Two days from now, Great Britain will decide whether it wants in or out. Listening to the Remain supporters one gets the impression that should Brexit get up, Britain will be towed away from the continent and left somewhere midway between Greenland and Iceland.
This is because over the past few decades Eurocrats have largely succeeded with equating the European Union with Europe in peopleâ€™s imagination. The European Union is not Europe. Itâ€™s a political experiment that takes some of the worse European traits (statism, elitism, anti-democratic sentiment) and conflates them in order to keep at bay some of the worst European traits (poisonous nationalism, militarism, sectarianism, intolerance, genocide â€“ to be fair, none of them uniquely European, but sadly all to prevalent throughout European history). There is a lot more to Europe than that, and there is hell of a lot more than the European Union.
So come Friday, Great Britain will be where it has always been (Iâ€™m speaking here in historical, not geological time) and Europe will be where it has always been; so close and so far from each other. No oneâ€™s going to fill up the Channel Tunnel with earth again or build a wall and get the Mexicans to pay for it. No doubt there will be consequences for Great Britain of leaving the European Union. There donâ€™t have to be, but there will be, not out of any necessity but out of the Eurocratic vindictiveness and to set an example for any other member country that might consider leaving. This tells you less about the political and economic realities and a lot about the cultish aspect of the Union.
I suspect that should Britain leave, it will be a bigger loss for the Union than for Britain. Great Britain has always been one of the saner members and more positive influences within this technocratic utopian project. Still, even Britain havenâ€™t been able to move the EU into a more sensible direction.
The melancholy truth is that the Union is probably unreformable. This is because on the one hand the worse European traits I mentioned above are actually quite common throughout the continent; in that sense the Union is quite representative of a large proportion of Europe and Europeans. On the other hand, classical liberalism as an ideological and political force that champions free market, small government and individual freedom ranges from non-existent to weak throughout the contemporary European body politic. There certainly is not enough for it to make the European Union less of the pathetic statist behemoth it is. What there is more of is populism and nationalism, forces which have always been prominent in modern European history and which are becoming more so, in part as a popular reaction to the Eutopian disconnect with the interests and wishes of the plebs. But neither populism nor nationalism have any answers to reform rather than end the European Project.
So all in all Iâ€™m pessimistic. If Great Britain remains, neither Great Britain nor the European Union will get any better. Those who are happy with the EU as a leftie superstate want more and faster. Those who donâ€™t by and large have neither the answers nor power to make anything happen.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the current European Council President, Polandâ€™s Donald Tusk, recently rallied against â€œa utopia of Europe without nation states, a utopia of Europe without conflicting interests and ambitions, a utopia of Europe imposing its own values on the external world. A utopia of a Euro-Asian unity.â€ He went on to say:
Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm. Disillusioned with the great visions of the future, they demand that we cope with the present reality better than we have been doing until now. Today, Euro-scepticism, or even Euro-pessimism have become an alternative to those illusions. And increasingly louder are those who question the very principle of a united Europe. The spectre of a break-up is haunting Europe and a vision of a federation doesnâ€™t seem to me like the best answer to it. We need to understand the necessity of the historical moment.
All nice sentiments, but does anyone seriously expects that anything will actually change? Even if Tusk was 110 per cent serious, we would need a Europe full of Tusks to affect change. And Europe is most definitely not full of Tusks.
If, however, Great Britain leaves I suspect things will over the longer term only keep getting worse. At best, the European Union will become more insufferable; at worst, we might be seeing the first signs of an eventual collapse and break-down, the return to the natural state of Europe: fractious, conflict-prone and ugly.
But in shorter term, not much will be different, either for Great Britain nor for Europe and the Union. Iâ€™m not a British citizen and so I donâ€™t have the vote on Thursday, but if I was and I had I would be to some extent torn. Iâ€™m not a big fan of the European Union, that much is clear, but I hope we wonâ€™t look back a few decades from now on this day and think that the EU was actually a lesser evil to whatever happened later. This is a pretty pathetic case for Brexit jitters, but it is not unreasonable one, and this only makes the whole saga even more melancholic.