What European Identity?

Remainer paints EU flag on her face - European Union - Brexit

No, watching an arthouse movie twice a year doesn’t count

Pete North puts into rather forceful words a sentiment which inchoately bubbles up within me every time I see a tearful Remainer painting the EU flag on their face and weeping into an eagerly waiting television camera about how the cruel, racist vote for Brexit has somehow ripped their “European identity” away from them.

North scoffs:

For all that cretinous bilge from remainers about us Brexiteers “stealing my European identity”, I say bollocks. You have no European identity. It is a figment of your imagination. You weren’t watching [a] French cop show on Netflix last night were you? You didn’t go and see a Spanish superhero film at the cinema last week. You know more about US politics than you do about the EU. Culturally, militarily and politically we are Anglospheric. That is a fact.

For all that we have seen remainers amphibious with grief, I say go and look at the traffic jams and the behaviour of drivers in Rome or go and watch the Spanish torture a bull to death and tell me that your culture is in any way reflected in Europeans. That’s when I tell you to fuck right off.

If I have to pick an empire to be allied with, I choose the USA every single time. The land of The Wire, South Park, Rick and Morty, the First Amendment. The country that never needed any persuading that Communism is the manifestation of evil on earth.

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but Donald Trump is not America. Trump is for four years or so. Moreover, Trump is a good sign. Yes, he’s a brash, oafish wrecker but he was elected on the back of a total rejection of American leftism. That which has aggressively moved to bury all moral norms and free speech along with it.

This is why Trump is weakening relations with the EU. Ultimately the diseased politically correct establishment in the USA is the consequence of a detached and corrupt liberal elite. In that respect the USA is in a more advanced state of decay than the EU – but we should view it as a warning. The soft left political consensus of the EU, with its deeply ingrained NGOcracy is that same disease. Brexit is not Trump. Brexit means we avert having one of our own.

I concur wholeheartedly.

Ask a Remainer what their favourite television show is, and they are far more likely to cite an American show than a European one.

Ask a Remainer what their favourite movie is, and they are far more likely to cite something from Hollywood than a worthy-but-subtitled movie from France, Spain or Italy.

Ask a Remainer who their favourite pop music artist is, and they are far more likely to cite an American artist than a European one.

Ask a Remainer to name a political hero or inspiration and I would wager that they are far more likely to reach for Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F Kennedy or Barack Obama than Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder, Silvio Berlusconi or Angela Merkel.

Ask a Remainer to cite a famous legal case or decision from a jurisdiction other than their own, and they are far more likely to name a famous case from the US Supreme Court – Brown v Board of Education, Roe v Wade – than a case from the European courts, or those of any member state.

For that matter, look at our legal system of Common Law, which influenced the formation of the American legal system (in the original colonies through to the federal system) and which is markedly different to the civil law traditions prevalent on the continent.

There are exceptions, of course. There are some areas where Europe does exert a stronger gravitational pull over us than North America or the wider Anglosphere. But besides geographic proximity, they are few and far between. Those who claim that we are somehow predominantly “European” in culture tend to either do so from a position of wishful thinking, wanting to position us closer to European social democratic tradition because they wish that our politics would move further in that direction, or from the blinkered perspective of their own narrow social circles.

None of this is to claim that British people lack an affinity for Europe, have nothing in common with other European countries or are in any way hostile to European culture. Many Brits do have deep and abiding links with the continent, myself included – I have a deep and abiding affinity with France and the French culture and people dating back to my teenage years, but I am clear in my mind that this is a relationship nurtured with a culture distinct from and different to my own, not a mere extension of my own culture.

And anybody who seriously surveys the full sweep of cultural connections – legal, governmental, artistic, musical, touristic, commercial – and tries to tell you that the British people have more in common with mainland Europe than with our friends in the Anglosphere (particularly the United States and Canada) is deliberately trying to deceive you, and deluding themselves in the process.


People hold banners during a demonstration against Britain's decision to leave the European Union, in central London

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19 thoughts on “What European Identity?

  1. Arthur Taylor March 29, 2017 / 11:32 AM

    As a Briton who voted Remain, who has lived in Germany for seven years, who runs a German company, who is in the process of attaining German Citizenship, who has a Finnish partner… I have to say I find it quite difficult to read these rants about the “typical Remainer”, and trivialisation of the goal of a united European people.

    “We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and…wherever they go in this wide domain…will truly feel, ‘Here I am at home.” – said some blinkered, frothy-mouthed Europhile. Or Winston Churchill. I forget which.


    • Samuel Hooper March 29, 2017 / 1:22 PM

      I don’t doubt for a moment your sincerity and the validity of your closely-held European identity, Arthur. And if a majority or even a plurality of Britons thought as you do, lived similar cross-border lives – and, crucially, came to feel more “European” in the process – then I would have to pack my ideological bags and concede defeat.

