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Charlie’s Soap Box: Friends with benefits or Brexit?

I’ve just returned from that part of Europe which Brussels is unable to reach, Britain where the English are sceptical about sitting in the same sauna with the Swedes and the French.

When in London, Europe seems a far-off place with high ideals but very little backbone when it comes to solidarity.
It’s easy to see Europe as a place where the politicians start running for cover when the situation turns nasty.

Come the eurozone crisis and it’s every man for himself with the Germans sending in the heavy artillery to smash the dodgy bankers in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus.

Athens remains a financial basket case, but that is a secondary worry now with Europe trying to make sure no unwanted migrants come streaming into its living space from the south. Greece not only got clobbered with a nasty bailout deal but the poorest country in the EU has to manage the human tidal wave that is the refugee crisis.

And Britain doesn’t want any part of this mess. It doesn’t even want EU migrants coming over to work and then claiming benefits. Although the evidence suggests that better wages and job prospects attract the many Poles, Slovaks, Romanians and Bulgarians.

Britain is quite happy to do business with Europe but wants to make its own way in the world without having to worry about a European super state trying to compete with China and America.

Spending time in the UK, you feel that Europe is only there for a weekend getaway or a Champions League jaunt.
Europe might have faster trains, better restaurants and a reliable health system, but is it worth all the bother and throwing your sovereignty down the drain?

David Cameron would argue that you can only change Europe being in it and not standing on the sidelines – but has the UK ever been part of the European ideal or just saw an opportunity which it now regrets? Cameron was keen to underscore the ‘better together’ slogan in the Scottish referendum and now he is doing the same in the Brexit campaign.

The June referendum will rest on whether the British people view Europe as a place full of dodgy foreigners or a platform for change and progress. Not an easy one to answer whether the view is from London or Nicosia.

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