One of the things that I have always found interesting about euroscepticism, and not just in Ireland or the UK, is the assumptions it makes. Eurosceptics always seem to assume that the alternative to the EU is some sort of magical reset button, back to a golden age when national sovereignty actually meant that a country could decide its own direction by making decisions for the most part within its own borders.
I can see the romance behind the idea, and it’s a very powerful idea which has caused a lot of bloodshed, certainly from the American Civil War onwards. But it is flawed. Take Britain in 1940. It was a nation of far greater military and economic importance than it is now, a global power in fact. Yet in 1940, even with all the power Britain’s future was not decided by London, but by decisions made in Berlin, Moscow and Washington DC.
The problem for us is that life in the 21st century is almost impossible for a country that does not want to interact with others. The only country I can think of that genuinely attempts it is North Korea.
Now, it is true that a modern European country outside the EU will not be another North Korea. Britain, for example, is a modern and wealthy industrialised economy with global links. But it’s no USA. Or China. Or Russia. Or Japan. Or India. Or Brazil. With the exception of Germany (which only qualifies economically, as opposed to culturally or militarily) there is no European country that is, on its own, going to be a first tier player in the global economy of the 21st century. In effect, by turning our back on European integration, we are handing over the running of the world to the giants, to economic and military superpowers.
It is they who will set the rules, and the rest of us who will follow in their vast wake. That is the world that the Eurosceptics are moving us towards, and let us make sure that they know it, because in 2021 when a Chinese commissar decides what the technical standards will be for new products, he won’t be sending us draft directives for comment the way those nice men and women in Belgium used to. He’ll just tell us.