Saturday, 27 February 2016

Brexit makes the UK safer

Each of us has made decisions in the past which have had profound and sometimes unexpected consequences. The subjects we chose to study at school or at university can have an influence on the job we end up doing. The people we meet, the person we fall in love with all change how our life turns out in ways that we cannot guess. When I fell in love it meant I had to make a choice. I had to leave what had been familiar and move somewhere that was unknown. I didn’t know how it would turn out. There were dangers that had to be faced. But I knew that I had to go, simply because I loved. Moreover, I knew that if I did not go I would regret it forever. I realised that there might be tough times ahead, but I also knew that it would be worth it.

As a country the UK has often had to do things that are difficult. We didn’t have to fight either in 1914 or in 1939. We could have chosen to stay out of those wars. We were not immediately threatened with attack. Instead we chose to do what we thought was right and what we thought was in our national interest. We faced great danger and uncertainty, but were willing to do so as we thought it was the right thing to do.

Whatever we choose to do this year with regard to leaving or remaining in the EU there will be risk and uncertainty. But focussing too much on plusses and minuses is liable to overly cloud the issue. What matters most of all is our duty to ourselves and others. We should be willing to go through some uncertainty and even some loss of wealth in order to arrive at the position that we want. We should be willing to take some risk too. After all every person who sets up a new business accepts that there is a risk. But he considers that it would be worth it if he succeeds. Then he would have his own business. He’d be working for himself. There would be no boss, but himself.

What matters fundamentally is that the UK at the moment is not its own boss. Compare and contrast this with the United States. The highest court in the US is the Supreme Court. The clue is in the name. The judges who work there are all Americans and they are all appointed by democratically elected US politicians. The United States would not accept a foreign court telling it what to do. It would not accept that its own laws were subordinate to the laws of another organisation. No other free country would accept this. They wouldn’t accept it for the sake of mere trade.

On this everything hinges. If we vote to remain in the EU we will be saying that we accept, probably forever, that our Parliament will be overruled by people who we didn’t elect. We will also be saying that from time to time what we want in the UK will be overruled by the majority of other countries in the EU. We will have chosen this and that choice will reverberate into the future. Who knows what the majority will choose? But we will have to go along with it. On the other hand if we reassert that the UK parliament is supreme, then fundamentally we will be saying that while we may agree with our fellow Europeans, we also may disagree. This decision too will have long lasting consequences. We do not know what decisions we will make in the future, but we know that if we chose to leave they will be our decisions, made by people we elect. Alternatively they won’t.

There will be a tricky couple of years if we vote to leave. But in the end we will come out of it in no worse a position than Australia, New Zealand or Japan.  They all are able to trade with the EU without being a member of it. It isn’t necessary to be subordinate to the will of other countries in order to trade freely with them. Free trade is a matter of mutual self-interest. Everyone loses if barriers are erected.

The UK is perfectly capable of doing well economically without being a part of the EU. Countries much less powerful economically and much less successful than us exist quite happily without being part of an organisation like the EU. Two thirds of the UK population dislike the EU. I suspect the vast majority of Brits would prefer that we could go back to something like the Common Market. But we don’t quite dare to grab this chance, because we fear uncertainty. What happened folks? We’ve been through tough times before without a murmur. I suspect that most of us agree that it would be worth it if we could just trade freely with the EU but not be a part of it. But we fear the extraction, like a child fears the dentist. A Common Market exists for those European countries that don’t want to be in the EU. Tiny Iceland with a population like that of Aberdeen is a member. With a little pain, a little uncertainty we could be a part of it too. Do you want to be a Brexiteer or do you prefer a rather meeker role?

