The Elephant in the room

The debates which will take place in the run up to the referendum will concentrate on economic factors, and on the issue of democracy, but there is, to use the modern parlance, an elephant in the room, which Eurorealists either do not perceive, or are afraid of raising because they know it will generate false accusations of xenophobia or racism. However, given that we are being asked to decide whether or not to submerge permanently our ancient nation into a single European state, it should be honestly raised. It concerns the very nature of those it is proposed should share the governance of our country.

British people, long accustomed to living in one of the freest, and most tolerant, countries of the world, are often given to believing that everyone the world over is pretty much the same and that foreigners are just Britons who speak a funny language. This impression is partly derived from the taking of holidays abroad, when most of those we meet are generally pleasant, not least because they frequently have a vested interest in not upsetting tourists. I remember how years ago friends used to came back from visiting Tito's Yugoslavia and said how lovely the people were. Unfortunately, as we are now seeing in the disaster taking place across the continent because of the migrant crisis, the historical development and the cultural assumptions of different nations produce very different attitudes on everything from the role of women to the tolerance of views different to one's own.

The reality of Yugoslavia was that it was a powder keg, prevented from exploding only by Tito's iron hand, and, once that was removed, we saw the ancient hatreds break loose. This should have been no surprise because the history of the Balkan states shows clearly how superficial was the civilised behaviour we take for granted. During the Second World War the despicable acts committed by the various nationalities in that area matched anything done by the Nazis. The idea that one might just shoot an opponent would have been regarded as laughably liberal, the usual methods involved in dispatching them including mass torture and mutilations and the events of the Balkan wars of the late 20th Century, such as the Srebrenica massacre, and the cruelties inflicted on civilians and prisoners, make clear that concepts promoted by the Geneva conventions are still not accepted. Of course at the moment only Croatia and Slovenia are members of the EU but we all know the architects of the latter have every intention of including Macedonia and Serbia as soon as they can get away with it.

It is not only in the Balkans that we see nations whose standards of behaviour are totally alien to the values we hold. During the last war the Latvian Legion of the Waffen SS was considered to be the most brutal regiment within the latter organisation, even German SS officers being known to object to some of their actions. Yet, as recently as March 2012, Latvians were honouring the memory of these killers, placing wreaths, including Latvian SS insignia, at the foot of the Freedom Monument in Riga. It is a fact that Anti Semitic hatreds were, and still are, ingrained into the culture of much of Eastern Europe. I have been appalled when talking to Polish friends, apparently modern Europeans, to find that they still display an extremely hostile attitude to Jewish people, refusing to accept the fact that the holocaust was one of the greatest crimes in human history. Even in Czechoslovakia, the most democratic of the pre war states in Eastern Europe, anti Semitism was rife among the Sudeten Germans, while the views held by the largely peasant cultures further East would horrify the ordinary decent person in Britain.

Of course we must look carefully at the Germans themselves. This nation, only in existence for less than 150 years, has lashed out at its neighbours on a number of occasions, launched two world wars and committed the worst crimes against humanity in modern times. We are now told that they are a reformed people but it is always said that if one scratches a Russian one finds a Tartar and what does one think one would find if one scratched a German? Even Europhiles try to justify the EU as a means of neutralising German's aggressive tendencies but, if they are now so changed, would that be necessary?

In past centuries we have not always behaved well, the excesses of the hundred years war being just one of the times we acted reprehensibly. In recent centuries we have moved forward but we should never forget that, within the past hundred years, apart from the UK and a few small neutral countries, every nation in Europe has endured either a home grown tyrant, or conquest by a foreign one, and this inevitably colours their views of democracy and freedom.

Despite our long history of conflict with the French, and accepting that we have our differences, we are very similar to them, as we are to the Scandinavians and those of the Low Countries. However the EU encompasses much larger populations, who do not subscribe to our ideas of freedom and democracy, and, if the Brussels bureaucrats have their way, it will eventually include Muslim nations such as Turkey, with all that means for the status of women, those of a different sexual orientation, Jews and Christians.

We should not desire conflict with our neighbours but neither should we surrender control of our country to a single European state which will be dominated by those whose history and culture are very different to ours and which will, if we remain, lead to the end of anything resembling the country in which we grew up. This is not xenophobia or racism, but the statement of a fact which we should not be afraid to recognize if we are to honour all those who died to create our nation and if we value the right to live in a free country.