|The June Press|
Made in Britain
The Patriotic Case For Europe And The Euro
by Simon Buckby.
This patriotic case for the euro is presented by a pro-EU member of the Britain In Europe campaign.
Reviewer Gerald Frost
[eurofacts (Vol 7 No 1) – 19th October 2001]
Simon Buckby has set himself an uphill task. It is to demonstrate that pro-Europeanism is "truly the great patriotic cause of our age." Accordingly, the cover of his book is coloured red, white, and blue and depicts a British bulldog. "To be pro-European is not to be anti-British," he declares on more than one occasion. Whatever his defects as a writer, he is never off-message.
A former television-producer who ran the Labour party's advertising during the 1997 general election, Mr Buckby is campaign director of Britain in Europe, an organisation with close links to the Blairite wing of the Party. Made in Britain is said to have been passed by Downing Street and to be intended as the opening salvo in the run-up to a referendum campaign on the euro. Unlike members of the government who have retreated behind the "five economic tests" formulae as a means of avoiding discussion about the wider implications of Britain's entry. Mr Buckby advances political as well as economic reasons for joining the single currency. He is right to suppose that it will not be possible for ministers to confine themselves to economics once the campaign is underway.
Jobs and Growth
This does not mean, however, that he has much to say that is fresh or original. On trade, jobs, economic growth, inward investment, inflation, workers' rights, relations with America, the environment, and much else, the argument is familiar, and no fresh material is adduced in support. What is new is his attempt to place it in the context of the present debate about national identity. His conclusion is that the "true patriot" may sign up to the euro with enthusiasm, and may indeed do no other.
This is reached by means of redefining patriotism. On his view, it has little to do with Britain's past which he believes ensnares us and binds us to changing realities. Rather patriotism means love of what Britain might become, rather than what it is, or has\been. What Mr Buckby wants Britain to become is a full and enthusiastic member of a 'pragmatic,' multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Europe; he is in no doubt that an emphatic 'yes' vote will take us in that direction. Having fixed the terms of debate Mr Buckby is consequently able to win it - least to his own satisfaction. The problem is that few are likely to fully endorse this conveniently malleable definition of patriotism.
While the British may be less secure in their patriotism than formerly, a list of those things which they most like about their country will include values and institutions which are firmly rooted in our past. For most of us history is as much a spring-board for achievement as a\barrier to change.
Moreover, if he is really to arouse stronger enthusiasm for the present project of political integration he needs to say rather more about the character of the Europe of the 21st century. In as far as there is any description of it at all this proceeds largely by way of negatives. According to Mr Buckby it won't be a superstate and it won't be anti-American; it won't be inward-looking and it won't be protectionist; it won't be undemocratic and it won't be exessively bureaucratic; and it won't be dirigiste or impose an excessively heavy burden on the taxpayer. It will, we are told, constitute an entirely new political entity, but Mr Buckby seems curiously unable to convey more than a hazy impression of its outlines. A book of more than 200 pages should have offered greater enlightenment.
Informed readers, whatever their views may also resent the crude attempts to depict Churchill as an early supporter of the current European project, and Thatcher as an early supporter of the European Rapid Reaction Force (she is also misquoted and misrepresented) on the subject of the single market). They may also feel, as I did, that their intelligence has been insulted by Buckby's assurance that the US strongly favours the creation of the ERRF when there is so evidence to the contrary.
But along with the 'I am more patriotic than thou approach' the undecided voter is likely to react most negatively to his assumption that opposition to the European project is rooted in racial hatred or fear. The following passage is typical:
"Some people conflate patriotism with irrational nationalism, which can spill over into bellicose jingoism or outright racism.
Such chauvinism [is drawn]…from visceral prejudice, where pride turns to conceit, our history wielded as an excuse to bash the French, and the Dunkirk spirit degenerates into anti-German hysteria. Behind this bogus patriotism lurks xenophobic bigotry."
Mr Buckby's technique is typically New Labour; it is to include in his camp as large a number from as many different poltical backgrounds as possible, while casting opponents into outer darkness. Accordingly, the eurosceptic argument is dismissed rather than engaged, while those who advance it are treated as head-banging xenophobes motivated by fear or loathing.
Given the growing public opposition to the euro (and to Britain's EU membership) it is doubtful whether it is altogether wise for Mr Buckby to write in this vein. If the campaign is fought on the ground of his choosing, two things are certain; a public debate which is both rancorous and disagreeable even by the standards of recent general elections, and an emphatic 'no' vote.
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