Why would you want to de-globalise?
It seems almost inconceivable but there are signs that the world is becoming protectionist, at least in attitude, and turning its back on the putative – and inevitable – trend to globalisation. From Trump to islands like Sri Lanka the voters are nudging politicians – or the other way round – into positions of looking after the jobs they have and risking losing trade. The two may not seem to go hand in hand but they actually do. Protectionism is bad for us all.
The most urgent of potential de-globalisations is soon to take place in Britain. The vote to decide if Britain remains part of the European Union will be upon us shortly. The debate has turned from ludicrous to nasty with the future of David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, hanging in the balance. Those in favour of Brexit seem to be prepared to lie as much as those in favour of Remain. Wasn’t this the occasion when we expected a rational debate?
Initially I thought there might be arguments for withdrawal. The European Union has been riddled with corruption and is powerful mostly when making life difficult for the citizens of its member countries. Any hint of diversity between one country and another, it seems, must be wiped out in the interests of conformity. Special terms – many of them in Britain’s favour, as it happens – were negotiated on the basis of muscle not equity. The EU’s ability to make sensible conclusions about money and immigrants seems somewhat less than their quick answer to the British sausage. Goodness knows how many millions it cost us to keep that.
But, as King Canute ably demonstrated, the tide will come in however powerful the person resisting it. Now the issue seems to have become one of Little England versus the rest of the world. Strange when you realise that Britain created the first sort of globalisation with the Commonwealth, something which encouraged the initial major migration of modern times and which led to diversity on a scale other countries still aspire to.
The arguments, both legitimate and otherwise, have been bellowed back and forth until the only seemingly reasonable way forward is prejudice. If that is what it must be then I will state my prejudice unequivocally. Europe is a centre of some of the greatest culture on the planet. In a relatively small landmass Europe has creativity on a greater scale than the rest of the world put together. On a social scale, for all its aberrations, it has the kindest and most humane societies on the planet. It has fought its battles and learnt from them the vitality of peace.
Joining European countries together in a treaty like the European Common Market was an experiment to see if cross-border trade and travel would reduce the risk of a third war and enhance the lives of its citizens. They got the economics wrong at the start and tried to force the political will, something astute politicians should have known would not work. But they started a journey of rapprochement which has gathered momentum and turned into a form of neighbourliness that makes relations better and gets its members talking not stalking.
The Irishman asked for directions might have been right when he said “I wouldn’t start from here”. But here in Europe is where we are.
And it is from here that we should go forward.