Catalonia Independence And Brexit – Not The Same Thing

Catalan Catalunya president Carles Puigdemont speech - declaration of independence

The Catalan declaration of independence does not prove your point, whether you are for or against Brexit

There has been an inevitable tendency among many people to co-opt the events surrounding the recent Catalan independence referendum and resulting declaration of independence from Spain for their own distinct purposes. This is unhelpful. Recent events in Spain illuminate Brexit little more than the election of Donald Trump explains Brexit – in other words, a few headline similarities obscure a wealth of differences.

First, we can all acknowledge that Spain hugely mishandled the entire affair. Whether this is partly due to weaker institutions and the less embedded traditions of democracy in Spain or just sheer incompetence on the part of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government is not fully clear to me, but the actions of the Spanish government clearly fuelled rather than defused the situation.

Rajoy should have learned from the UK’s experience with the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. Faced with Scottish separatists with similar delusions of statehood, David Cameron called the bluff of the Scottish National Party. The referendum was held on fair terms and the nationalists lost – despite an awfully dreary and uninspiring “No” campaign which pushed an entirely negative message and had little positive to say about the value of the United Kingdom. And though this led to the rise of Nicola Sturgeon and the arrival of the Tartan Tea Party of SNP MPs in Westminster after the 2015 general election, the nationalist tide has since receded.

Madrid took a different approach, opposing the referendum at every turn. I can’t speak to the legality of the constitutional court’s decision to ban the referendum, but the violent way in which it was put down by the police and Guardia Civil handed the separatists a huge and unnecessary propaganda victory. I can fully believe that the Catalan regional government has behaved reprehensibly and childishly throughout, but a mature national government in Madrid would have handled this in a way which took the sting out of the Catalan independence movement, putting it to bed for a generation. Mariano Rajoy achieved the exact opposite.

The decision of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to proceed with a declaration of independence, as ratified by the Catalan parliament, was opportunistic, antidemocratic and immature. Yes, the referendum was violently put down by the Spanish authorities. But the referendum was also deemed illegal  in the first place by the proper Spanish courts, and many of those who would have voted against independence did not go to the polls. To take this botched referendum as a mandate for independence is a huge overstepping of Puigdemont’s authority, and is fundamentally antidemocratic.

Simultaneously, Spain has been far too laid back in dealing with this threat. It was shocking enough that it took until the days before the Scottish independence referendum for anti-independence campaigners to hold a mass rally in London in support of the United Kingdom – but at least it happened. Spain waited until days after the unilateral declaration of Catalonian independence to hold a similar rally in Barcelona. Where was this public outrage and shows of loyalty to Madrid when Carles Puigdemont was prancing around acting like the living embodiment of all Catalan public opinion? It is hard to attribute this to anything but laziness on the part of the citizenry. As he left the US constitutional convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin told an enquirer that he had bequeathed the American people “a Republic, if you can keep it“. At times, the Spanish seemed too lazy to make much of an effort to keep theirs.

How does all of this tangentially relate to Brexit? In one sense, Brexiteers can draw some basic parallels to Catalan independence. Both are primarily cultural movements consisting of people who do not accept the legitimacy of the larger political entity which they seek to leave. But the British EU referendum was conducted under the rule of law and its outcome was legitimate. One can raise valid points about the precise mode of Brexit being unstated and the lack of a plan on the part of the official Leave campaign – all true. But the instruction from voters to the UK government to commence secession from the political entity known as European Union was clear. In the case of Catalonian independence, not so. In many cases, the Catalan government behaved provocatively and with great immaturity. These are not smart, measured people whom anybody should seek to drape their arms around.

But there is also a contradiction at the heart of the Catalonian separatist movement. Both in Catalonia and Scotland, advocates for independence seek to leave the political purview of Madrid and Westminster respectively, but remain very much part of the European Union. In doing so they engage in a feat of denial and political fancy which exceeds that of the most ignorant of Hard Brexiteers. Leaving Spain means Catalonia leaving the EU, just as leaving the United Kingdom inevitably meant Scotland leaving the EU when Scotland voted back in 2014. In both cases, separatists sought to downplay or even deny this truth. Carles Puigdemont and his followers need to accept this difficult fact if they are to be remotely taken seriously. But they do not accept reality, just as the SNP refused to accept reality.

