I have a confession to make. I am pro-European Union. I honestly believe what the world needs is more cooperation and less conflict, and separatism does not lead to that, it pulls in the opposite direction. For me, what is primarily still an economic union is still a benefit I do not want to use. I like being able to move freely in 28 different countries. I like have easy and cheap access to continental products, of which wine is probably the best but not only example. I like (and here I go down my professional line) having standardised legislation on technical subjects that mean you are getting the same quality everywhere – my primary work is with cosmetics (much wider than just makeup by the way) and the regulations in the EU, there to look after safety and create a consistent market – are literally world leading; large proportion of the world follows developments with considerable interest. This is good for us as consumers, as you should be able to trust a shampoo bought in Greece as much as one bought in your own high street store, and it is good for industry as it keeps the costs down – to them, and to us. In the end, it is very competitive market, and while profit is essential, price it too high and I go off and buy something cheaper. It is not perfect by any means. If it was I would be out of a job. It would be grossly naive to think any kind of arrangement between so many countries would be. Put 28 people in the room and get them to agree? I don’t think even Henry Fonda could manage that – he only had eleven other angry men to manage. So frankly, it is amazing how good the EU structure actually is considering that obstacle.
And the reason it is, and the reason I feel kinship (apart from all the wonderful European friends I have been blessed with over the years) is that Europeans are pretty much the best in world at compromising. Now ‘compromise’ seems like a dirty word sometimes as it usually linked with desertion of principles (poor Nick Clegg). But like ‘patronise’ (a rant for another day) that does disservice to the word and the concept. We cannot have it all our own way (although it amazes me the number of supposedly intelligent people who seem to think they can). We can have principles, and we can stick to them, but if we want to make the world a better place for the next generations to come (and some of us at least do) then we have to try and work out what is important, and what is ego or short term gain. I think a lot of the time we all get confused. We do not live on planet UK. We live on a planet called Earth, which we share with an awful lot of other people who also want to live a happy and successful life. Together we can get some way towards that, apart we just end up pulling in different directions. In that scenario, the people who shout loudest, and have the biggest weapons – metaphorical or literal – win. To be clear, that is not the United Kingdom. As part of the EU we have considerable global influence, and as noted above, it is generally a calming, conciliatory one. On our own, we have some influence on the global music industry. I think that is about it. Oh, and we make really good documentaries (I’m becoming a BBC 4 addict).
I am a compromiser. I hate conflict of any sort. Yes, you have to stand up for what you believe in, and I am happy to express my views. But equally I do not have the hubris to think that I am always right. I do occasionally disagree with the Lovely Wife and obviously that proves the point as in such conflicts she is invariably correct so you kind of learn. So I appreciate the air of compromise that does exist in our modern Europe and I believe that to lose it would be a considerable step backward for the UK, for Europe and for the rest of the world – the coming years will bring increasing tension I believe between the US, Russia and China, with Brazil knocking at the International door, and Africa is coming to the table. Europe, whatever the reasons for it, has the links to be a major mediator, but it needs to be strong internally to do so.
And if you fundamentally disagree, and think that the EU is a Bad Thing, then fine. But I refer you then to the wise Sir Humphrey Appleby (Yes Minister, ‘The Devil you know’)
Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, ha ha ha.
Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, let’s look at this objectively. It is a game played for national interests, and always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?
Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of free Western nations.
Sir Humphrey: Oh really. We went in to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.