Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why Leaving the EU is the Ethical Choice for People and Planet

As we near what is probably the most important vote any of us will ever cast in our lives the rhetoric on both sides of the debate over whether the UK should remain a part of the EU has been cranked up to 11. A debate that should have been about so much more has become a schism between two rival branches of the Conservative Party. Each side goes on television daily to spit out venomous insults and apocalyptic warnings while their backers in the media cheer and jeer these poor blabbering idiots. Go online and it's even worse, with keyboard warriors screaming insults at one another with all the decorum of two rival troupes of caged chimpanzees fighting over a bucket of EU mandated straight bananas.

Welcome to debating in 2016! 

Any sane person, who has so far managed to avoid being dragged into the melee, might decide to quietly make up their own mind and keep their decision as a secret to be shared only with the ballot paper and the pencil. While this might be a sound tactic from a personal point of view it doesn’t do anything to add to the quality of the debate that we are supposedly having. One of the major irritations of all this is its intense focus on factoids and irrelevant details. People might not have an opinion on – say – the way in which unelected technocrats were installed as leaders in Greece and Italy, but they sure as hell have an opinion on the comparatively paltry amount the UK gives to the EU every month and what it gets back in return.

This relentless focus on the little stuff doesn’t say much about our own leaders’ opinion of our intelligence levels. Perhaps it might be wiser to pause and think about the wider principles involved in this important matter of national sovereignty. How, for instance, does the larger system of the EU function? 

To get a little peace and quiet in which to think we’ll need to lock away the blabbermouths for a few minutes. Imagine, if you will, a large Monty Pythonesque hand descending from the sky and picking up all the noisy rabble and dropping them unceremoniously in a large sound-proofed box. There goes David Cameron, picked up by his necktie and dropped in the box. Boris Johnson is next, winched unceremoniously by his big toe and similarly chucked in, as is Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and all the other noisy politicians. But the hand doesn’t stop there. It scoops up great crowds of people angrily shouting “racist!”, “idiot!”, “liberal Islington elitist media whore!” and all sorts of other rude insults. Into the box they all go, squashed down together so the lid can be shut. We don’t know how they’ll all get on inside that box but at least it’ll quiet for a few moments on the outside.

Phew! The sound of silence.

Right, now let’s think about the EU. What is it? Well, it’s a collection of countries in a shared geographical area that have all agreed to be governed under a similar set of rules in order that it will be of benefit to them all. The objective in this case is increased political stability, steady economic growth and a shared European identity. Fair enough, right? Does this mean it’s all good, as many claim? No – of course not! By definition there will be good aspects and bad aspects in any system of governance of this size, although me mustn’t forget that the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are entirely subjective.

["Hmm. Well, I avoided being put in that box, but if he thinks he can change my mind he's very much mistaken. I hope this isn't going to take long.]

What's that? I can hear some of you talking at the back. I'll take questions afterwards in the comment box below.

Okay, in the interests of disclosure you might have noticed from the headline - Why Leaving the EU is the Ethical Choice for People and Planet – that I am have an opinion on the matter. Good! I don’t claim to be neutral – anyone who does is smoking their shorts. On an important matter like this we must all individually construct our own model of realities, examine our own prejudices and reach a conclusion that is acceptable to ourselves and others. If you disagree with me that’s good too! To agree with every aspect of everything you read on the internet is not a good indicator of mental fortitude. I know a lot of people are sceptical but don’t worry – I’ll respect your opinion just so long as you respect mine.

Right where were we? Oh yes, the wonders of Europe.

So far so good – who could possibly object to a vision of a united Europe? Not I, for one. It’s impossible not to love Europe. Far more than just a medium-sized geographical peninsula tacked onto the western edge of the Eurasian landmass, the countries of Europe have it all. Here are some of the things that make Europe great: food, art, history, culture, geography, sport, philosophy, music, architecture, amazing food, language, the people, poetry, literature, delicious regional food, snow covered mountains and fascinating cities (did I mention the food?). You can drive, as I did once, from the frozen blue of the Baltic and keep on going south until you hit beaches lined with palm trees where the air is filled with the scent of orange blossom and the sound of cicadas. I fell in love with Europe whilst Interrailing when I was 17 years old. It all seemed impossibly romantic compared to life back in grey old Blighty, and in subsequent years I have found myself living in three different countries in mainland Europe, and running small independent national newspapers in two of them. I speak three European languages tolerably well, am married to a Dane, have relatives in Italy and think that Scandinavian noire beats all the other noirs hands down. It’s probably fair to say that nobody could accuse me of being anti-European.