It is also curious that the separatists are so desperate to escape the clutches of Madrid (one protester today said that Catalonians were currently “oppressed” by Spain) but are entirely comfortably – even eager – to remain under the authority of Brussels, and inevitably as a much smaller and less influential member state were they to be readmitted. I would very much like to read an argument explaining how modern Spain suppresses Catalonian culture and freedom in a way that the EU would not. As an independent country and small EU member state, Catalonia would be much less able to influence EU policymaking than Spain is currently able to do. They would be in an infinitely weaker position to defend and advance Catalonian national interest.

And yet if this is still the choice of the Catalonian people they should be free to make it – through a lawful, democratic and legitimate referendum. If they do so, it will be a clearly cultural and constitutional decision, just as Brexit was. This doesn’t automatically mean that it is the “wrong” decision – it would simply mean that as with Brexit, some things matter more than short term political and economic stability. This is an argument which I have strongly made about Brexit, and which could hold true for Catalonian independence too. If the people of Catalonia genuinely feel that Madrid is hostile to their own interests then they should have the right to secede from Spain and take the consequences and potential benefits upon themselves. I supported Brexit because I do not feel that our cultural affinity to Europe – our sense of ourselves as part of a cohesive European demos – warrants as powerful and extensive a government as we currently have in Brussels. If Catalonians feel the same about Spain then so be it.

But if nothing else good comes from this turmoil in Spain, hopefully it will disabuse separatists throughout Europe of the childlike, naive notion that Brussels is their friend, and that the European Union in any way cares about their freedom or right to self-determination. It most assuredly does not. The European Union has its own journey – toward greater political integration and centralisation – to pursue. Brexit is enough of a bump in the road for EU leaders; they have no desire to see Europe fragmenting further at a time when they are trying to busily absorb everyone into the grand project, even as their undermining of established member states fuels these separatist movements.

Besides that, this is an internal matter for Spain to deal with. One might plausibly consider taking sides from a personal perspective had the referendum been conducted legally under terms agreed by both sides, or if the Catalan government could make an irrefutable case that no further dialogue with Spain was possible for the redress of their grievances. But in the absence of these mitigating factors we ought to refrain from jumping into a foreign debate purely to score cheap political points about matters in our own country.

The Catalan independence movement is not like Brexit, as anybody who supported the continuation of the United Kingdom in 2014 and Brexit in 2017 should have the humility to accept. No matter how low your opinion of Nigel Farage, Aaron Banks and Dominic Cummings may be, they did not press ahead with an unlawful referendum and claim (quite) such an implausible mandate from it. And whatever constitutional vandalism the UK government is currently engaged in as it seeks to implement Brexit is nothing to the constitutional vandalism currently being perpetrated in Spain.

At its core, Brexit is about securing the continued relevance and autonomy of the nation state (at least until such time as public opinion shifts more definitively in favour of the kind of supranational government offered by the European Union). And that means keeping our personal opinions about Catalan opinions quite distinct from any other political agenda.


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Happy Independence Day

From one soon-to-be independent country to our dear ally, today celebrating 240 years of glorious freedom

A very happy Fourth of July to all of my American readers.

Given recent events, I would also invite those Americans (I’m thinking here of President Obama and the political and economic elites who have the New York Times as their mouthpiece) celebrating their wonderful country’s independence today while looking on Brexit as some kind of terrible catastrophe to ask themselves why they would deny their closest and most reliable ally the same sovereignty and freedom which they rightly demand for themselves.

As America celebrates today, so we in Britain celebrate soon being able to join in the proclamation that “this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Happy Independence Day.

Let freedom ring!


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The American Establishment, Having Lost Faith In Their Own Country, Naturally Oppose Brexit Too

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How quickly they forget

If there was one country in the world which you might think would understand the importance of democracy, the right to self determination and freedom from unaccountable government, it would be the United States of America.

