By Timothy Spyrou
As a Europhile Atlanticist, I believe in a Great Britain that conserves its unique role as the bridge between the democracies of Europe with the democracies of North America. I also believe that, whatever the legitimate concerns about globalization, Europe, and immigration, the Remain Campaign should be bold enough to make the case for Britain’s European history, ancestry and legacy, and how her tradition of openness to the exchange of people, talent, ideas and commerce can make Britain Greater.
Someone has to say that those European and other nationals living within Britain help, in various ways, to nurture the trees of creativity, scholarship, enterprise and community, with many of Britain’s brightest lights being of foreign birth. However, my argument is about security. In the face of the perfect storm that is threatening the survival of freedom and democracy, I believe Britain’s global and European roles are more important than ever and shouldn’t be thrown away. I will point out how the clouds are darkening by the hour.
We are facing a tide of human suffering that is reminiscent of the refugee chaos following World War Two. In some places, there are children who, trapped between Assad and the fundamentalist thugs, are almost as thin as the survivors of Auschwitz. The “fascist” barbarians who claim to represent one of the great Abrahamic faiths are not just beheading people, raping freedom and demolishing humanity’s heritage within one of the oldest cross roads of civilization.
They are determined to come after us in our cafes, restaurants and concert halls. In their threats on social media, they have proclaimed that they intend to raise their flag of hatred over our monuments and our cultural heritage across the West. Think of it. They want to destroy the Louvre, the British Museum and the Van Gogh Museum.
If given the chance, they would demolish the memorial to John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his love for British history situated at Runnymede, the very “meadow on the banks of the Thames” where one of the foundations of English and European liberty was laid with the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215. They want to obliterate our Oxford and Sorbonne. They want to conquer and, then strap dynamite around Durham Cathedral, eradicating the architectural and cultural treasure passed down from England’s Norman and Anglo-Saxon forefathers, a symbol of Britain’s common heritage with Continental Europe. They want to burn the jewels that are the Notre Dame of Paris and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria of Florence respectively. They especially want to annihilate Spain’s Mosque Cathedral of Cordoba, a living monument to a Medieval Islamic kingdom known for “having helped to protect and transmit the ancient Greek texts that eventually propelled the European Renaissance.”
The recent murder in Egypt of Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD candidate working on his thesis on Tahrir Square’s legacy, who, before he studied at Cambridge University, attended a prestigious international school in the US, embodies the darkness that is threatening to destroy the goodness that an open Britain within an open Europe that is allied to an open America can contribute to the world. We are supposed to pull together in face of such darkness, not drift apart.
Within the West’s domestic politics, we are being haunted by “things rank and gross in nature” within “an unweeded garden”, that is full of “insidious intent.” These poisonous things have names. Names like Ilias Kasidiaris of the outright neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, Marine Le Pen of Le Front National, Donald Trump of The Tea Party, Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Lega Nord, and Lutz Bachmann and Frauke Petry of PEGIDA and Alternative für Deutschland respectively. In Hungary, we have the populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban competing with Gábor Vona, the leader of the paramilitary thuggish Jobbik Movement on who could be more racist and authoritarian.
We are being challenged by a sinister KGB lieutenant colonel in the Kremlin who, within the space of 17 years, has; undermined Europe’s democracies by funneling money and advice to some of the above named unsavoury characters; created an army of media trolls and a television network to pump out propaganda and intimidate foreign critics; trod on our rule of law and corrupted our economies by, for example, stashing laundered billions in the City of London.
He has fanned the flames of the Syrian Hell by propping up the almost genocidal Bashir al Assad , who destroyed his own country while pursuing a strategy of tacitly empowering his supposed enemies in ISIL by leaving them free from attack while he was crushing the mainstream opposition.
We are also confronted with the possibility of a lost generation of young people throughout the West, their prospects decimated by the Great Recession and its aftermath, especially as regards the almost universally mismanaged Eurozone Crisis. Democratic societies are falling apart. The potential menace to economic security throughout the West is only intensifying because of the dramatic economic instability that is roiling China and other emerging markets. The West is not prepared for the magnitude of the shock that may accompany a full blown Chinese recession. A West that is tearing itself apart will be even less prepared.
At the same time, the menace towards the West’s strategic security will also intensify if China takes a darker, more authoritarian path in response to its economic troubles. We are already seeing this with China’s bullying of its neighbours.
Countries reliant on commodity driven export growth may lapse into failed states and turmoil. The turmoil will inevitably come to us in the shape of more desperate refugees. It will also lead to more terrorism aimed at our homelands. We are facing challenges from Pakistan and North Korea, two dangerously unpredictable states that are increasing their nuclear arsenals.
We will experience actual storms that make the Plagues of Egypt look like a birthday party if the West splits apart, rendering ourselves unable to limit catastrophic climate change. We will be faced with greater geostrategic instability and more refugees, more economic instability, and the spread of pathogens northwards, like Ebola and Zika.
In a stridently Eurosceptic editorial, The Daily Mail, condemning Conservative Cabinet Ministers reluctant to come out for Brexit, invoked the debate immediately preceding Britain’s entry into war against Nazi Germany with a cry of “who will speak for England?”
As a pro-British Europhile Atlanticist who recognises what one of Britain’s greatest statesmen would call “a gathering storm” over the horizon- a storm that could, in its most nightmarish manifestations, destroy the values of our open democratic societies and condemn generations to darkness-I want to ask these questions as a challenge to all those who are not defending the value of the broader Trans-Atlantic community robustly enough, of which a United Kingdom ,embracing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland within a united Europe, should be the heart.
“Who will speak for what is right for the bonds holding the West together? Who will speak for standing together to defend human dignity and work together to renew human enterprise? Who will recall the bitter and terrible lesson that previous generations endured as both America and Britain, to varying extents, embraced isolationism and withdrew from European affairs in the decades from 1919 to 1939? Who will have the guts, to quote Obama in the tribute to Kennedy he made in his “Peace with Justice” declaration before Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate fifty years after the latter’s cruel and untimely death, to summon the courage, determination, fortitude and optimism needed to “lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today” and “look beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind,” so that we can unleash our potential and vanquish the perils together?
Who has the faith to tell us “to care more about things than just our own self-comfort, about our own city, about our own country”, so that we can strive “to embrace the common endeavour of all humanity”? Who will be brave enough to say that when the undivided West “leads with our hopes instead of our fears, we do things that no other nations can do, no other nations will do”? Who will stand up and say the undeniable truth that “our alliance is the foundation of global security and our commerce is the engine of the global economy”?
Who will say to the new isolationism’s champions that withdrawing from Europe is sending a signal to all within the West to withdraw from the world and raise the white flag of surrender to all the challenges facing us? Who will have the vision to show the leadership that men like Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George C Marshall, Konrad Adenauer and Charles De Gaulle showed, adapted for our times? Who will rebut those more future oriented Outers that “a British Renaissance” can be achieved out of the EU by invoking Robert Francis Kennedy’s literary allusion and declare “there are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not” go for a unified 21st century European Renaissance in which Britain can take the lead?”