Bristling Brock speaks out...
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It's probably true of all broad scope treaties and agreements between nations that after the handshakes (and elbow knocking these days) there is a brief period of relief followed by the noise of advancing hordes of tut-tutting bureaucrats who will ponder the finer details of what's what and twist the interpretations in all manner of ways.
And it is the advance of the bureaucrats that is imminently about to descend across Europe. Every state will have its debate warriors and scribes there to scratch away the superfluity of the agreement and instead drill down to the crunch issues that divide the parties. With Brexit, this could go on for quite a long time - it's an international civil service golden egg moment - years of paperwork, reporting, consulting, amending, re-writing, changing direction and so on and so on. Yet we might consider this to be the dreary mechanical stuff of Western democracy, for without it we have rules by diktat and imposition rather than by tediously worked out detail. So let's face it - most of us cringe at the prospect of analysing every nut and bolt of the agreement, it takes that special breed of nerd to be able to undertake and enjoy such a mind-blowing amount of tedium and come up waving tomes of reportage that, frankly, very few people will ever read. But it's that very analysis and scrutiny that distinguishes the democracy from the dictatorship, that enables politicians to lift weighty volumes in their democratic chambers and assert that the detail has been looked into and the will of the people has been upheld. So, a little bit of a 'good luck chaps' smile toward our doughty civil servants - we don't much care for you as a species but we know you're a necessary part of the way of life we all cherish.
This brings Bristling Brock to the lofty halls of the BBC. Even now, after the thrust of Brexit and trade agreements have been reached, we have the ever lovely to look at battery of lady political reporters still twisting their scalpels into any politician who deigns to put his or her head above the parapet. Their mantra must be 'Let us sow doubt, gloom, awful predictions and question for ever why so and so didn't do something before now !' Old John the Baptist had nothing on the current swathe of BBC Ladies. So why can't these undoubtedly smart and accomplished reporters actually switch their tone - occasionally if not always - to one of support, positivity, and faith in the future ? Are we so inured to gloom and set-back in this country that we cannot actually get by without a daily dose of catastrophe ? (BB won't even go there about Eastenders in this context....). Not that long ago, we were, on the whole, a positive nation, sometimes up against it, but nevertheless cheekily upbeat. We need that back. We need the nation to start feeling good about itself, about the prospects, the opportunities and the mental well-being of feeling positive, we need to start caring about our nation state and what it means to the way-of-life we understand and seek. Not everything will go our way and we must be clever enough and determined enough to overcome these hurdles, but unless we start believing in the future as a positive and opportunity strewn pathway then we'll stay stuck in the mire. So come on, BBC, put those clever reporters to an infinitely better use.
Having said all that - the Brits are - once again - disgracing themselves in foreign parts. First we have skiers in the French Alps and then we have the backpackers letting everyone know about the worst of British culture in Australia. We seem as a nation to have a penchant for selfishness and irresponsible behaviour whether we are over indulged nouveau riche or lager louts incapable of understanding the most basic of behavioural boundaries. We may be smarter, and more technologically savvy these days, but it seems there are still many who haven't yet risen above the bog when it comes down to individual behaviour, common sense and social responsibility.
Saints preserve us !
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Well, the Brexit deal seems to be done. There'll no doubt be much to finesse and round-off in the weeks ahead, but the principle of severance from the EU would look as though it has been achieved.
For those who supported the very concept of Brexit, its fundamental implications and the desire to allow Britain to once again be in charge of its affairs, this will all sound like good news after a heart rending negotiation that, at times, looked impossible to fulfill. For those that opposed severance from the EU there will no doubt be some dismay and even bitterness that the final cutting of that political and economic umbilical has now been achieved. So let us draw a distinction in these often fraught, polar views about how Britain should continue its evolution in the decades to come. The EU started its life as an economic initiative with trade being central to its purpose. In the course of time the union developed a political mind to move toward a federalist agglomeration of European states. Security and being a mid-world powerhouse of business, finance and innovation were lofty aspirations that appealed to many - including Britain - at a time when the communist bloc was thrashing through its death throes and the emerging influences of a bruised Russia, a totalitarian China, a rogue nuclear North Korea and an opportunist enthusiasm for the Islamist vision all started to enter our consciousness.