And so it has been particularly depressing to watch politicians and commentators from the United States dutifully line up to support the European Union and condemn Brexit as some sort of frivolous and deliberate act of economic self-harm with no potential upsides whatsoever.

Latest to join the fray are the Washington Post (in a piece now being widely shared on social media by Remainers) and the New York Times, both of which condemn Brexit as an isolationist fantasy without showing any evidence of having researched the issue in any detail.

First, the Washington Post, which claims that advocating Brexit is to “flirt with economic insanity”:

Countries usually don’t knowingly commit economic suicide, but in Britain, millions seem ready to give it a try. On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote to decide whether to quit the European Union, the 28-nation economic bloc with a population of 508 million and a gross domestic product of almost $17 trillion. Let’s not be coy: Leaving the E.U. would be an act of national insanity.

[..] What this debate is really about is Britain’s place in the world and its self-identity. Britain has long been of Europe but also apart from it. The British Empire was once the world’s largest. To be simply another member of a continental confederation, albeit an important member, offends this heritage. The nostalgic yearning is understandable, but it is not a policy.

Ironically, leaving the E.U. would confirm the U.K.’s reduced status. The U.K. would have to renegotiate its trading agreements with the E.U. and dozens of other countries. A deal with the E.U. is essential. For the U.K., the best outcome would be to retain much of its preferential access, which — as a practical matter — would mean continuing contributions to the E.U. budget and abiding by most E.U. regulations. The status quo would survive, except that the U.K. would have no influence over E.U. policies. Anything less than this would have the E.U. putting its own members at a competitive disadvantage.

One could drive an entire convoy of trucks through the holes in this argument – like the implied assertion that maintaining EEA access would require “abiding by most EU regulations” when in fact it would only mean following those directives and regulations which pertain to the single market (well under half of the total).

Note, too, the dismissive attempt to make euroscepticism sound like a nostalgic hampering for empire. What is really outdated, though, is the WashPost’s antiquated belief that membership of “continental confederation[s]” or giant regional blocs is somehow necessary for national prosperity, despite the Cold War having ended a quarter of a century ago. The Post has made no effort to actually understand what motivates Brexiteers – be it the “liberal leavers” like this blog, or the more traditionalist types in UKIP – and instead falls back on a bed of platitudes and outdated assumptions.

This is the New York Times’ distilled view of Brexiteers:

The euroskepticism that has led to the British referendum, and that forms a strong component of the right-wing nationalist parties on the rise in many European countries, is not about efficiency or history. It is about ill-defined frustration with the complexities of a changing world and a changing Europe, a loss of faith in mainstream politicians and experts, a nostalgia for a past when nations decided their own fates and kept foreigners out. To those who hold these views, the European Union is the epitome of all that has gone wrong, an alien bureaucracy deaf to the traditions and values of its members. Not surprisingly, Mr. Trump and the French politician Marine Le Pen both favor Brexit.

What a condescending view of all Brexiteers, with an insidious Donald Trump comparison as a snobby garnish. The Times is utterly oblivious to the real world of global trade and regulation, and the slowly emerging global single market which is making the EU obsolete, as this blog pointed out yesterday while criticising the Economist’s unsurprising decision to support Remain:

The bloggers of The Leave Alliance in particular have exposed the fascinating world of international trade and regulation, and the slowly emerging global single market – comprised of the real global “top tables” – of which Britain could be a part, if only we had the national confidence to stop hiding behind the euro-parochialism of Brussels.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post concludes:

Viewed this way, Brexit is an absurdity. But it is a potentially destructive absurdity. It creates more uncertainty in a world awash in uncertainty. This would weaken an already sputtering global economy by giving firms and consumers another reason to pull back on spending.

It would be better for the U.K. to stay in the E.U. It would also be better for the E.U., because Britain provides political and intellectual balance. Finally, it would be better for the United States, which doesn’t need a major ally — Britain — to go delusional.

