The EU should not ignore the voices of Britain’s Europeans

By | March 20, 2019

Timothy Garton Ash writes:

Hundreds of thousands of us will be on the streets of London this Saturday, as some 700,000 of us were last October, demonstrating that we are not merely Europeans, but Europeans strongly in favour of the EU. Last autumn’s People’s Vote march was already the biggest pro-European demonstration in recent European history. Will European leaders simply ignore us?

Next to individual citizens there are the peoples of these islands. Britain is a nation comprised of three nations: England, Wales and Scotland, together with a part of a fourth, Ireland. The 27 other member states of the EU have been impressive in their solidarity with Ireland, against the unforgivable, post-imperial carelessness of English Brexiteers. But what about Scotland, with its 5.4 million people? Scotland voted by a majority of 62% to 38% to remain in the EU. Don’t the leaders of Slovakia and Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia, remember what it’s like to be a small country subordinated to a larger one?

Then there is democracy. One can understand why our fellow Europeans have reacted with disbelief and ridicule to the extraordinary operetta that the Westminster parliament has presented over recent months. While Donald Trump Jr snorts that British democracy is “all but dead’, what happens in Westminster shows the very opposite to be true – unlike what happens in the parliament building that architecturally most resembles it, on the banks of the Danube, in Budapest.

Some may laugh at the Commons Speaker invoking a procedural rule dating back to 1604, but it’s a reminder that since the 17th century the English form of revolution has been to assert the authority of parliament over an over-mighty executive – from Charles I to Theresa the Hapless. Last week, a motion for parliament to take control of the Brexit process lost by just two votes; another such motion is likely to succeed. Do EU leaders really want to spurn a democratic Britain while embracing an undemocratic Hungary?

Last but not least, there’s shared destiny. Macron’s compelling vision of a Europe that has sufficient power to defend our shared interests and values in an increasingly post-western world will be impossible to achieve if British hard, economic and soft power is set to work against, rather than with, the grain of Europe. And continental Europeans should have no illusions: such cross-Channel dissonance, not some harmonious strategic cooperation, will almost certainly be the consequence of Brexit. [Continue reading…]

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