Some people in Scotland are inclined to vote to remain because they have been cowed by SNP threats to have another independence referendum. Do they really suppose that the SNP will give up its desire for independence if we vote to remain? Far from it, it just gives them a chance to wait until they think they can win. This is the worst possible time for Scottish independence. Moreover, the condition for the possibility of Scotland leaving the UK is that the UK remains in the EU. It would be impossible for the SNP to argue that all the nice things that we like about the UK would continue after independence, if Scotland is in the EU and the UK is not. How could you have a currency union (a shared pound) if one country’s laws are subordinate to Brussels while the other’s are not? How could you have an open border, if that border were the border into the EU? How could Scotland’s financial services industry exist if it were in the EU while its main market was out of the EU? How could Scotland survive without being subsidised by the UK Treasury? The SNP have recently proved themselves desperate to retain the subsidy, desperate to remain dependent. The risk of Scotland leaving the UK is far higher than the risk of the UK leaving the EU. A few brave hearts may want to go for independence come what may. But the SNP will threaten and then not act on their threat. This is perhaps our one chance in the near future to weaken them.

The SNP is the main strategic threat to the continued existence of the UK. Brexit lessens that threat and may nullify it entirely. It may be the only thing that could do so. The other main dangers we face are another economic crisis and uncontrolled migration into the EU. Both of these dangers have been caused by the leadership of the EU. The problems with the Euro have not gone away they are just sleeping. At some point unless and until the Eurozone allows money to be transferred freely from the rich countries to poor countries there is going to be another crisis. Greece may once more find that it cannot pay its debts, but eventually so too might a larger country like Italy. This would be bad for the UK whether we were in the EU or not. But so long as we remain in the EU what is to stop Mrs Merkel and friends demanding that we in the UK help bail out one of these countries that can’t pay its debts? Are we certain that this could never happen? On the other hand if we leave the EU they would be no more able to force us to share the burden than they can force Australia.

It is tragic to see millions of displaced, desperate people. Unfortunately there are more than Europe can safely accept. How many people in the world live in poverty or in countries that are oppressive? There are more than the whole population of Europe many times over. We cannot let everyone come. So we have to make a limit. We have to accept that even some deserving cases will have to be prevented from coming. If we don’t do this, then not only will the EU cease to exist, but so indeed will Europe.
How is the EU doing in managing the migration crisis? Firstly it has been exacerbated massively by the decision of Mrs Merkel to at first open Germany’s borders to allcomers and then try to close them. Secondly it has made worse by the existence of the Schengen zone which allows border free travel throughout most of the EU. Already, over a million people have reached the Schengen zone. The EU predicts that another three million will arrive in the next year or so. At what point will the EU demand that the UK takes its fair share? There haven’t been many demands up until now because we are having a debate about leaving the EU. But if we vote to remain, how long will it be before Mrs Merkel tells Mr Cameron that it’s time to repay his debt. After all, she was most accommodating in helping him to “renegotiate” the terms of the UK’s membership.  On the other hand if we vote for Brexit we would have absolute control over our own borders. The EU could no more tell us who we must allow into the UK than they can tell Australia or the United States.

The main strategic threats to the UK are alleviated by Brexit. There is of course uncertainty no matter what we do. But a little bravery now may protect us from far greater dangers ahead. Above all, we will be better able to control events and make the right decisions if those decisions are ours to make.      

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Should I stay or should I go now?

I began writing about Scottish politics as soon as it became clear that there was going to be a referendum on independence. This issue mattered to me in a way no other issue in politics ever had. I began writing even when the referendum was a long way off and when only a few of us were really actively involved in campaigning. Most people I know only really thought about the decision we were going to make when there were a couple of months to go. But everyone in Scotland in the end was caught up in the event. Everyone will always remember the tension. Many nationalists think of this time in a positive way. For them the campaign had a joy that it lacked for me. Worse I view Scotland now as before and after the Referendum. I don’t really recognise the place and the people to me are often strangers. Although I was born near Aberdeen, it no longer quite feels like home. I live and work here for the present, but I begin to look for somewhere warm to escape to. I find Scotland very frosty and not only in winter.

I don’t feel the same way at all about the EU referendum. I expect in the end that we will vote to stay. If that happens, life will continue more or less the same. It hardly seems something to get worked up about. There is a chance however that we will vote to leave. It depends partly on the campaign and partly on how things go in the EU over the course of the next few months. Electorates all over the world are rejecting established/establishment wisdom. I don’t think it likely that the UK will vote to leave, but then again a year ago I would have said it was quite impossible for Jeremy Corbyn to become Labour Party leader. But in the end, if we vote to leave, life also will more or less go on the same.

