. The best explanation for this is that they are completely insane.
Because of these and a thousand other examples, the British understand that the EU is the ultimate expression of the modern fallacy that politics is, to borrow an Americanism, the profession of ‘law-making’ – now the highest of the elite professions, its practitioners drawn from those whose massive talents would just go to waste on simpler roles like Nobel Prize-winning brain surgeon, Goldman Sachs quant strategist, or internationally respected professor of jurisprudence. At least, we have to presume so, because a professed ability to order the affairs of hundreds of millions of other people, understand all the workings of advanced trillion-dollar economies, and steer it all using thousands of pages of legislation designed for a couple of dozen ancient and completely different legal systems, strongly suggests a level of genius previously unknown to mankind. Little wonder that they should believe that we are accountable to them, and not the other way around: indeed, the EU’s institutional architecture is explicitly designed to insulate decision-making from lesser minds, such as voters’.
Except that, if the last decade has proven anything, it is that this is a total sham: our so-called elites are incompetent, lurching from one crisis to another, failing utterly in each of them in turn, desperately grasping at any suggestion from some highly regarded economist or jurist or financier, which also invariably turns out to be just as hopeless or counterproductive as whatever madcap thing the politicians and bureaucrats were doing in the first place. The emperor has no clothes, and today’s populist movements across Europe and the US are not protesting against this or that particular policy; rather, they are calling out the high priesthood of technocratic government for being an execrable failure at every level and in every field of endeavour, from the economy and migration to criminal justice and even sports administration.
Every Londoner has seen the revolting spectacle of the motorcycle cavalcade shepherding the Minister for Spoons between meetings, blue-flashing outriders blowing on whistles to stop traffic and pedestrians so that the pointless buffoon in the brand new Jaguar behind them can get smoothly to yet another emergency summit. But at least that Minister can be dragged before Parliament or voted out of his constituency, and his whistling motorcade reassigned to whichever clown replaces him. His counterparts in Brussels, however, who have more power over British spoons than the Minister ever will, are not subject to any such popular control. And yet the British apparently object more to the former than the latter. They are insane.
There is indeed a powerful case to be made for a united Europe – a mighty confederation of peoples bound together in glorious celebration of their 3,000-year-old civilisation and of the peaceful, prosperous and ordered societies which they have slowly built over those three millennia, and which have been fully realised only in the last century or so. But (a) the Vote Remain campaign is not making this case, precisely because (b) the British voter is not remotely interested in it. Britain is the founder member of another, much younger confederation of peoples united by language and law and by a wholly different experience of world history, much of it dominated by Europe creating unspeakable catastrophes to which we have had to provide solutions. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of our people live in environments which could hardly be further removed from the claustrophobic boundaries of the European continent: to borrow a phrase from Charles Dilke, Alfred’s laws and Chaucer’s tongue are the defining facts of life from the Canadian arctic to the red deserts of Australia, from the gleaming glass cities of the United States to the alien fern forests of New Zealand. But no, the British say, tell us again how we’ll each be £3.29 better off if we give all that up for the EU. They are insane.
Go on, you crazy bastards – prove me wrong.