      But I think you must acknowledge that your personal circumstances do not presently reflect those of a majority of UK citizens, many of whom do not have either the inclination or opportunity to pursue an international career and life, and who have therefore not built up a similar sense of “European-ness” and dedication to a united European people. I would also wager that there are probably many who have worked extensively in Europe (such as myself) who greatly value the opportunity but still do not see this as justification for moving any closer towards political union and a common European state. Many of us feel culturally closer to the Anglosphere, for example, though we would not advocate for a single Anglospheric state either.

      One can argue about whether or not Churchill thought of Britain as part of this Europe when he gave the quote that you mention, or when he called for a United States of Europe. From my reading of history it seems fairly clear that Churchill saw the UK standing separately to this united Europe, an enthusiastic and engaged partner but not a member.

      I do not mean to trivialise the goal of a united European people – simply to expose the fact that there is absolutely no democratic consensus for (or recognition of) such a goal in Britain. Even many Remainers prefer to stay in the EU out of fear of economic disruption rather than any love of the EU project. Ultimately, the EU’s “if you build it, they (a European identity and demos) will come” approach is untenable and fundamentally dishonest. The day may come when European or World government is appropriate, but trying to move towards such goals by stealth was wrong, and the democratic thwarting of one such attempt is what I am celebrating on this Brexit Day.


      • Arthur Taylor March 29, 2017 / 4:13 PM

        I think you maybe confuse the chicken and the egg. I wouldn’t have developed a European identity if the EU didn’t exist, because it wouldn’t have been easy for me to get a job in and move to Germany. I wasn’t born a die-hard Europhile. But the opportunities I was given by the EU have allowed me to develop a richer understanding of and greater kinship with people who don’t share my nationality (or language or culture).

        How would you build a united European people? How do you break down the boundaries between people and nations, and reduce xenophobia and hate? How do you build a consensus for an idea that isn’t immediately appealing to a majority, even if it has merits? How do you raise taxes for infrastructure spending or fight climate change? The politics of “what the majority want right now” is a very mean-spirited and short-sighted politics.


        • Samuel Hooper March 29, 2017 / 4:21 PM

          People were perfectly capable of travelling to and working in other countries before the EU. Perhaps not in your individual circumstances (though I’d be very surprised), but skilled people manage to work in countries other than their own all the time, building knowledge of / affection for their host countries, without needing a supranational political union sitting on top to coordinate things. Has the EU and freedom of movement made it easier? Yes, of course. Is the EU essential for this purpose? Clearly not.

          A close reading of the EU’s history, from non-hagiographic sources, reveals the deliberate intent behind the project. One can admit that the project has some nobility to it without agreeing with it. There is nothing wrong with a united Europe in principle – only the fact that it is the brainchild of a very few European intellectuals, brought into being in the form of today’s EU institutions and now given its own bureaucratic life and instinct for self-preservation – all without the democratic consent of the people. The EU’s modus operandi is always to capture and consolidate power first, and then seek to ratify later. Look at our initial accession, or every major EU treaty since (including the constitution / Lisbon Treaty). You may say that the ends justify the means, but my God, we have certainly run roughshod over democracy in an attempt to reach those ends.

          The way to build support for an idea not immediately appealing to a majority is not to quietly implement it in secret / without consent and then spring it on everybody, near fully formed, and demand acceptance. That is the arrogant approach which the architects of the EU took, and in so doing they sowed the seeds of their project’s disintegration.


  2. Schrodinger's Dog March 21, 2017 / 1:24 AM

    Being on topic, frankly I’m puzzled just where this new-found love of the EU comes from. During the referendum campaign, the Remainers sold membership of the EU in purely pragmatic, economic terms: the British economy would be better off inside the EU.

    Going off-topic, that the commonalities of language and culture prompt Britain to look to America may explain why it is impossible to have a rational debate about the NHS (genuflect) “The Envy of the World”. Many British people incorrectly believe you won’t get medical treatment in the US if you can’t pay for it. What is true however, is that people in the US can be financially ruined by medical bills, even those with medical insurance.


  3. Peter Smith March 20, 2017 / 8:26 PM

    Gents (and perhaps ladies too),

    I have been following your wonderful, intellectual debate about this “Europe” that the UK is supposed to be leaving shortly.

    Unless there is some amazing technology that I am not aware of, after ceasing to be a member of the EU, I expect that the British Isles will be located exactly in the same place that it is now! And that is pretty much right next to the continent of Europe where it is right now. So the UK will hardly be “leaving” Europe.

    I am not British but I cannot believe that, after so many centuries of being proud Britons, the majority of the British people are suddenly so eager to swop their Britishness for Europeanism. How has the British culture and the British way of doing things suddenly become so inferior to the way things are on the continent of Europe?