Ah, so that’s what this is really all about – stability and predictability for the United States. It would have been much more honest if the Post had simply admitted this upfront, rather than squandering credibility by feigning concern for Britain’s economic and geopolitical welfare – and then advancing the bizarre notion that America’s strongest and closest ally should continue to tolerate infringements on her democracy which the United States would never accept for itself.

But in one sense the Washington Post is quire right – Brexit would indeed cause some short term uncertainty. That is inevitable when we are dealing with such consequential matters of state. It’s just that some things matter more than the fear of precipitating a period of short term uncertainty. Why should Britain, like a frog placed in cold water, remain fearfully in situ as the temperature increases and the water starts to boil? Because jumping out of the water into dry land would be a “leap in the dark”? Because it would be a departure from the status quo? Well, yes, so it would. But the EU, a relentlessly integrating political union beset by crises of currency, mobility and democratic legitimacy is the proverbial vat of boiling water. “The devil we know” hardly seems to apply here.

The New York Times is no better, beginning with a most ludicrous proposition:

It was Queen Elizabeth’s official 90th birthday celebration last Sunday, and tables for 10,000 guests were set along the Mall in central London. Steadily the rain fell, dripping out of the tubas of the bands and softening the sandwiches, but Her Majesty’s subjects munched on with stoic British spirit, standing up to cheer as she passed.

In her fuchsia coat and matching hat, she waved and grinned as if nothing had changed and never would. But next week, a very great change may come.

On Thursday, Britons will vote in a referendum on whether their country should stay in the European Union or leave it. If a majority opts for “Brexit,” a long earthquake begins. It will topple the old facade of Britishness. It will disrupt, perhaps mortally, the foundations of European unity. The sense of a fateful moment suddenly peaked on Thursday, when, the police say, a young Labour member of Parliament named Jo Cox was shot to death in her West Yorkshire district by a man who is said to have shouted, “Put Britain first!” and to have been involved in the white-supremacist National Alliance in the United States.

All campaigning was suspended for a day of appalled mourning, amid fears that widespread anxiety about European immigration was being inflamed into violent racialism. Ms. Cox was a rising star, admired in and outside Parliament for her selfless energy on behalf of refugees and the poor. Her friends hope her death may cool referendum passions, reminding sullen voters that “not all politicians are in it for themselves.”

Royal ceremonies offer a brief, reassuring illusion of continuity, but at the back of many minds on the Mall was this thought: Could we be saying goodbye not just to this beloved old lady, but to a certain idea of nationhood? An outward-looking, world-involved Great Britain may soon shrink into a Little England.

It is frankly hilarious that the New York Times is trying to portray Brexit as some kind of grievous departure from the proper trajectory of history by referencing the Queen, when Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne several years before the European Coal and Steel Community was even formed, and decades before Britain finally joined the European Economic Community.

In other words, it is the European Union and its hateful, antidemocratic model of supranational governance which is the departure from historical norms, and Brexit the antidote which aims to restore the nation state as the proper guarantor of our basic rights and freedoms. That the New York Times is unable (or unwilling) to admit this only shows just how deeply they buy into the carefully cultivated “inevitability” of the EU.

The venerable Times tarnishes its reputation even further as it moves on to the topic of immigration:

Is it a baseless panic? Many European countries tolerate far higher levels of immigration. Scotland, with a new community of some 55,000 Poles, actively encourages it. In England, support for Brexit and for the xenophobic U.K. Independence Party is often in inverse proportion to the scale of the problem: The fewer immigrants there are in a town, the louder the outcry against foreigners. In contrast, polling in inner London, where about four out of 10 inhabitants are now foreign-born, shows a clear preference for staying in Europe.

This is just appalling journalism. Does UKIP attract a slightly higher proportion of xenophobes than other political parties. Yes, probably. But does that make the party “xenophobic”, as the New York Times casually claims? Absolutely not. One wants to ask Neal Ascherson (the author of the piece) how UKIP’s policy of a points-based immigration policy which stops discriminating against mostly white Europe in favour of a level playing field for immigrants from all countries can possibly be xenophobic. But of course, he would not be able to answer. It is received wisdom that UKIP is a borderline racist party, and so prestige publications like the New York Times are happy to print as much.