(I can sense some of you tightening your sceptical fingers on the trigger.)

[“Here it comes – he’s about to reveal himself as a closet xenophobe!” ]

But the EU is not Europe.

[“Hold your fire. Just let him finish.”]

At one point in time the EU – or the EEC as it was called back in the day – might have aligned with whatever values of Europe it was supposed to reflect. Those days are long gone. Instead we have a bloated imperial project that has run out of steam and is feeding off its own internal organs to stave off collapse. To understand why we’ll need to turn to the dismal science of economics. I can hear some of you groaning but I promise you it won’t be too painful.

[“What does he know about economics? He’s just as full of it as all the rest!”]

I studied economics at university in London. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but at least it taught me a thing or two about how the modern capitalist world functions. I was sent to work at the H.M. Treasury on my student placement year (yes that Treasury), where I worked in the economic forecasting department. Norman Lamont was the chancellor at the time and I left there the Friday before Black Wednesday. It was during this time that I got my first lesson about the EU. My undergraduate dissertation was entitled The Prospects of Achieving Full Monetary Union in the EU (it was a real page turner). I got loads of books out from the library at the Treasury and read them in an attempt to understand the issues. But the more I read the less I understood. Eventually, flummoxed, I decided to go with common sense. It would be impossible, I decided, to get all those vastly different countries to dance to the same economic tune. How could economic diktats dreamed up in Brussels be relevant to both a fisherman in Greece and a desk jockey sitting in, say, Edinburgh? Surely you could not have one country that produces a sizeable chunk of the world’s car fleet (Germany) on an equal footing with one that produces mostly olive oil and oranges (Spain, at the time).

My tutor, when I showed him, shook his head slowly. “You will have to change your conclusions,” he told me. “I cannot possibly pass you unless you argue that full integration is not just possible, but inevitable.”

And so I went away, confused, and simply copied sections from books, even though I didn’t believe in what I was writing. My paper sailed through the marking process and was even awarded honours. I had had my first lesson in how EU integration is to be considered: inevitable.

Since that time, which was 1992, I’ve followed the workings of the EU with a half-interested eye. I was pleased when the Euro currency was introduced, simply because it made it easier to travel and because I liked the look of the notes and coins. I suspect I wasn’t the only one.

But what might on the surface have seemed like a good idea in 2002 is now quite obviously a bad idea. Everything changed after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Up until that point, vast sums of money had been loaned to the countries of southern Europe in an effort to modernise them, thus standardising their infrastructure with northern Europe. I was living in Spain at the time and saw the relentless building programmes going on. To dare question whether it was all necessary (blasting away entire mountains to build a new motorway to nowhere? Pouring money into concrete business parks and airports that nobody needed? ) or how this money would ever be paid back was to invite ridicule. Across Greece, Portugal, Italy and France the same thing was happening: a tidal wave of credit, supplied by mainly northern European banks, covered the landscape with tarmac and concrete.  Every two bit olive and orange farmer was suddenly driving a new BMW and cities sprouted museums of modern art and Michelin restaurants like mushrooms coming up after rain You can’t stop the tide of progress, people said, it’s inevitable.

But then the financial crisis happened and everything changed overnight. When the mood switched from greed to fear, investors bailed out of the now obviously bankrupt countries they called the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), causing the yield on those countries’ government bonds (the interest rate on the IOU’s they sell to finance themselves) to skyrocket. Yield increases with risk, and all of a sudden it had become too risky to loan money to the PIIGS. Several years of crisis ensued, and the European Central Bank (ECB) was forced to step in and bail out the disaster zones with – yes – more loans. But they were not bailing out the actual countries, instead they were effectively bailing out the banks that had underwritten the bad loans in the first place.

But then it got even worse. Instead of making the banks take a hit for their own stupidity, austerity policies were imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the ECB on the countries affected. Pensions and benefits were slashed, investments shelved, national assets put up for sale on eBay and democratically elected governments were removed and replaced with ‘caretaker’ administrations. Greece was hit worst of all, suffering a fall in the value of its national economy of over 30%. Many people found themselves homeless and even starving, and the suicide rate went through the roof. Youth unemployment went up over 50% - unthinkable in modern times. Whenever dissent flared up the riot police crushed it and a succession of weak governments all caved in to the demands of the so-called Troika of the IMF, the ECB and the EU.

