The disputes in Catalonia about whether the region should be independent of Spain run back and forth with large contingents on each side demanding their way. In Italy, we now hear of both Lombardy and Veneto demanding more autonomy from the Italian government in a protest over northern wealth being used to subsidise the poor south. In Germany, the AFH right wing party presence in the Bundestag has created mass protests over fears of a Nazi revival responding to mass immigration from non-European lands. In France, whilst looking a tad more united, in reality there are major labour and industrial disputes rocking the somewhat precarious Macron boat with a far from dead Front Nationale still a popular movement. And, of course, here in Britain we still have rumblings of independence north of the border, a highly divided political establishment and a distinctly widening north-south affluence gap.
So what does this tell us about Europe ? The examples above - and there are others around the Continent - reference probably the five largest movers and shakers in the European zone. Those five economies represent the driving force of the European ‘experiment’ with the smaller nations of the union hanging on by their coat-tails. And if the big five are seen as being unstable, what image might that send to the 250 million or so souls within the EU ?
It possibly says that as a Continent, Europe is so disparate and diverse and still very regionally structured that the move by the EU to drive federalism and to cement together the 28 (or 27 depending on how you see Brexit progressing) nations is not only a gargantuan task but likely a foolish task that will inevitably end in tears. Britain’s decision to go for Brexit has, therefore, some logical basis in making sound preparations for the future - if we make the leap in assumption that Europe, fundamentally, is never likely to be fully united. The history of Europe is one of separateness, competition, dispute and ambition all rolled into a composite and whilst a political union offers a financial incentive to being in the club what happens when the five major contributors to that financial pot start to have increasing division and instability within their own borders ?
Whether we were Leavers or Remainers in the Brexit referendum and irrespective of our views on how the negotiating process has been going, it was probably a decision that, if not made now would have been made in the not distant future. Europe is not like America, not like Asia and not like Africa. It is a unique mix resulting from a long gestation of developing civilisation, learning and culture that has reached a point of necessary and fundamental change, of re-birth. Brexit might just be the beginning of that....