The New York Times then makes its own patronising reference to empire:

But there are deeper motives here than anxiety about the exchange rate or banks in London decamping to Frankfurt. Behind Brexit stalks the ghost of imperial exception, the feeling that Great Britain can never be just another nation to be outvoted by France or Slovakia. There’s still a providential feeling about Shakespeare’s “sceptred isle” as “this fortress built by Nature.” Or as an old Royal Marines veteran said to me, “God dug the bloody Channel for us, so why do we keep trying to fill it in?”

And swats away growing public dissatisfaction with political elites as an inconvenient nuisance:

English nationalism, though inchoate, is spreading. For older generations, it was cloaked in British patriotism. But now, having watched the Scots and the Welsh win their own parliaments, England — with no less than 84 percent of Britain’s population — feels aggrieved and unrepresented. And so the English have gone in search of their own identity politics, finding common cause with the general impatience with old political elites that is flaming up all over Europe.

For now, their angry sense of powerlessness is aimed at the European Union. But the truth is that it’s from bloated, privileged London, not Brussels, that the English need to take back control. The Brexit campaign orators, themselves members of that metropolitan elite, have carefully diverted English fury into empty foreigner-baiting. In France this month, English soccer hooligans’ chant was “We’re all voting Out!” as they beat up fans from other nations.

Presumably the New York Times supports the American system of government. One might think that this would lead them to reflexively support a strong and independent nation state organised on the federal model – or something like Brexit followed by constitutional reform to give equal powers and representation to the four home nations of the United Kingdom. And yet in this snivelling OpEd, they search instead for every reason imaginable, however slight, to criticise Brexit and overlook the manifold failings of the European Union. And they deny the independence and model of government which they themselves enjoy to the inhabitants of their strongest and closest ally.

And then comes the “convenience for the United States” argument, underlined with a threat:

It is certain that Brexit would do gross damage to both Europe and America. For the United States, it would mean the failure of many years of diplomacy. Britain would become at once less useful as an ally and less predictable. Washington would turn increasingly from London to Berlin.

Really, to Berlin?

Which is the nation with a blue water navy and armed forces capable of projecting global reach?

Which nation hosts the world’s capital city and leading city of finance?

Which nation is the declared nuclear power and UN Security Council P5 member?

Which nation shares a language and many elements of a culture with America?

There’s been a lot of bluster in this EU referendum campaign, but the notion that the United States would turn away from its only real dependable (and contributing) ally in the world to shack up instead with Germany is, frankly, laughable.

Both of these editorials – Washington Post and New York Times alike – seek above all to problematise the Brexit process, to burden it with what-ifs and doubts and problems while furiously overlooking the many problems with the status quo and the soon-to-be problems about to beset the European Union. They do not begin from a place of objectivity and a willingness to follow the facts. They do not even do justice to America’s own founding values, which would rightly balk at ever joining a democracy-sapping supranational government like the EU.

But most of all, they make it sound like Brexit is just too difficult. That whatever the merits, difficult things are now beyond our capabilities and that we must muddle through with the failing mid-century institutions bequeathed to us by our grandparents. This is fatalistic and depressing in the extreme, but it accurately represents the viewpoint of the establishment in both Britain and America, both world-leading countries which have markedly lost their way in recent years.

President Kennedy once entreated Americans to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard – and because the striving toward an ambitious but difficult goal would be the best way to organise and measure the capabilities of the nation. And before that decade was out, Americans had walked on the surface of the moon.

Now, the two most prestigious newspapers in America are frantically counselling Britain not to reach for the metaphorical moon, not to reach for independence from a suffocating and failing European political union, not to do anything which might in any way rock the boat or stem our slow decline into euro-parochialism and global irrelevance, because doing so would be difficult and would create (shock, horror) a period of uncertainty.

In other words, the American establishment is looking upon Britain as though we have taken leave of our senses even by having this referendum. They, having lost faith in the strength and capability of their own country, expect Brexiteers to similarly write off our own.

