President Obama’s comments regarding Britain’s decision to hold a referendum on its continued membership of the European Union have caused annoyance over here, particularly his stated opinion that, because of American sacrifices, he has a stake in the issue.
Of course, America’s military involvement, together with the unstoppable might of the American mass production machine, certainly had a powerful effect but Britain had already been fighting two of its ‘partners’ in Europe, Germany and Italy, for two years before the strong isolationist voice in the USA was silenced. The change of heart was occasioned, not by events in Europe, but in the Pacific. Then, as now, America’s intervention was driven primarily by self-interest.
The Battle of Britain had come and gone by this time. The Royal Air Force, although outnumbered three to one, had secured control of the skies above southern England, thereby frustrating Hitler’s plans to invade Britain. In any case, can anyone seriously believe that the Wehrmacht would have been allowed to march triumphantly into London, as it did in Paris? No ruddy chance. I lived through World War 2 and used to shelter under the stairs with my mother as the Luftwaffe bombed an armaments factory half a mile from where I lived. I’m just old enough to remember the mood of the nation quite well.
And where does Mr Obama’s idea that Europe is united come from? Even Britain itself is not united. We have strong Welsh and Scottish claims to independence. The British and the French really do dislike each other. Striking French lorry drivers think nothing of blocking channel ports and, as I predicted at the time of the last referendum, regarding what was then the ‘Common Market’, when the chips are down countries will scurry into their own back yard to look after their own interests.
The biggest cause of annoyance here is the sheer hypocrisy of Mr Obama’s statement. Would the USA sacrifice an ounce of sovereignty to Mexico or Canada? Not an exact comparison, I admit, but its essence remains.
In case anyone is interested, these were the reasons I voted against membership of the Common Market in 1975:
Each interested country had its problems. Join them together and you just get a bigger problem.
Britain had failed to invest in research and development.
Britain had overmanned and inefficient companies.
Britain had over-powerful unions (Jim Callaghan’s government governed by consent of the unions).
Britain had a closed-door, elitist management style that alienated the workforce.
Britain was resting on its laurels in the belief that ‘British is best’ (which it had been, at one time).
Britain suffered from class-distinction, as it still does. There is a stratum at the top of society that believes it has a divine right to live in clover and that the rest of us must ensure we’re sober and alert enough each morning to keep it there.
All these problems began in Britain and have to be tackled in Britain. None of them can be solved by joining with others in an artificial attempt to create a super state. Such integration has to occur organically.
The strangest aspect of Mr Obama’s comments involve his advice that Britain should not ‘withdraw from the world’. Britain founded a vast Empire that, despite its occasional excesses, was the greatest force for good the world has ever seen. Judging Britain’s continued influence purely on its economic and military power misses the point.
We must get out of Europe and the sooner the better. Then all those Euro-MP’s will be forced to do something useful to us all, not merely themselves.