There were moments when the EU ideal looked to be the better option to be within in the face of this disparate but dangerous clique of global saboteurs. Yet regulation of the then 28 member states meant ever increasing control, interference and blockage of sovereign states individual outlooks. The economic and political disparity between those newer members in the east and those in the west loomed large and we became a club of those that paid in little but received a lot versus those that paid in a lot and received little - all in the name of European solidarity. But the raw truth of it is that European solidarity is a myth, a leviathan political institution that jaw-jaws in its lavish parliament but actually does nothing to establish a cohesive and multilateral sense of equality and security throughout its membership. It has crowed about the preservation of peace in Northern Ireland, but has actually done nothing at all to assist in bringing that about; it failed to intervene in the implosion of Yugoslavia and watched with glassy, sightless eyes as genocide and war crimes were committed on European soil; it failed to mediate and act as an arbitrator in the Catalan dispute with Spain and again watched a brutal put-down of a genuine regional desire to have a greater say in its local governance; it watched Russia invade the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and did nothing; it watched the ever growing problem of illegal migrants entering southern Europe and contributing to the destruction of economies in Greece and southern Italy (in conjunction with impossible Eurozone demands) and again stood by, passive and unresponsive. And so the list goes on and on.
This all says nothing about how the Continental members of the EU bent and skewed the rules to favour their own industry, trade and business interests - all counter to both the spirit and law of the EU - whilst dear old Britain played its cricket by the rules - and suffered mightily for such naivete.
The arguments can continue endlessly in both directions, but Britain has now defined its position to act in friendly but open ways with not just the remaining EU bloc but with other free trade partners around the world. That those agreements have been secured quickly beyond the impossibly legalistic EU rule book is testimony to the very reason why Britain has sought and achieved its independence. We are an island race of free-traders on a global scale and we do not subscribe to the slow and restrictive ways of a political bloc that puts its political interests before its economic and social well-being - and therefore the well-being of its many citizens. We are infinitely better off as a nation state outside of this organisation - still friendly and collaborative with it but - importantly - independent of it.
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The interminable Brexit process is being drawn out to its tortuous limits. The complexities of this are no doubt enormous and beyond the wit of mere average mortals, but it is worth considering - purely for some sense of self satisfaction - quite why we are where we are with the EU.
There is something to be recognised in the fact that Britain and the wider UK are island states. We are surrounded by water and therefore rely on a healthy maritime trade. Nothing too amazing about that. By contrast, the EU is predominantly a Continental land-mass with myriad land borders and a sensitivity to the vulnerabilities such notional borders pose. After all, those borders have been seriously challenged over the last century or more. So we might give Europeans just a modicum of understanding that they constantly keep an eye peering over their shoulders - just in case. Security is a big thing if you have a bully boy living next door. If we then look at how our nation states are made up, it doesn't take much delving to see that the folk who started the whole English-British-UK dynamic - Celts, Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans - created a very different national psyche to that possessed throughout Europe where there is an ethnic bias toward Gallic, Teutonic, Latin, Greco and Slavic races. We thought differently throughout times past and we still do.
We developed different values, different forms of governance and different strategic views of the world - as a small island race we had to be outgoing and often punching above our weight. But perhaps most significantly, we recognised the worth of unifying tribal groupings into a nation state long before anyone in Europe (though even that continental entity really had no geo-political substance until the fifteenth century) had even considered such an idea - France, Germany, Italy and Spain were riven with vested interest groups that defied any vision or sense of unity in preference to personal glories and wealth. So you might argue that the British have something of a longer and more worked out approach to how governance might work. That's not to say our system is perfect - far from it - but let us say that we have a pedigree when compared to the majority of EU states.
Cutting a long story short, the upshot of this is that we could think of Britain as never really having been a part of Continental Europe at all - it was some 7,000 years ago when the Dogger lands sank beneath the expanding surges of the North Sea and separated us from those 'other folk' who talked differently ! The British are, by nature and circumstance, free-traders. The EU represents a protectionist outlook, one that seeks obedience and subordination to the bloc's technocratic structures, underpinned by a fatalistic desire to prevent further European hostilities, to lump everyone together in the hope that that creates a common sense of well-being. It's a model that is anathema to the British, not least when the French aspire to be the voice of the EU. In that, why do the British and French have such an antipathy toward each other ? Is it relevant to todays political wrangling ? The answer, simply, is yes on both counts. We cannot ignore the historical fact that we and the French have been at loggerheads for centuries, about ten of them in truth, a state of affairs driven by one unified culture sparring with a disunited and multi-directional culture and an ever changing land-mass boundary. It's a record of very roughly a 60:40 ratio of British triumph compared with French triumph. And the French hate that very statistic, for it paints them as the weaker geographical body and nation. And that very simple analogy tells us exactly what is going on in Brussels right now. The French, believing themselves to be the natural leaders of the EU bloc, are after vengeance upon the British. Let us hope we stand resolute, as we have done this last thousand years, strong against the bully-boys.
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