The message was clear: don’t mess with the EU.

And the problem hasn’t gone away, even if the media doesn’t report on it much any more. Debt all across the EU is growing, and the ability of anyone to pay it back is diminishing. But why don’t the ECB just force the banks to write off their debts and be done with it? The answer to that is simple: because it will force them into insolvency. If major banks start going bust in Europe then people – lots of people – will lose their life savings, there will be an epic recession and chaos will hit the European heartland. This is not a particularly popular idea for national policymakers and yet it underlines just how fragile the entire edifice has become. And so the countries of southern Europe are left to rot in what is possibly the biggest economic crime of the century.

Greece could have been set free. If it were allowed to leave the euro it could bring back the drachma at a much lower rate of exchange. Greek imports would surge (including tourism) and the economy would be on the road to being rebalanced. But this, under the EU, is not allowed to happen. The EU cannot let Greece leave the euro because if you let Greece do it then you also open the door to Spain, Italy, France and Portugal doing the same thing. The euro currency would not survive such a mass defection, and so Greece is held bent over in a neck lock, unable to move or breathe, while its assets are plundered (if you’ll forgive the expression).

Ah, but people might say, this is all a temporary phenomenon. When growth picks up again all the boats in the harbour will rise with it. The Greeks will get down off their window ledges, move back in from the countryside where they have been scratching a living on that dusty bit of land belonging to their ‘backward’ grandparents, and collectively crack open a bottle of Ouzo to toast the end of the nightmare. The good times will roll again.

Except this isn’t possible.

Mathematicians and bankers know all about compound interest and the exponential function. Put basically, the amount of debt that countries across the developed world have now built up is unpayable Yes, even with Chinese style double digit GDP growth, there would be no way to pay back all the public, private and company debt that has built up.  And in case you hadn’t noticed there is not actually any economic growth at all in the Eurozone.

[“He’s fibbing. I read in the FT that Spain and Greece are picking up.”]

Okay, okay, so there might be a tiddly little bit, but most of it is massaged into existence (remember, I worked in the economic forecasting department of the Treasury, right?). If anyone truly believed there is economic growth in the Eurozone I would ask them to tell me what the current rate of interest is.  I’ll give you a clue: it starts with Z and rhymes with Nero.

Interest rates are the lifeblood of capitalist economies. Without a positive interest rate there is no growth. And some economies (such as Denmark) are actually offering NEGATIVE interest rates. That means you can go and take out a loan for, say, a house, and the bank will actually PAY YOU more money than you borrowed. Does that sound somewhat insane or is it just me?

Anyway, without economic growth you can’t pay back debt. Debt is a gamble on future productivity. You have to have confidence that your future income will allow your debt to be repaid. This is why my Spanish neighbours, who earned no more than a couple of thousand euros a year selling olives, no longer own those shiny new BMWs. But if you’re a country and you find you can’t pay back debt … you have to take on more debt until the mystical growth genie appears again. But what happens if the growth genie refuses to appear, no matter how hard you rub the lamp?

That is exactly what is occurring right now everywhere you care to look because (DRUMROLL) our economies are overburdened with debt and the world is running out of fossil fuels. And in terms of energy availability, there is no substitute for fossil fuels – at least not anything that would leave our overdeveloped countries in any shape or form that we would recognise as ‘modern’. I know this goes contrary to everything you’ve read and seen on Facebook, but really, it’s true.

[“You see, I told you he was crazy!”]

There is no modern economy in the world that does not rely on a steady supply of cheap fossilised sunlight in the form of oil, coal and gas to power itself.  It powers everything from electricity generation and transport, to growing food and making iPhones. Now, this is a big subject that I’ve been writing about for years and – frankly – I could go on and on about it but I’ll save the arguments for another day and merely say that when the price of oil is too high it causes recessions, and when it’s too low it causes oil companies to go out of business. The fabled ‘Goldilocks zone’ in between these two extremes equates with the time period in which we built up all of the energy-guzzling infrastructure so central to the functioning of the modern world in its current configuration. It’s theoretically possible to build millions of wind turbines and solar panels (using fossil fuels) but nobody seems interested in doing so in the timeframe that matters.