There is a false dichotomy between the choices to leave or remain. The UK will not gain independence by leaving the EU for the simple reason that we already have it. It is the UK Parliament that has the power to decide to hold a referendum. The UK Parliament is sovereign and retains fully that sovereignty even if it chooses on the one hand to devolve to the parts of the UK and accepts regulation from a supra-national body like the EU. The likely result if we vote to leave will be something similar to membership of EFTA (European Free Trade Association). This allows access to the EU single market and maintains free movement of people and labour. Someone from Iceland or Switzerland has the same rights to live and work in Germany as does someone from the UK. There is just as much free trade between Iceland and Germany as there is between the UK and Germany. Whatever happens this is not going to change.

Whether we vote to leave or remain we will be a semi-detached part of the EU. We are not going to join the Euro, nor are we going to join Schengen. If the other EU countries, especially the Eurozone countries, choose over the coming years to strengthen their political and monetary union, we will not be a part of it. How or even whether this happens is completely uncertain. It is equally possible that Schengen will cease and that one more crisis will see the breakup of the Euro. But whether we choose to be in or out we will simply observe these matters.

Many people seem to think that voting to leave will enable the UK Government to cut immigration. Mr Cameron has apparently made some sort of deal with regard to paying benefits to EU migrants. This is completely wrongheaded. We should on the contrary pay Poles to come to the UK and we should get down on our knees and thank God when any of them choose to come here. We should moreover provide unlimited work visas to Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. The UK has a demographic crisis. We are not producing enough babies. The growth of our economy depends on importing labour. One of the main benefits of the EU is it makes it easier for people to migrate. Moreover people moving around Europe is almost completely benign. The descendants of Polish people, who stayed after World War II, are indistinguishable from any other Brits. They speak like us, think like us, act like us. They are us.

The crucial point however is that even if we left the EU, Poles would still have the same right as at present to live and work in the UK. The only way to stop this is to not even be a part of EFTA. But that would mean giving up both free trade and free movement of people.

Unfortunately the issue of migration from within the EU is frequently conflated with migration from outside the EU. The fact of the matter is that we can already limit migration from outside the EU. Nothing is preventing us. It is the UK Government that sets the rules with regard to allowing people visas. The only constraint on how the UK Government can act is that we have to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. For this reason the UK Government is sometimes unable to deport people it would like to and has to allow some other people to live here who it would prefer did not. We have been a signatory to this act since 1950, long before we joined what was then the Common Market. The only European country that is not a signatory at present is Belarus’. Leaving the EU might allow us to join Belarus’, but I think this unlikely. The issue anyway is not the Human Rights Act, but how judges in the UK use it to undermine the will of Parliament. It is the sovereignty of Parliament that matters. The fact that 'we the people' can through elections create laws and kick out governments that we dislike. But there is nothing I believe that prevents us from doing this now. When Eurozone issues are debated it is frequently mentioned that whatever happens has to fit in with Germany’s Constitutional Court. Even if the UK remains in the EU it ought to be possible for the UK’s Parliament to assert or reassert that it is sovereign. Of course, this may be easier to do if we chose to leave the EU. The European Communities Act 1972 plus subsequent case law has made EU law superior to British law. This is one of the very best reasons for leaving the EU. The UK electorate has very little control over EU law. We cannot change it. This is simply undemocratic. But the UK Parliament is still sovereign. It chose to subordinate itself, it could choose to reassert itself. We have the power to repeal or modify the 1972 Act. We would do so if we voted to leave the EU. But here's a question. Is it necessary to leave the EU to assert that Parliament is superior to EU law?

The idea that the UK would not be prosperous outside the EU is ludicrous. I very much doubt that anyone would much notice the difference. Japan is an island off the Asian coast. It doesn’t have to be in an Asian political union in order to be 3rd largest economy in the world. Nor does the UK have to be in the EU to be the 5th largest economy. We will continue to trade with other Europeans no matter which way we vote.

