There’s a line in Iain Macwhirter’s article that should pull readers up short. And it’s not the line about the UK Government not knowing its arse from its elbow. That is no more than a statement of the obvious. The line that is chilling in its implications is the following off-hand acknowledgement of what Brexit implies.
“It’s taken 43 years to build the European single market, and now Britain wants to leave it.”
Those not intellectually crippled by unthinking hatred of the EU cannot help but be struck by the enormity of this simple statement of fact. The unadorned banality of the tone serves curiously to emphasise the seriousness of the situation.
Those who yet retain the capacity to think rationally about the issue will be immediately prompted to ask why this is being done. For what reason is the UK taking such a huge step? For what purpose?
Nobody suppose the EU to be perfect. Or even entirely satisfactory. But it serves a function. It allows the single market to work. Quite apart from the fact that the EU is a bold, and largely successful, experiment in post-imperial international association and cooperation, it facilitates trading relationships which otherwise could not exist. It has made it possible to take a plethora of fiendishly complex arrangements and distil them into this single relatively simplified trading environment.
By any rational assessment, this is a truly remarkable feat. Leaving aside all other considerations, the laboriously constructed mechanism of the single market alone is something so unique and valuable that one would suppose there must be, not just good cause for quitting it, but some irresistibly urgent imperative. What is this imperative? What is it that justifies abandoning so completely something that was created with such massive effort over such a prolonged period of time?
What was the lure that tempted people away from this clearly advantageous arrangement? What was to be gained from quitting the single market? What benefit was promised that wasn’t transparently illusory even as it was being assured?
It took more than four decades to construct the single market. It works. Now we are walking away from it. But what are we walking towards? And when we finally arrive at this unknown destination, how will it differ from the place we’ve left? If we are seeking something that serves precisely the same purpose as the EU in terms of facilitating trade, how can it possibly be significantly different from a thing that was built precisely for that purpose?
There must be a word to describe a course of action undertaken with neither evident motive nor discernible aim.Views: 1998
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