But it is not we Brexiteers who are flirting with insanity, as the Washington Post so arrogantly claims. It is America which has lost its way, and the American establishment and political class which could learn something from the scrappy, underdog campaign to free Britain from the EU.


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At Least Jeremy Clarkson Is Honest About His Euro-Federalist Dreams

British television presenter Clarkson returns to his home in west London

Unlike most people in the Remain campaign, at least Jeremy Clarkson has the courage and decency to admit that he doesn’t just tolerate the European Union but actually dreams of Britain being part of a federal European country

So that great producer-punching pseudo Man of the People, Jeremy Clarkson, has come out definitively in support of Britain remaining in the European Union – and not just the EU as it is now, but the EU as it yearns to become in the near future, a fully politically integrated federal European state.

No great surprise there – Clarkson has made pro-European rumblings before. But what is surprising (and actually rather impressive) is the full-throated way in which Clarkson embraces his support of the EU.

Unlike nearly every leading politician and personality in the Remain camp, Clarkson does not attempt to flatter us or pretend that he “gets” our concerns about Brussels gradually usurping our democracy. Unlike the deceitful-yet-ingratiating Sajid Javid, Clarkson makes no promises to go back to ranting at Brussels the moment he has helped doom us to continued membership of the EU (though in Clarkson’s case, more ranting is all but guaranteed).

Jeremy Clarkson actually does something which almost nobody in the intellectually squalid, fear-based Remain campaign dares to do – he owns his pro-Europeanism and wears it as a badge of honour, rather than doing what so many Turncoat Tories and others have done, prancing around like the World’s Biggest Eurosceptic before meekly running to David Cameron’s heel and supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU as soon as the prime minister snapped his fingers.

Clarkson writes in the Sunday Times (+):

I suppose that now is as good a time as any to declare my hand. I’m with the man whose wife we fancy. I’m in.

When Mr Cameron was touring Europe recently, seeking a better deal for Britain by sucking up to the leaders of such places as Romania and Hungary, I watched on YouTube an MEP called Daniel Hannan make an anti-EU speech to a group of, I think, students. It was brilliant. One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. And, I’ll admit, it made me question my beliefs. But despite his clever, reasoned and passionate plea for us to leave Europe, I’m still in. He talked sense, but a lot of this debate is about how we feel.

In 1973 my parents held a Common Market party. They’d lived through the war, and for them it seemed a good idea to form closer ties with our endlessly troublesome neighbours. For me, however, it was a chance to make flags out of coloured felt and to eat exotic foods such as sausage and pasta. I felt very European that night, and I still do.

Whether I’m sitting in a railway concourse in Brussels or pottering down the canals of southwestern France or hurtling along a motorway in Croatia, I feel way more at home than I do when I’m trying to get something to eat in Dallas or Sacramento. I love Europe, and to me that’s important.

I’m the first to acknowledge that so far the EU hasn’t really worked. We still don’t have standardised electrical sockets, and every member state is still out for itself, not the common good. This is the sort of thing that causes many people to think, “Well, let’s just leave and look after ourselves in future.”

In other words, Jeremy Clarkson is your garden variety Euro-federalist. He looks at the bureaucratic opacity of Brussels, the contempt in which the EU is held by many of its citizens and the fact that cultural and regulatory harmonisation has not been completed to produce a single cultural identity where we all identify as Europeans first and use the same electrical outlets, and concludes that the correct answer is “more Europe”.

Fair play to him. He’s completely wrong, and betrays an almost criminal contempt for the democracy and right to self-determination for which our ancestors fought, bled and died. He is the archetypal person who votes as a consumer – because a harmonised, federal Europe would be better for his wallet and his weekend jaunts to France – rather than as a thinking, engaged citizen. But at least he has the god damn balls to honestly state his position. Hardly anybody in our own elected House of Commons supporting the Remain campaign would dare to do the same.

But then it begins to come off the rails (or the test track). Clarkson continues:

Britain, on its own, has little influence on the world stage. I think we are all agreed on that. But Europe, if it were well run and had cohesive, well thought-out policies, would be a tremendous force for good. I think we are all agreed on that as well. So how do we turn Europe from the shambles it is now into the beacon of civilisation that it could be in the future?