There may be downsides to voting to leave the EU however. The pound is liable to fall sharply on the currency markets. The stock market may crash. The UK’s sovereign debt rating may be lowered. All of these things would have real world consequences for all of us. They would however, be short term. Business and markets do not like uncertainty and leaving the EU would be a source of uncertainty. We just don’t quite know what sort of divorce deal we would get. The other EU members would, no doubt, be rather angry at our leaving. Some might plot a sort of revenge. Relations between our friends might become difficult for a while. But in the end the EU depends just as much on trade with the UK as we do with them. A deal favourable to both sides would be done.

Would Scotland want another independence referendum if the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU while Scotland didn't? It’s impossible to say. Self-interest ought to cause the Scottish electorate to reject independence. Nearly all of the SNP’s arguments for independence depend on the UK being in the EU. Moreover it’s such a paltry issue to make such a fuss about. If the UK gets an EFTA style free trade agreement, the difference to our lives would be quite small. Does life in Norway really feel that much different to life in Sweden?  

I don’t think Scots will vote to make ourselves massively poorer even if the UK voted to leave the EU. Who is to say we would even get the chance. The SNP may vaguely mention another independence referendum in their next manifesto, but all the while they are telling the Scottish electorate that a vote for the SNP does not mean independence. They can’t have it both ways. There may come a point where people might begin to doubt that they even would have a mandate.  The Scottish parliament is not sovereign. Mr Cameron did not have to go to Brussels to ask permission to have a referendum. The SNP may huff and puff, but they will still have to ask. Just as UK law at present is subordinate to EU law, so whatever the SNP want is ultimately subordinate to the decision of the UK Government. Would a future UK Prime Minster say to Nicola Sturgeon “Sorry you haven’t had your generation yet”? It’s just one more of our uncertainties. 

It's always worth remembering however that electorates are not always rational. We cannot necessarily rely on the argument that independence will make you poorer. History is full of countries that could not care less if independence made them poorer, they wanted it anyway. If countries are willing to fight wars to gain independence, they might just be willing to accept a rather large fall in their standard of living. Indeed I've always been of the view that someone who really wants independence should not be deterred by the economics. Better together is the argument of a scoundrel. But the SNP will continue to want independence whether we vote to leave or remain. In that sense we should treat their views as the bit of the equation that drops out. 

I’m not a great fan of the EU, but I’m not massively opposed to it either. Call this mild Euroscepticism. I’ve sometimes in the past argued in favour and sometimes against. I can see plusses and minuses. I can’t imagine that I will get overly excited about the result either way. If we vote to leave, I might see this as an opportunity. If we vote to stay I may very well view that result with something like relief.

Everyone makes choices based on personal circumstances. When I last left Scotland it was a grey, gloomy day in January. There were floods. I was desperate to get away. A few hours later I was in the Canaries. Everything was cheap. There was warmth. There was sun. I have an idea that one day I might like to live there always. I probably could whether we vote to leave the EU or we vote to remain. People from Iceland and Norway can. But I’m not certain about this. The same argument applies as it did during the Scottish independence referendum. There is something dishonourable in expecting to have all the privileges that go with membership of a club, if you choose to leave.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Bonnie Prince Scotland

There’s a moment in Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet that sums up where we are in Scottish politics at present. The novel describes the fictitious Jacobite Rebellion of 1765. The not so Young Pretender and not quite so Bonnie Prince Charlie has returned to Scotland for one last go. But there are only a few Jacobites left by this time. Everyone else has moved on. The Prince and a few other plotters never even really get to start their revolt. A British general arrives to explain that the Government have long known about their plans.  But instead of arresting or chasing the Bonnie Prince through the heather, this time he and his followers are allowed to go free. They are no threat and their folly can be indulged.

Scott’s point is that the moment had passed and that it is silly to keep fighting battles once they have been decisively lost. There is something pathetic about the little band of rebels who had been so powerful twenty years earlier that they just might have won.
If we are not at this point in Scotland today, we very soon will be. Walter Scott should really be our national writer. He tells far more about the nature of Scotland and what it is to be Scottish than anyone else. He understands our history and understands how it just keeps repeating itself like too much haggis on Burns night.