[“I don’t believe him. I saw in Good News magazine that Denmark makes 140% of its own electricity using wind. He must have an ulterior motive that he’s not revealing.”]

Sorry, no ulterior motives, just a long hard reading of a lot of material and a dose of intuition.

Thus the EU has got itself into a terrible bind, not unlike a Mexican standoff. It can’t grow its way out of trouble and neither can it allow the weaker elements to break away – it must continue to preserve the power at the centre at all costs because the power at the centre (in this case the German economy) is the growth engine that is keeping the whole thing ticking over.

So, to summarize so far, taking things from the top:

-       A dwindling of the availability of highly concentrated energy, coupled with an overburden of compounding debt, has put the brake on EU economic expansion
-       The weaker countries, which are more heavily mired in unpayable debt, are being systematically asset stripped and their citizens economically brutalised by bodies such as the ECB, the EU and the IMF (there’s a term for this – it’s called ‘disaster capitalism’)
-       The system is stuck in a closed loop, waiting for growth that never comes
-       The longer it is stuck in the loop, the greater the suffering of the people whose lives have been put on hold

How does the EU propose to break out of this closed loop? Well, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Mario Draghi, who is head of the ECB, has vowed to do “Whatever it takes” to get out of it. To that end he has used the ECB’s money (which is really the banks’ money, which really only exists on spreadsheets and gets endlessly recycled round and round) to buy national and company bonds and bail out distressed funds. He has embarked on an asset purchase programme, spending €1.1 trillion in quantitative easing measures. Let me put that in English: Mario Draghi is spending €1.1 trillion of money that he doesn’t have in order to prop up the banks which loaned money to vulnerable countries in a way that makes payday lender Wonga look like a paragon of fiscal prudence. And so the ECB, under the aegis of the supposedly accountable EU, has control over the entire money supply.

Oh, and if anything goes wrong, we’ll all be on the hook for that €1.1 trillion. But nothing could possibly go wrong …

At this point I’d like to introduce two quotes that quite possible speak for themselves:

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws." — Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild


“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” — Herbert Stein (“Herbert Stein’s Law”)

It is perhaps worth mentioning that there are 30,000 lobbyists based in Brussels. It is these people’s (usually highly paid) jobs to spend day and night courting EU law/rule makers, treating them to champagne breakfasts and showering them with expensively produced reports that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the interests of the European people align 100% with an increased quarterly profit result for their corporation.

[“Okay, now he’s starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist. I’m off to read The Guardian, or some other place where I can get my daily fill of confirmation bias!”]

Do you want the laws of your country to be decided by corporations rather than people elected to represent you? What’s that at the back? You don’t care because that’s the way the world works in the 21st century so we may as well accept it? That our own politicians are just as corrupt so we may as well go with the ones who are culturally dissimilar to our own crooks?

Well, if that’s your attitude then we may as well all go home now.

But assuming you do care it’s not hard to recognise the pressure that’s on Eurocrats to cave into the demands of the lobbyists. The EU, after all, is the largest block of first world consumers on the planet, and there’s plenty of money to be made from us. The EU and the US are currently trying to get through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is a grand-sounding name for a corporate wheeze. Information on what it actually contains is hard to get as it has been negotiated in secret and even Euro MPs are forbidden from memorising it and telling anyone what it might contain. If this isn’t the biggest corporate stitch up in the history of the human race then I don’t know what is.

Okay, so far I have painted the EU as an undemocratic supra-national body whose initial early promise has evolved into a Frankenstein’s monster that crushes weak countries under its heel and acts as a conduit for corporate power. Let’s turn to immigration.

[“Ha – this is the bit where he reveals his true colours!”]

Immigration and open borders are good, right? People moving round in search of a better place to live where they can earn more money?

