‘Little England’ made a wise choice to leave the pompous, crumbling EU
N. Balakrishnan says the English electorate, who have a long history of independent thinking, are right to reject the suffocating embrace of the European Union
After the Brexit vote, “Little England” is being used as a term of derision. But, to me, it is not size that matters but whether a country is able to provide security and jobs for its citizens. I am sure that, given a choice, people would rather live in Switzerland or England than “large” countries such as Russia or Nigeria. On that score, I think the chances are good that England will, after some hiccups, succeed and prosper after being freed from the suffocating embrace of self-appointed and self-serving bureaucrats in Brussels.
England may even show the rest of the world the way, as a symbol of a post-industrial, service-based, “small” economy. Leviathan countries or economies that don’t work well have nothing to brag about.
Outsiders may think the “British” and the “English” are the same but there are big differences. The English novelist John Fowles said it well when he compared the two in his essay, On being English but not British, writing that the true Englishman’s “subversive ideal has always been ... to live in the justest country. Not the strongest”. To Fowles, the English have a long history of independent thinking and, while being proud of their land and nature, remain humble and hard-working. Britain, on the other hand, and even more so “Great Britain”, is a pompous man-made 19th-century construct, rooted in imperialism.
The triumph of Brexit is the triumph of independent-minded English over pompous “Britain”.
When I was a student in London, in the 1970s, there was an elderly English lady on campus who used to make delicious tea by pouring hot water from a big boiling vat over tea leaves and used to call me “luv”. She is not there any more, and the Costa Coffee chain has taken over. It makes stale, bad cups of tea and sells them at 10 times the price. This is not “progress”. I hope one day my tea lady’s stall will be recreated in that spot and people won’t have to worry about EU health regulations.
People talk about Britain’s financiers but don’t forget England’s engineers and builders. Frank Whittle single-handedly invented the jet engine in his garage long before we had even heard of Silicon Valley. Most of the smartphones in use rely on designs by English transgender computer scientist Sophie Wilson.
People often talk about how Britain refused to surrender to the Nazis in 1940 and stood alone when the whole continent of Europe was under Nazi control before the US entered the war in 1941. Remarkable as that was, the more remarkable thing about the independent-minded British is that they threw out their war hero Winston Churchill in the 1945 elections because he failed to address the social needs of post-war Britain. Americans on the other hand, elected their war hero General Dwight Eisenhower as their president, even though he had no political experience. To throw out your war hero just after the war and elect a Labour Party that dismantled the empire and gave them the National Health Service shows a sophisticated and courageous electorate.
I am sure that, a decade from now, the world will be congratulating Britain, or at least England, for having had the foresight to leave a sinking Europe. The European Union, which accounts for about 7 per cent of the global population and which is ageing rapidly, accounts for about 40 per cent of total social spending. This model is not sustainable and will collapse soon.
What Brexit means is that England will be leaving behind the static, pompous “French” model. The French have good slogans such as “liberty and fraternity” but, in practice, theirs is a model that is both unjust and dying. The reason that all the immigrants from Africa and the Middle East are lining up to get into England is because there are no jobs in France.
While the French working class suffers, the pompous elite feel entitled to sinecure jobs in the European Union bureaucracy and the International Monetary Fund. The previous French IMF chief was involved in a sex scandal and the current French chief of the IMF is under investigation for alleged fraud.
I would rather trust the wisdom of the English electorate than the functionaries living off the impoverished and unemployed working class of Europe.
N. Balakrishnan is a Hong Kong-based businessman