An independent Scotland today would have to raise taxes by around 20% and cut spending by around the same. This is rather more than “a penny for Scotland”. This quite simply is not going to happen. The rebellion may seem like a threat. It may still get people worked up. But it can be allowed to slip away quietly to retire somewhere warmer in France or Italy, rather bitter but still dreaming of what was and what might have been. We were so close. We reached Derby. We were the 45, only 100 miles or 10 percent short.

The SNP will almost certainly win the majority of seats at Holyrood. A year or so back this result would have seemed like a disaster for Pro UK people like me. But that was where we were then. The moment has passed. It hardly seems necessary any long to campaign to keep the SNP out. Let them be in if it pleases them and their followers. They too may safely be indulged.

We are in a very odd position in the relationship between central UK Government and the Scottish Government. The UK Government wants to give Scotland more power and especially the power to raise and lower taxes. But the SNP are only going to take such power on condition that the subsidy from central Government continues and indeed increases if Scotland’s financial position worsens. The SNP are desperate that Scotland remains dependent on the UK all the while occasionally making threats about independence.  They want new powers just so long as they don’t have to use them and whatever the Tories do in England, the SNP intend to more or less follow in Scotland. They won’t raise taxes here. They want Scotland to be more or less just the same as England. What a lot of fuss we’ve all been through in the past few years just so some people can feel more Scottish by voting for independence and the SNP. But that too can now safely be indulged.

The Scottish parliament controls many things and whether or not they are run competently clearly matters. But on the big issue of whether you want independence or not, it doesn’t matter at all if the SNP run Holyrood more or less forever. There won’t be independence until and unless Scotland can afford it. At the moment that isn’t even close. We are just as dependent on England’s money as Wales and Northern Ireland. This may be as tough to swallow as uncooked neeps, but it nevertheless is true.
The focus of nearly all the parties in Scotland is on how to maximise public spending, how to avoid any cuts, how indeed to make the people of Scotland as dependent on public spending as possible. The ideal is that lots of the nice things we want should be free, i.e. paid for by others and given that we are living so much beyond our means that really means paid for by the English.

Whether you are a Liberal Democrat, a Scottish Nationalist, a Labour supporter or a Green, the tendency is to think that ever increasing government spending is the solution to everything. The debate becomes increasingly sterile. We’ll spend more than you. Oh no, we’ll spend more than you.  Meanwhile the issue that most matters is not addressed at all. How can we make Scotland make a profit?

Those parts of the UK that were formerly dominated by heavy industry are poorer than those that were not. But we spend our time looking back, just like the Jacobites, to a time when we dug coal and made steel. We complain bitterly about the Butcher Thatcher who massacred our steelworks and then killed off the wounded. But look at those parts of the UK that are prosperous. Look at the parts of Europe that are doing well. You don’t need heavy industry to make money. Switzerland has next to no natural resources, nor does Surrey.

The way to make Scotland more prosperous and less dependent is to vote for policies that are friendly to business and which gradually would allow us to live within our means. None of the parties of the Left, which so dominate Scottish politics, are interested in this, for the simple reason that they all think that government knows best. From a Pro UK perspective it might be a good thing if Scotland remains forever dependent. If we were living within our means, independence would once more be viable. But the danger at the moment is not so much Scots voting for independence as the English doing so. Their taxes subsidise Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, but for their pains they get less representation, fewer free public services and they get insults and threats to boot.

Whenever the majority of UK citizens want something that she doesn’t like, Nicola Sturgeon threatens independence. It doesn’t matter, for example, if the majority of English people, want to leave the EU, Nicola thinks Scottish votes are more important.  If you vote to leave, she says, we’ll vote to leave you too. Perhaps her little threat of rebellion is genuine, but my guess is that it’s just as fictitious as the Jabobite rebellion of 1765. But what’s not fictitious is that the patience of people in England is clearly growing thin. I sense that it is they who are really ready to rebel. No sensible country wishes to lose a third of its territory. Too many English people think the break-up of the UK would have no negative consequences for them. But when pushed enough people tend to act irrationally. We in Scotland would do very well to cease complaining quite so much. We all in the UK need to start acting more like the family we are, for at the moment I think quite a lot of people in England would dearly like to see Scotland faced with a 20% tax rise with no-one but ourselves to blame. Bonnie Prince Scotland would be indulged and allowed to depart in peace. No-one would much notice nor care. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

