Britain, the European Union’s Half-Virgin

And so we see again another big debate in Britain about Europe, about the European Union, about the need to be part of it and the will to stay away from it. Some people will argue for a referendum limited to the EU Constitution-in-all-but-name, others will declare their intention to ask the populace if they want to stay in the EU at all. The smarter people in the two main political parties will try to postpone any decision, avoiding the risk of internal rifts, in the hope that the Irish will kill off the Constitution with their own referendum.

I have even heard former PM candidate William “The Vague” Hague dodge the question on what he wanted the country actually to do right now: one wonders what the “let’s stay in Europe but without the Constitution” people will say were the UK left to be the last one to ratify the so-called Lisbon Treaty (like, they had the courage to kill it anyway…).

With more than 10 years of UK residency behind me, this circus is becoming very boring. Somehow the UK wants to mantain a nominal independence AND lead or least stir Europe in the directions most convenient to itself. The practical result is that neither goal is ever achieved, and the best Downing Street can do is come back from Brussels with opt-out clauses, while the big scheme of things is dreamed up, directed and implemented from somewhere else.

I just wish there were a single, comprehensive referendum asking the British people the question: do you want a. to get completely out(1) of Europe or b. to engage within it fully (with the Euro and the “whole hog”)?

Then we could move to a different subject. And if the answer were b., we could finally see the UK at the forefront of the Continent, instead of occupying the position of Chief Sulker.

(1) Of course that’s an euphemism. With all the trade links between the UK and Europe, a wholly-disengaged Britain would turn into some kind of overtly rich Norway. Nominally “internal” legislation would then show up as faxes from Brussels with the latest EU directives, about which not a vote could be cast at all.