Fleeing the Fourth Reich: Why The British Want to Leave Europe and Why They Cannot
Many youths in the United Kingdom have lived the last few years dreading the EU Brexit deadline. They fear that their unlimited access to Europe’s cultural, political and economic centers (and, of course, skiing and the beaches) will be cut off just when they need it most. Today’s economic conditions make Central Europe (Germany especially) vital to the success of millennial job-seekers, and a hard Brexit may mean a death knell for the hopes and desires of the youngsters looking for a normal life in today’s post-capitalist economy. The British middle class has been expropriated and neglected, pierced and tortured consistently by austerity measures and stagnant wages on account of the wondrously destructive reforms put into place by the Iron Maiden, Prime Minister Thatcher, and her Conservative/Labour descendants. Immigration from Eastern Europe and beyond has made it extra difficult to claim a fair wage (there’s too much competition), and I surely identify with the younger generation’s sorrow at the prospect of not having Europe as an escape. It will hurt, but England is under attack.
Europe, i.e. France and Germany but mostly Germany, has made great inroads into the English market. They have renationalized Britain’s trains, co-opted British culture, dampened British nationalism and, most importantly, constructed a European market that out-competes England’s traditionally dominant economy. Britain, unlike the small peripheral economies of Eastern (Poland, Hungary, Baltic states, etc.) and Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Southern Italy and Greece), remains an integral partner of the European common marketplace. However, Britain has recently suffered years of economic stagnation. A close friend of the U.S., she was damaged greatly by the 2008 recession, lost many talented youth to continental Europe and took on many unskilled immigrants from inside the Euro-zone. She has handed over her industrial might to mainland France and Germany (a top-exporter) and to the developing world, and as a result suffers from a continuous income imbalance relative to the EU. She currently (2017) registers a 70 B GBP deficit with the EU and, relative to her small size and limited industrial abilities (no more colonies), has increasingly become worried of economic warfare.
When Greece capsized ten years ago, she was threatened and forced into an inequitable economic arrangement by Germany’s Angela Merkel. Instead of recording growth and extricating itself from its mounting debt, she has had to make painful cuts to its public services and has subsequently lost its ability to maintain a working middle class. Spain (but not Catalonia), Portugal and Italy suffered similar fates as Greece and, as a result, were refused entrance into the developed world’s major economy. Instead of gaining access to the large resources afforded by the industrialized center, Europe’s periphery has stagnated. The youth of Spain, Portugal and Italy routinely travel to Germany and France in search of an affordable life, scattering their country’s talent and contributing to the disintegration of Europe’s middle class. Europe’s periphery, instead of finding a welcoming home in the European community, became Central Europe’s local colony (the EU actively encourages intra-European commerce). Instead of opening doors and strengthening democracy in a notoriously volatile region of our world, many countries became overburdened by a monopolized monetary system orchestrated by German-backed heads of the European Central Bank and, as a result, have been colonized by the neo-fascist post-capitalist dictatorship of post-modern Europe (headed by a unified Germany).
While the German middle class has also suffered from the recession a decade ago, the bureaucratic upper classes of Europe have reaped massive rewards from the arrangements. Greece, which had experienced years of economic revival, falls apart as I write, unable to serve the most basic needs of its own citizens, let alone the millions of migrants who travelled through and disrupted its society in 2015-16. Life in Greece has become desperate for the millions of now-poor families, with rates of depression rising and many families unwilling to have children. All this due to Germany’s self-righteous insistence on the Greeks “paying their debts.” Germany destroyed Greece’s economy and society during WWII, depopulating whole cities such as Salonika in its mad attempt at exterminating the Jews, but today we hear more about pension benefits of public workers and the “irresponsible” actions of Greece’s middle class!
Upon witnessing the ransacking of entire countries, Britain has observed that she might be next. She has not yet capitulated to Europe as Scandinavia did, and as such remains an enemy of European domination. Her population gasps for the last breaths of pan-European idealism but finds itself increasingly placed outside of the continental discourse. British families have suffered slightly more from the neo-liberal doctrines of Mdm. Thatcher than their counterparts in France (Gilets Jaune!) and Germany (where worker’s rights still abound), and thus see themselves as inferior to their continental cousins. They have suffered the embarrassment of their American descendant’s irrationality, and remain decidedly paranoid (quite justly!) of European cooperation. They did not cave to the impulse of a common currency, opting for at least the illusion of monetary independence, nor did they allow for truly open borders (the Schengen Treaty does not apply to the U.K. and Ireland). However, they have suffered greatly from European speculative interests based on the euphoria of continental consolidation, unequal immigration and recently deep alienation from the neo-fascism rising in the East. They fear their innate connection to Europe’s sphere of influence, yet they cannot find a way out.
The British population’s answer to the neo-liberal tendencies of the EU appeared to fly in the face of establishment Europe. Even the top bureaucrats found themselves quite surprised by the ambivalence of the U.K. to membership in their idealized community. Why should a country’s populace feel so alienated by the cold intellectualism of the continental establishment? Why should the British people so hate their fellow legal immigrants? But the markets were not fooled. Economics continued on as before and the financial world lived to see another day. To think that a global system could fail as a result of a few percentage points in either direction seems sheer lunacy to any observant eye, though it did make a big stir in the world’s headlines. The European establishment may make it seem like they really care what Britain does when, in fact, they don’t.
To be sure, there is no place for England to run. If she indeed exits the European Union, she will be left to fend for herself against the super-competitive economies of mainland Europe. Some of the older voters may have either inflated their country’s significance, or innocently relied on American support, but Trump’s presidency exposes their hopes as false promises. The U.S. (except for New York/New England) has turned its back on England and has chosen instead the bureaucratic neo-liberal corruption of the European establishment. They do this not only knowing that they throw the British people into the abyss of economic solitude, but also as a way of challenging their long-time rival on the Atlantic sea-routes. Europe’s underdeveloped periphery, while poor and fragile, represents a great opportunity for global investment, and the large, stable economies of central Europe a new market for American goods. Instead of aiding England in her struggle for independence from the European dictatorship, the U.S. betrays her to the currents of her isolation, alone and alienated.
Britain reminds me of Israel. Israelis enjoy their proximity to Europe but they have become increasingly frightened of Western-backed peace treaties, European influence and the superficial, materialistic culture that has come with the neo-liberal reforms of the past generation. Speaking with a Palestinian laborer, I asked him where he thinks Tel Aviv went wrong. He promptly responded, “Tel Aviv is American, that’s why it’s crazy.” He took offence at the ostentatious way that modern Israelis objectify women (“We don’t have those billboards in Nablus!”), and, of course, the LGBT culture that even Israeli Arabs do not identify with. Jews have seen how the West has devoured its inhabitants and colonialized far-off lands and they too want out. Our settlers climbed the heights of the West Bank in search of refuge from the crises of neo-liberal society and not, as Europe wants you to believe, in search of lebensraum, but all to little avail. We continue to sink in the sludge of Western corruption, eagerly awaiting our salvation.
As a citizen of Israel, I reach out my arm in solidarity to the people of the U.K. I propose a truce between our peoples. We, too, feel what it means to be left out of Europe. We, too, feel wary of overburdening European totalitarianism, and we both need mutual help. I wish you much luck in your future dealings as I pray for our continued survival.
Workers of the World Unite!
Photo Caption: UK and EU Flags
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons