These days I see all politics through the eyes of a smoker. I was pro-EU until I learned, in January 2010, that the EU had declared war on smokers. More or less overnight, I swung from being pro-EU to anti-EU. After all, if smokers like me were no longer welcome in the EU, why should a smoker like me want to be a member of that club? In fact, why should any one of Europe’s approximately 150 million smokers want to be a member of that club? Furthermore, what future could any political project possibly have, once it had internally exiled 30% of its own population? Isn’t it Politics 101 to try to unite people rather than divide them? It was political lunacy for the club to kick out 30% of its members. And so ever since January 2010, I’ve seen the EU project as doomed to failure and disintegration. And I’ve not seen any reason to change my mind since.
But the doomed EU project is the only currently available European political project. It’s the only game in town. All the eggs have been placed in one basket, and now the basket is sinking. And the EU was always a basket case. It was always a mad utopian project from the outset, in exactly the same way that smoking bans are mad utopian projects. Such utopian projects are always doomed to fail: they are Titanics which come with their own pre-attached icebergs.
The UK was the first to climb into its national lifeboat. This should be no surprise, because that latecomer was always semi-detached from the EU project. It’s currently being slowly lowered towards the water by one end, while the other end remains tied firmly to its davit: its passengers are likely to all end up being tipped out of it into the freezing water below.
The other passengers have decided to remain aboard the ship, where drinks are still on sale in the ship’s warm, well-stocked bars, and the band is still playing The Ode To Joy. They all know that the ship is sinking, but they’re hoping that rescue will come from somewhere, that something will turn up.
Yesterday the French people chose to stay aboard the sinking ship of the EU. I think that probably everybody in France knows that the ship is sinking. So does everybody in Germany and Holland and Spain and Italy. But none of them can see what to do about it. The choice they see before them is one between remaining aboard the dying European political Union, and returning to national self-determination in their own national lifeboats. They’re not yet ready to débarquer comme les Anglais. Or at least 65% of them aren’t ready. But in another 5 years a lot more of them will be ready.
After five more years of political paralysis, bickering, terrorism, and migrant invasions, Le Pen will probably be swept to power. And at the same time equivalent nationalist political figures will have emerged in every other EU member state. It will be everyone for himself. Sauve qui peut.
It’s quite easy for the UK to leave the EU: it’s surrounded by water. It’s already floating offshore. But where exactly are the borders between France and Germany and Belgium? Or between Germany and Poland and the Czech Republic? Or between any country on the continental mainland and any other? The disintegration of the borderless EU will open up fault lines along every single border. Small wars will break out everywhere along them, and refugees will stream from one side to the other. That’s what happens when ships break up and sink.
I suspect it was French smokers who voted for the smoking Marine Le Pen. Because it’s the smokers who are the first to see the warning signs of disintegration. They experience the disintegration at first hand. But everyone else will experience it for themselves, sooner or later. The smokers are just the canaries in the mine: what happens to them will eventually happen to everyone else.