    In any event, perhaps you Brits should not be too quick to abandon your ship. Maybe its leaking a bit and it could do with a lick of paint, but be careful of what you were thinking of swopping it for – Europe as we all used to know it may well be on the slippery slope to oblivion.

    Read this for one opinion on why and how this is happening:



  4. dissent angle March 20, 2017 / 7:40 PM

    The generation most likely to consider itself to be ‘European’ is the one which has grown up in the era of budget air travel, environmentally unsustainable though it is, taking for granted its availability to pop off on a quick and cheap trip to the continent when it suits. Ironically this is the Green Party’s principal demographic target group, ‘Millennial Remainers’, who are too young to remember prior to when Ryanair and Easyjet existed as a bus service for them. They are ‘Blair’s Children’, for whom he is he first Prime Minister that they can remember, hence his world-view influenced theirs, although they are probably unaware of it.


  5. Rob March 20, 2017 / 12:51 PM

    In my experience, just about every ‘remainer’ I know couldn’t converse in a European language if their life depended on it. To claim to have a “European Identity” yet not speak any language from the European continent is bizarre.

    Liked by 1 person

    • angharadlois March 20, 2017 / 3:24 PM

      Lazy ad-hominem argument, but hey, whatever makes you feel good…


  6. angharadlois March 20, 2017 / 10:45 AM

    This is remarkably anglo-centric. Imagine if you spoke a completely different language, one which had more in common with languages spoken in other EU countries. Imagine if you weren’t brought up completely monolingual and had access to cultural products – television programmes, films, books – in languages other than English. You might not see America as quite such a cultural behemoth.

    I understand that, in a democracy, my minority language and cultural views are liable to be shouted down by others, but just because my views and experiences represent a (supposed) minority does not mean they are not valid, and certainly does not mean they should not be heard.

    Like you, I disagree with the idea that the EU and Europe are interchangeable concepts. I support the EU because I support greater political cooperation and collaboration with the countries which share the most with us in terms of geographical proximity, political history, ecology and, yes, culture. Being outside the EU will not strip my European identity from me: it will only strip my rights. I will no longer be able to travel and work in other countries as freely as I have in the past, I will no longer enjoy the protections afforded by EU legislation, and the relatively disadvantaged areas where I and my family live will no longer receive funding from the EU to help them regenerate and recover from an economic slump brought on by shortsighted London-centric government mismanagement.

    You usually address these concerns (apart from the right to free movement and work) by suggesting that our government could – hypothetically – do something about them: pass laws protecting the environment and workers’ rights, make funding available for areas it has systematically neglected. And – hypothetically – I agree with you. But in practice, I am going to oppose Brexit on these grounds until I see any evidence of our government actually acting on these concerns.

    But since my cultural preferences are ‘highbrow’ (read: not exclusively English) feel free to dismiss my concerns as elitist.


    • rapscallion March 20, 2017 / 11:42 AM

      How can it be anything other can Anglo-centric – we are talking about Remainers after all, who by definition live in the UK and thus speak English?

      This takes nothing away from others like myself who did not have a completely anglo-centric upbringing. Whereas Sam has an abiding affinity with France, mine, through an accident of birth is with Belgium and Holland.

      I do not support the EU because the “greater political cooperation and collaboration with the countries which share the most with us in terms of geographical proximity, political history, ecology and, yes, culture” is fundamentally not so much undemocratic as anti-democratic. The EU has not one, but 5 presidents, none of which were elected by the people. I also strongly believe in the nation state, which is the largest natural grouping a demos can support.

      The rights of which you speak you almost certainly had before we joined the EU – bear in mind that you only have rights that are granted by the state, whereas that concept is alien in the Anglosphere – you automatically had the moment you were born.

      I don’t want you to go away with the idea that all Brexiteers are in any way anti Europe. I love Europe, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time there, many of my relatives are there, and I’m more than happy to be good friends and neighbours with them. To cooperate where necessary, but I draw the line at being ruled by people who are not accountable to the people, and cannot be removed by the people.

      Lastly, not everything can be couched in economic terms. Either you have self-determination or you don’t. I’d rather be free than rich.

      Liked by 1 person

      • angharadlois March 20, 2017 / 3:22 PM

        To answer your original question: there are parts of this country – admittedly very small, isolated parts – where English is not the primary spoken language, nor even the oldest spoken language. As I said, I don’t expect such minority views to be taken into general account, but I do feel a responsibility to speak for them.