Umm, it’s not that simple. Who knows,  maybe one day we will all truly be of one nation, one language, one religion etc. – but right now there are differences between one set of people from one country and another set from somewhere else. Generally speaking, people who have lived on a particular patch of planet Earth for hundreds or thousands of years have tended to develop their own language, cultural norms, dress code and all the rest of it. For right or wrong they tend to think of this patch of land as ‘theirs’ and they’re proud of it. When someone turns up from some noticeably different culture they generally welcome him and make him feel at home. It’s human nature to do so. Even when he goes away and comes back with his entire family, a bunch of friends and half the class he once went to school with, they still tend to get along with him and relations are good. Problems only start when the host community, who regard the area as ‘theirs’ feel they are reaching the limit of their (scarce) resources and that the settler had better not keep on inviting his friends’ friends’ friends because there will not be enough to go round. This is when problems start.

[“But, but, scarcity is a myth! If the Tories hadn’t slashed budgets across the land then we’d be able to build millions of new houses and hospitals and schools and we could go on building and building and building until everyone was happy!”]

Hmm, maybe up to a point. But how will we know when to stop? What about all the infrastructure that will need to be built? Who will pay for it? We already produce only enough food for a small minority of the population – anyway, you’re distracting me.

The problems tend to be worse if the cultures of the two different groups are quite different from one another. If the host community is a poor one – and it probably will be because the richer communities are less inclined to allow outsiders to settle there (unless they are Saudi billionaires or Russian oligarchs, in which case they are welcomed with open arms)  – their resources are likely to be scarcer. In the modern industrial societies of the west, basic resources include things like jobs, hospitals, affordable housing, schools and other public goods. The settler communities compete for these scarce public resources, making some of the hosts resentful. The wealthier people in the chattering classes, who generally don’t live in the poorer areas or have to compete for resources, then tut tut and call the poor people nasty things. Yet it is they who benefit from all the positive aspects the settler people bring (nice food, cheaper labour to do the jobs they don’t want to do themselves), without suffering any of the consequences of having to compete for scarce resources.

On the other hand, the businessfolk and politicians simply can’t get enough settlers. Not only do they work for peanuts on zero hours contracts but they effectively stop anyone else from getting a pay rise. It’s a wet dream of businessmen to achieve the holy grail of infinite labour substitutability. This means they can hire and fire people at a moment’s notice, pay them next to nothing (the government picks up the tab for the low wages in the form of tax credits) and generally treat them as if they were robots while they wait for the actual robots to come along. Likewise, the government loves settlers because they boost the country’s GDP as they open bank accounts, indebt themselves and buy consumer products. Lastly, the middle classes love settlers (as long as they don’t move in next door) as they create an additional pressure on the scarce resource of housing, boosting property prices and rental income and thus allowing them to earn money without working for it.

This might explain why it’s those at the bottom of the pile, forced to compete for the basics, who tend to have the biggest beef about squeezing ever more people in. That’s not a theory, it’s a reflection of reality that the insulated middle classes refuse to acknowledge – any ‘man on the street’ will be able to explain it in similar terms.

[“There, I told you he was a fucking racist! I’m out of here.”]

So giving everyone the right to be anywhere in the trading bloc we call the EU might sound like a fine and dandy idea, but during times of economic contraction it is the poorest who suffer the most: both the uprooted, who have to leave their families and homes behind, and the host peoples from the more disadvantaged classes who have to accommodate the settlers and share their scarce resources.

Lastly, I’d suggest that the very notion of the EU is insane. Here’s a confession: in the last election I voted for the Green Party.

[“Oh yegads! A bona fide nutcase! I told you so … “]

No, I’m not a shallow Green like the leader of the Green Party who is allied with David Cameron on Europe and was last week seen on TV with him driving around in a car talking about growth. Being a proper Green means that I’m neither left wing nor right wing. I care for the ‘magical’ hidden hand of market capitalism just as little as I care for the writings of Karl Marx. To me both are indicative of a 19th century attitude towards the way we treat our planet that is equally suicidal. In case you hadn’t read the news lately you might have missed several important pieces of information that are several orders of magnitude more important than both the EU referendum and the new Top Gear series PUT TOGETHER! I speak, of course, about the rapid acceleration of global warming, the massive forest fires rampaging across the globe, the great dieoff of the coral reefs and the diminution of Arctic ice so early in the year.