All men are not brothers

When the United States declared independence they stated that they found it self-evident that “all men are created equal”. Likewise during the European Union anthem it is sung that “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” [All men will become brothers]. I think most of us find these to be fine ideals. Few indeed would be willing to state that we disagree. Yet there’s a certain contradiction between the ideal and how we actually act in ordinary life. But the contradiction is not only within us, it’s within those who declare the ideal.

What was involved in the United States declaring independence? What is it to become a country? It is, of course, many things, but it is most clearly this. It is to state that the people within these borders are special. When the United States was created they said that the citizens of that country would be treated differently from the people of other countries.  The Government of the United States has a special duty to its own citizens that it doesn’t have to the citizens of any other country. This isn’t to say that the United States Government will necessarily be nasty to foreigners, but until and unless these foreigners become United States citizens they will not have the same rights as those citizens. The declaration of independence therefore is also and precisely thereby a declaration of discrimination. For one thing it turned people living in the UK from being fellow citizens into foreigners.

The European Union may likewise have the ideal of making all men brothers, but this ideal only goes so far as to include those who are within the union. The rights that I have because the UK is a member of the EU do not extend to Russians. They no doubt are not brothers. I do not wish to be overly critical of the EU in using Schiller’s fine words for their anthem, nor indeed do I think the declaration of independence is a less fine document because its ideals involve a certain amount of self-contradiction. We may have the ideal, but few indeed of us want to see it fulfilled. 

If everyone is created equal, if all men are brothers, why should we not be one world without borders? Wouldn’t that be a much better arrangement? No, and for a very simple reason. We are human beings. We have ideals, but mixed in with these is human nature.

To be human is to prefer. The most basic unit of preference is a man and his wife. I prefer this man above all others. His interests and what happens to him are more important to me than what happens to a stranger in Glasgow. The next unit is our family. Most of us care more for our siblings, our parents and our children than anyone else. If I read about a tragedy in Edinburgh, it may move me. I may feel great pity. I may even wish to help. But it is not the same as if there is a tragedy in the family. The loss of a parent or anyone else who is close is felt more strongly by a member of the family than by anyone else apart from perhaps a very close friend. I have duties to close relations that I don’t have to anyone else. All this means that I discriminate between family and non-family. It doesn’t mean that I am nasty to anyone else. I have a duty to act morally to everyone. But that duty is not the same as the one I have to my family.

In ancient times families came together to form tribes or clans. Thousands of years ago nearly all Europeans and many other people besides spoke more or less the same language. But gradually as we formed groups in various different territories our languages tended to diverge. It was above all language that created the map of Europe as we know it today. Tribes that spoke a similar language coalesced into countries. This too is part of human nature. Sometimes the boundaries between linguistic groups were rather vague, sometimes the process of creating European countries was the result of wars and population movements. But what it is to be a country is the end result of a process by which people who have similar beliefs, who look like each other and who speak a similar language come together in order to create a distinction between citizens and non-citizens. The process of creating countries therefore also involves discrimination. I have a duty towards the citizens of my own country that I do not have towards people from other countries. Moreover, the process of creating countries is the process of creating borders. These above all regulate who can come into my country.

Why have borders at all rather than let all men who are created equal, all men who are my brothers live wherever they please. The reason is that then we would not have countries at all. Well perhaps it would be better if we didn’t have countries. Perhaps it would. But then we would have to change human nature.

I have always taken the view that Utopian attempts to change human nature should be resisted. They will fail and will cause great suffering. This was the major fault with communism/socialism. It depends on eradicating the selfishness of human nature and that can only be done with re-education and the Gulag.

