September 17 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Rather like the Olympics its been drip, drip, drip for months.
I don’t know about you but I thought it would never end.
Constant coverage, of course, from the TV boys who seem to get so excited and all fly over to Washington to interview each other and broadcast from the scene just in case we didn’t believe we could find out without them.
It’s somehow strange, isn’t it, that we never hear quite so much about the elections of our closest neighbours.
Who can confidently say who the prime minister of the Netherlands is or who the Irish call Mr President or even their prime minister?
At a push many of us can name Francois Hollande of France but who knows Germany’s head of state or Austria’s political leaders or whether Belgium has even got a government now? It has.
Once, of course, the world knew these things. Europe’s leaders were news, even if they weren’t democratically elected.
Today, it seems to me, our country looks on Europe as an issue, a crisis, a group of all the other nations that have clubbed together, we see it as separate entity not a geopolitical entity of which Britain is part.
This is not a new argument and our basic foreign policy towards Europe of ensuring no one power – France or Germany - dominates the continent has changed little over the last five centuries. And let’s not forget that the European Union was not set up to control fishing in the North Sea or build butter mountains; it was established to ensure Germany didn’t invade France ever again.
But how long will it be before the Union breaks up? Is it fraying around the edges already? It seems unlikely it will be here in another 100 years even if it does survive this latest crisis. No institution, certainly no political and economic union, lasts forever, especially one with so many languages and cultures and historical differences.
In the meantime let’s not take our eye off the ball.
Europe, not America, is our biggest trading partner, Europe is where our neighbours live, America is not some larger more hard working and newer version of the UK – it is a our so-called “special relationship” is something, I suspect, the British press and political elite discuss far more than their American counterparts.
The last time disputes and issues in our nearest neighbours became a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing we had terrible trouble sorting it all out.
I don’t dispute that the American election is interesting but let’s not lose sight of our own doorstep in the hype and the drama – if history has taught us anything it is that we ignore Europe at our peril.
And let’s not forget the future really belongs to India, Brazil and China and if you know who’s the President of Brazil then I’m a Dutchman.