Europe. And Sentiment. Lots of lovely sentiment.
It’s been said recently that the debate about Britain’s European referendum will be driven by sentiment rather than by a bunch of facts and figures.
So I thought I’d express some sentiment.
I love being European. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I love the fact that when I travel within the EU I’m wafted straight into a fellow member state with a minimum of fuss and bother – just a smile of recognition. I love the fact that France and Portugal and Austria and Italy may be very different from where I grew up, but they are not alien to me. They are distinct – but they are not “foreign”.
I love the concept that Miguel de Cervantes and Dante and Boccaccio and Sigmund Freud and Ludwig van Beethoven and Rembrandt and Simone de Beauvoir and Marie Curie are also Europeans. Europeans like me. I love the idea that a couple of years ago a bunch of Europeans working together managed to land a probe on a moving comet. That was an unbelievably cool thing to be able to do. Every European ought to walk a bit taller knowing that such things are possible.
It may be that there are many people in Britain who do not enjoy feeling European – who do not get the warm fuzzy glow that I get. To such people I can only say that you’re missing out. To feel European is to feel that your own particular nation is in a process of dialogue and exchange – is learning and changing. And in all honesty, a nation that isn’t constantly learning and changing is already dead.
Sentiment has to confront reality. It is possible to make the case that despite the sheer inspirational beauty of a European identity – cold hearted economics demand that such a dream be shredded. But if the “Leave” campaign want to make that case their maths had better be very very good. You’d think they’d want to have something like an overwhelming consensus of economic wisdom on their side before they decided to demolish the sheer fun of being European.
If I wake up on June 24 and find that I’ve been stripped of my EU citizenship against my will I will not just feel disappointed. I will feel diminished, impoverished and truncated. Britain will be smaller and duller than it was and I will feel smaller and duller than I was. It will be a wound.