Oh really? We are “all agreed” on that, are we?

Actually, no we are not agreed at all. Our prime minister and foreign secretary may hold our country, its history and present capabilities in astonishingly low esteem, but fortunately the same cannot be said for many of the people. Many of us correctly believe Britain to be one of the few truly indispensable nations on Earth, that our contributions to the arts, sciences, commerce and global security are almost unmatched, and that we could throw our weight around in the world accordingly, if only we cared to stand up for our own national interest once in awhile.

But such views are unheard of outside the Chipping Norton set, the middle class clerisy in general and the fawning circle of friends and admirers surrounding David Cameron (of whom Jeremy Clarkson is one). These people, many of whom came of age at the peak of 1970s declinism and economic doldrums, have at their core a deep pessimism and scepticism about the ability of Britain to survive and prosper as an independent actor on the world stage.

So deeply have they internalised this self-doubt and self-loathing that no matter how much evidence you show them to the contrary – the examples of Australia and New Zealand, say, somehow surviving in the world without being part of an Asia Pacific Union and sharing a common parliament and court – they bat it away without even stopping to think.

Clarkson then sums up:

Right. So let’s switch our attention. Let’s leave the “parish councillors” alone and concentrate our big guns on the real decision makers in Brussels. Let’s have hacks outside their houses all day long, waiting for one of them to do or say something wrong. Let’s make them accountable. Let’s turn them from “faceless bureaucrats” into household names.

That is the biggest problem with the EU right now. Nobody is really concentrating on its leaders. Nobody is saying: “Hang on a minute . . .” And this means they are running amok.

It’s why we need to stay in. So our famously attentive media can try to stop them. To make them pause before they move. To make the Continent work the way the Continent should — as a liberal, kind, balanced fulcrum in a mad world that could soon have Trump on one side and Putin on the other.

And here we have the classic pivot back to “the answer is more Europe!” Rather than looking at public attitudes toward the European Union which range from disengaged indifference to blind, seething rage, Clarkson concludes not that the experiment in political integration by stealth has failed, but rather that we should just come to terms with it and re-order our media and culture around the EU’s artificial construct.

Clarkson is actually saying that if only more journalists doorstopped Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz every morning with awkward questions about budgets and foreign policy, we would immediately begin to feel more vested in the EU project and finally become enthusiastic Europeans. It’s pure wishful thinking, of course, but then so is everything about the EU, an political organisation build on the the principle of “If you build it, they will come” (they being a European demos willing to be led by Brussels).

But though Clarkson is wrong on nearly every point, cavalier with our democracy to the point that it does not even merit a mention in his article and unabashedly in hoc to the establishment’s ingrained europhilia, still he somehow comes away as the most intellectually honest and respectable of all the high profile Remain supporters.

Unlike an oleaginous Turncoat Tory, Clarkson does not feel the need to butter us up with constant anecdotes about how he hates Brussels just as much as we do, honest. And unlike those bland Remainers on the Labour benches, he does not just mutter inanities about countries “working together”, as though intergovernmental co-operation were not possible without the umbrella of an undemocratic political union.

No, Jeremy Clarkson owns his position, and has the guts to tell us that not only should we learn to love the European Union as it is now, we should actively fight for further political integration:

But, actually, isn’t it better to stay in and try to make the damn thing work properly? To create a United States of Europe that functions as well as the United States of America? With one army and one currency and one unifying set of values?

At last, an honest argument from a Remain supporter – someone who is brave enough to stand up and say “actually, I feel more European than British, I think that the nation state is kind of passé anyway, I’m envious of the size and power of the United States and terrified by the sight of Russia; therefore, we should proceed full speed ahead with the creation of a European country”.

Again: I find Jeremy Clarkson’s argument utterly repellent and contemptuous of our hard-won democracy and liberty. But my God, it’s refreshing to hear from someone from the Remain camp who actually says what they really feel about the European Union.

David Cameron, Philip Hammond, Theresa May and other assorted peddlers of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) – your turn next in the honesty corner.


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