We are in essence as we were 40,000 years ago.  In evolutionary terms this time-span is trivial. You cannot legislate against human nature and if you try to impose a regime that is contrary to human nature you will cause more problems than you solve. We may admire the ideals of Schiller and the Americans who declared their country to be independent, but we must not try to impose these ideals too strictly. We are as we were. We are deeply tribal and there is no changing this. Why should I feel patriotism? Why suppose that my country is better than anyone else’s? This is all quite irrational and egotistical, but it is also part of my nature.

Why do I care more about a disaster in Birmingham, UK than Birmingham, Alabama? My country is an extension of my family. It is full of people who I think of as distantly related to me. These people’s ancestors fought wars together with my ancestors. This is why we commemorate these things together. These people are my kin. My country is the place where people like me live. 

The attempts to bring Europeans together into a sort of United States of Europe will always fail until and unless Europeans see each other as kin. At the moment they do not do so. Germans will give money without limit to other Germans, but will not donate to Greeks. This is not a moral failure of Germans. It is a moral failure of those who have tried to impose a single currency on different peoples who do not think they have a duty towards each other. The Euro and indeed the ideal of ever closer union are as contrary to human nature as the ideal that all men should be brothers. Would that this were not so, but there is no changing human nature anytime soon. If the European Union adopted a policy of everyone speaking the same language it might have a long term chance, but trying to get everyone to speak the same language would also be contrary to human nature. The Soviet Union, after all, even with a common language split up because tribal difference was stronger than the Russian language. People tend to retain their tribal loyalties even when ideology tells them not to.

Take the example of Poland. Polish people, who for centuries lived divided and under foreign rule, now live in a country where nearly everyone is Polish. They speak the same language, have similar religious beliefs and customs. They are from the same tribe that at some point in the distant past gradually split from the other Slavs and before that the other Indo-Europeans. Poles are happy to be a part of the EU, but they would rather their country remained more or less as it is. It is human nature for people to want to live with their kin. Why else do we live with our families?

The European Union will also split up if Poles feel they are going to be invaded again. They have been invaded enough. In the end the same goes for all countries. Otherwise you simply don’t have a country.

I don’t support Scottish independence because I see the UK as a family. The different tribes of ancient times merged long ago, so that we now have a similar culture and language. This shared history has created a shared people. I don’t want to discriminate against someone from other parts of the UK because I recognise that we have fought together against a common enemy on numerous occasions and we have loved each other so that we are all mixed up together. I don’t want to create a border which says that I have a special duty only to Scots. I feel that same duty to everyone in the UK. But I agree with the Scottish nationalist in the following respect. I agree that there ought to be countries. We are irreconcilably divided by the fact that my country is the UK while his is only Scotland. But we both believe in there being countries. But there are implications to this. It means that we don’t in the end think that all men are created equal, nor do we think that all men are brothers. I draw the line with the UK’s boundaries. The Scottish nationalist draws it between Berwick and Gretna. But we each believe in boundaries. The boundary is a limit. It's purpose is to keep someone out and to discriminate between someone who is a citizen and someone who is not. 

Why are borders going up again all over Europe? Why prevent people coming here if we are all equal, if we are all brothers. The reason is simple. We are as we were when we formed ancient tribes. The ideal of everyone in the world living together as equals falls at the fact that we want to live with our kin. We are willing to accept people moving here. Our tribe can take in some new members from elsewhere. We also recognise our shared humanity, which means we are willing to help. But there is a limit. Family comes first. In the end I hold this truth to be self evident. Germans want to live with Germans. Poles want to live with Poles. Brits want to live with Brits. It is not wrong for them to wish to do so. On the contrary it is human nature. 

If enough people from elsewhere come to a place, eventually you cease to have the country you had. If you doubt this, have a look at East Prussia. There are places from history like Königsberg and Tilsit that have different names now. Napoleonic battles like Friedland and Eylau are no longer in Prussia, but in  Russia. After World War II there was rather a lot of immigration into East Prussia and now when you wander around you can hardly guess that this place was once German and had been so for hundreds of years. Sometimes on an old building you can just make out a shop front in decaying Gothic letters. But mostly these have all been erased as if they never were there.

This all happened because the Germans were unable to defend their borders and because all men are not Brüder.