Let’s face it, unchecked industrialism has brought us to a point where we might not last out the century. Whatever else the EU claims to be one thing we know for sure is that it is committed to infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Think about it for a minute. All of the many problems that now confront us, the three main ones being access to energy, environmental degradation and population overshoot, are becoming more and more difficult to ignore. Most of us would rather stick our fingers in our ears and close our eyes than admit that we’ve screwed up and that there will be (are) consequences. We’ve got boatloads of refugees arriving on our doorstep fleeing drought and war – the consequences of global weirding and oil wars – and yet we pretend that we don’t have any responsibility to them. Quite the opposite, in fact. People, more and more,

Just. Want. Someone. To. Sort. It. All. Out.

We want scientists to come up ever more outlandish (and costly) ways of staving off collapse, be it genetically modified foods, ill-thought-out geoengineering projects to further mess with the climate or – as a last resort – a space rocket to get us to some other planet we haven’t yet wrecked.

This trend towards putting our faith in the hands of ever-greater powers doesn’t say much for the state of the human spirit I’m afraid to say. It seems to me an abnegation of our responsibilities to insist that someone else deals with our problems, but that’s exactly the attitude I see with supporters of the EU project. They may well talk about this or that EU project saving a wetland or rescuing a dormouse, but they don’t talk about the wholesale pillaging of the planet that the EU promotes and amplifies. I don’t believe that the solutions to our many problems will come from some Wizard of Oz type character sitting in Brussels and pulling levers. There won’t be a one-size-fits all solution to our continued shared existence, so why choose to disempower ourselves more than we already have? By getting ourselves out of it we’ll be restoring the balance of power some way in our own favour.

So next week we have the chance to throw a spanner in the works of the inevitable onward march of the EU machine. Both options will be painful and there will be plenty of hurt, but that is the corner into which we have painted ourselves. There will be unintended consequences - that is the nature of things. Here are two possible scenarios out of millions – it’s up to us to choose which one we want to bring into reality.

Remain Wins

The EU gets a vote of confidence from the UK and – emboldened – proceeds with plans for a federal one-nation Europe with much more robust and invasive policy making powers. Some kind of ‘trade’ deal is reached with the US which allows corporations to sue public bodies for lost profits, but otherwise life remains pretty much as normal in Britain – except for some noisy street protests and the huge boost for UKIP. All the while the debt continues to build up and ever more stringent austerity measures are imposed on member states. In Europe a bank or two collapses, causing others to soon follow suit. Widespread banking failures throughout the financial system ensue and the unpopular ‘bail in’ measures are enacted which see savings confiscated to prop up the remaining banks. Over the next couple of years depression-era scenes and radical violence become commonplace in once wealthy countries. Various extremist parties are voted into power on a wave of frustrated anger and the assassinations of bankers and politicians fill the newspapers. Eventually the EU collapses under the weight of its own internal discord and is dismantled with extreme prejudice by nation states. Years of dysfunction ensue but from the embers of chaos begins a new project to build a truly united Europe based on mutual respect for one another, ecological limits and social democracy, as opposed to the free market capitalism, corporatism and exploitation of the old project.

Leave Wins

The media are all aflutter with predictions of apocalypse, but most people are too busy having street parties to notice – as are many across the whole of southern Europe. The pound gets a sharp correction lower, and the price of gold skyrockets. The EU reacts furiously towards Britain but is powerless to retaliate for fear of damaging the German and French economies. Britain’s admittedly unpopular new prime minister sends trade delegations to the four corners of the world to strike trade deals with countries including Russia and China, much to America’s ire. Economic chaos reigns for a few months but people are at least happy they don’t have it as bad as they do on mainland Europe where Brexit has caused the equity markets and banking system to crash. Several other nations immediately hold their own referendums (Denmark, Holland, France and Poland) and the buzzword on everyone’s lips is ‘contagion’. The new UK government misinterprets its popularity and tries to force through some unpopular policies – including fracking in national parks – but the newly-emboldened Britons won’t stand for it, forcing a general election and electing a party on a platform of national unity. Despite a lot of bluster and bad will the EU is dismantled more or less peacefully as countries are once more allowed to follow their own monetary policy and set their own rules for trade. Nevertheless a few years of chaos and recession follow as a new system configures itself. From these shaky beginnings is begun a new project to build a truly united Europe based on mutual respect for one another, ecological limits and social democracy, as opposed to free market capitalism, corporatism and exploitation.


Okay, after that short diversion in the national debate we can now return to arguing about how much money the EU costs Britain and whether they will force us to eat straight bananas.

Open the box and let them out again.