Why I am not a nationalist.

Nationalists these days call themselves Euroskeptics. It’s popular. It’s the safe word to use in polite company, something you can say when people ask you how you feel about your government, and it is suicidal.

The jist of the idea behind Euroskepticism is that a farmer in Cornwall knows best how to run his farm and his facon de faire may be different from that of a farmer in Transylvania. Whatever the case may be, they both definitely know better than that pompous European Commission on Agriculture in Bruxelles. There is no need, they say, for a unified policy on the subject because every farmer knows what’s best for himself.

While this may be true, not every consumer knows what’s in the farmer’s produce and the farmer doesn’t always know what’s best for his livestock, he’s a farmer not a veterinarian. Not only that but if a produce market in London sells Romanian potatoes I am quite certain consumers would like some kind of guarantee they weren’t grown in a bed of pure manure. The EU provides safeguards against abuse in a very open market. These do not always work as we saw in the case of the horse meat scandal, but they do make for a very neat paper trail which can be followed to find the flaw, and this was done in months rather than the years it would have taken without the close integration we have.  Here was a case of a boring issue where Europe pulled through for the consumer but got very little credit.

What does this have to do with nationalists Kirk, you’re ranting man, get a grip. Well it does. Farming regulations within Europe are a local issue. They are about ensuring standards are met throughout the union so that competition is fair within this space. They are also in place to protect European consumers from products, which would fall below these standards, that are imported from outside of the Union. So in essence, they have nothing to do with who wields power and everything to do with quality products which we can trace from store shelf to raw materials source every step of the way in every single case – from cheese to beef that isn’t beef. This is a unified European policy that works.

Right, nationalism.

There are however issues that we do not agree on. One of them is foreign policy. Case in point, the Ukraine crysis. While the protests in Kiev were in full swing, three European foreign ministers, individually representing France, Germany and Poland traveled to Kiev to settle the matter once and for all. (Mind you this was later construed to seem like they had the European Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Baroness Ashton’s blessing, but I submit to your consideration that they acted unilaterally).  This was a blunder on many levels, not least of which because it seemed to back a movement whose only claim to legitimacy was the fact that people had died in supporting it. One need only point to the Colombian FARC to see that this policy was flawed. It could not claim to represent a majority of the Ukrainian people as no elections were held.

Why is this important? The UK did not have a voice in these dealings. As a member (though reluctant) of the European Union it should. What was the result? Events evolved into the current situation and it is William Hague’s turn to pick up the baton and speak on behalf of either the UK, or in conjunction with the US, or the UK within the EU, one cannot be quite sure. What is clear is that on the one side of the issue stands Russia, with a clear policy, a clear leader and a focused approach to the situation while on the other we have an entity vaguely defined as the West, which is scrambling desperately for cohesion in this highly volatile situation.

European (read, that represent countries which happen to be a part of the Union) leaders are wrangling for preeminence in defining what line we should follow as a group based solely on their need to maintain their own countries’ status within the EU to the extent that the broader implications of the outcome for the block as a whole are being ignored.

Debating the relevance of independence from Bruxelles at a juncture in our history when each individual state is vastly outgunned economically politically and I dare say militarily by a much greater power flexing its’ muscles right on our doorstep thus becomes an exercise in self harm on behalf of each European nation.

Nationalism was a great idea in the 19th century. It described a world in which people governed themselves in opposition to the rule of empires headed by despots and autocrats. We take pride in the accomplishments of that era and cherish our independence and self rule. But it is an outdated idea for Europe to adhere to in a world of super sized economies fueled by vast resources that are no longer part of European empires.  Nationalism in this context is a counterproductive position to take given the limited capability of individual states to effectively deal with issues of this magnitude.

 

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