        Of course not all Brexiters are anti-Europe; in fact I was quite careful to preserve the distinction between Europe and the EU in my comment. Nor did I couch everything in economic terms: regeneration can be brought about by investment of time and energy, as much as money. My former home in Liverpool exemplified this, in the Granby Four Streets project which I was proud to support while I was there. One of the most disappointing things about the whole referendum debate was the way the economy was made central to everything. A lot of Brexiters, like Sam, focused on sovereignty; a lot of Remainers, like myself, focused on the environment.

        I spoke of protections, as much as rights. The EU affords us – and our environment – legal protections which will not be guaranteed under UK law once we leave. And the freedom to live and work within the EU is a right which our nation-state alone is not capable of granting. You might think that this freedom is moot; I have lived and worked in different countries in the EU, and have friends and family who live and work in the EU, so this is a real loss.

        Like so much of this debate, it comes down to what you believe. You believe that the nation state is the largest natural grouping a demos can support; I question the definition of the nation state, coming as I do from a distinct nation within a larger state. The union of the British Isles seems as arbitrary to me as the union of European nations seems to you. Overall, I believe in greater cooperation, so I support the ‘United’ part of the ‘United Kingdom’ – but the irony of Brexiters trotting out ‘Remain’ arguments against Scottish independence is not lost on me.

        As for self-determination, this Westminster is currently attempting to overturn democratic decisions made by local government with regard to fracking in Lancashire. Where do you draw the line?


        • rapscallion March 21, 2017 / 8:51 AM

          I agree that the economy was hyped out of all proportion during the referendum. Yes, Sovereignty was for the critical hub around which all else depended. Whilst I recognise your concerns about the environment, for me it is more about the prevention of pollution than about a trace gas called CO2, but that is an argument for another time. The freedom to live and work on the continent is not lost. Not really, I traveled to Belgium and lived there as a child for a while in the 1960’s. I really can’t see continental governments turning down somebody who has skills, a job, and the ability not to live off the state. Besides, the Great Repeal Bill will add all EU law into British Law (until we can get rid of the bits we don’t need or want), so I fail to see how you will lose your legal protections.

          We are never going to agree on the nation state, but the UK, by sheer virtue of its geography constitutes a nation state far more than any other country on the European mainland. We can argue about the delineations between the Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, Cornish and Celts till the cows come home, but for a very long time since 1066 these islands have been largely homogeneous. The last battle on UK soil was in 1746 – Culloden I think. Some 270 years ago. To put that into context, that’s longer ago than when the US was created.

          Incidentally I have no issue with the Scots wanting another referendum, and that’s because I’m a firm believer in self-determination. I am at least consistent.

          As for Westminster overturning decisions made elsewhere in the country then that is a perennial problem caused by a system that is strange to say, inherently undemocratic. In this, I am in much agreement with Richard North’s Harrogate Agenda. please Google it

          On a personal note – I must say what a pleasant change it is to have a different opinion without being subject to ad hominems by an opponent

          Liked by 1 person

          • angharadlois March 21, 2017 / 3:10 PM

            I think we’re in broad agreement (or at least ‘agreement to disagree’) on most points, but I would dispute the idea that the UK is all that geographically coherent – at least, not unless we get rid of Northern Ireland. And that in itself raises the question of how we define ‘battle’. The Troubles might not have been an old-fashioned all-out war, but they were certainly a conflict. The fire-bombings carried out by Meibion Glyndwr (whose actions I do not condone, by the way) were certainly seen as part of a battle on one side. I think it’s quite a complacent view to believe that this island is ‘largely homogenous’. It has always contained a multitude of languages and national identities, and in my view this mongrelish nature is its strength – far more preferable to me than homogeneity, especially on the Normans’ terms!


  7. Red Cliffs Of Dawlish March 19, 2017 / 11:24 AM

    That picture is well placed: She looks like she is basking in the warmth and mutual admiration of those who share her well-placed values and instinctive trust in The Body EU. The combination of beauty, goodness and strength of “solidarity” is almost overwhelming on one’s heart: How Pure.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Paul Robson March 18, 2017 / 8:05 PM

    I can remember very few EU identities that people have come up with prior to the vote – even leading up to the vote, and certainly no flags painted on faces. I have come up with :-

    – it says EU on our passports
    – there’s an EU sign at airports for customs “Citizens of EU/EEA” etc.
    – you can (or could) get an EU number plate for your car (with a little EU on the side), not sure you still can though.
    – the Eurovision song contest.

    There probably are others.

    My favourite question for these supposedly Europeans ; firstly you ask them to agree how unfair it is that countries can operate in this country without paying tax here, and think of all that tax going to other countries (lay this on thick)

    Then ask them if they support the Single European Market. If they say “yes”, ask them what it is.

    It is my experience that Lefties almost without exception do not know what the “Common Market” actually is. I think they think it’s a sort of self promoting liberal emotional support group.

    Liked by 1 person

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