The date today – 02/02/2020 – is palindromic:
The previous eight-digit palindrome like this was 909 years ago, on November 11, 1111.
The next one will be December 12, 2121, 101 years from now.
The British author of the European Union’s exit clause has predicted no-one country will be “as stupid as us” in voting to leave the bloc, and that in 10 or 20 years the British will crawl back to Brussels with our tail between our legs.
He might be right. But I suspect he’s wrong. The way I see it, Britain is going to be just the first to leave the EU, and by no means the last.
I suspect that for this author, and many Remainers, the EU looked like a safe haven. I suspect he’s someone who always wants to belong to one of “the big battalions.” I suspect he sees safety in numbers. I suspect he’s no gambler.
And by leaving the EU Britain is taking a gamble, in the same way as the girl in the Beatles’ song: She’s Leaving Home. It was so much safer at home, where there was always food on the table and a bed in which she could sleep. But that safety was attended by all sorts of petty rules and regulations. And she wanted to be free of all that. She wanted to be free.
I won’t be surprised if it’s a bit difficult for Britain in the short term. But I think that if Britain deregulates, gets rid of most of the stifling EU rules and regulations, it has a bright future. Even more so if it reconnects strongly with the British Commonwealth of Canada and Australia and New Zealand, renewing trade links that dwindled while Britain was in the EU. Reconnection with the USA, of a kind that Donald Trump wants with a new trade deal, could also be revitalising. We might even see the renewal of the Anglosphere, with closer links between all the English-speaking countries in the world, in something like a reprise of the British Empire.
I hope that Boris means business:
Boris Johnson is to say he won’t accept alignment with EU rules when Britain negotiates a trade deal with Brussels.
If we don’t tear up the rules, there will have been no point leaving. And among those rules the one most in need of being torn up is the EU-driven smoking ban.
In many ways, Britain is returning to what it always used to be: a globally-trading nation. Britain is a nation of seaports, and it’s as easy for Britain to trade with America or Australia or India as it is to trade with Holland and France and Spain.
In one of his articles not long ago, the Czech former president Vaclav Klaus pointed out that the Czech Republic was completely landlocked, and so was obliged to do all its trade with or through its immediate neighbouring countries. There was no getting away from them. Most of the countries of Europe are stuck with each other. And that’s a powerful incentive towards the formation of a union in which every country has equal rights (and it’s also a reason why disputes between them can become intense).
But Britain with its numerous seaports is not so constrained. It can trade with anybody, and historically that’s exactly what it did. So Britain is going back to doing what it always used to do.
It’s no accident that the great colonial powers were all maritime nations: Portugal, Spain, France, Britain, Holland. The reason there was never a global German or Polish or Russian or Italian or Greek empire was because those countries were not abundantly supplied with Atlantic ports. They were bottled up in the Mediterranean and the Baltic.
And the reason that there’s now a very powerful American empire is in very large part because America has abundant seaports on the shores of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And it now has a fleet that is even bigger than the British Empire’s Royal Navy.
And it might also be that one result is that maritime nations tend naturally to be outgoing and adventurous and even aggressive nations, while landlocked continental countries are naturally inward-looking and placid and conservative. If China is counted as the world’s oldest and most illustrious civilisation, it’s because it’s historically been a largely landlocked and inward-looking country that could develop a serene high culture of a kind impossible in Britain.
I suspect that many EU states rather envy Britain for being able to quit the EU. They would like to do the same, but for them it’s much harder. Perhaps the only ones who can do it are those with Atlantic seaports, the old colonial nations. The rest of them are stuck with each other, and necessarily engaged in internal, inward-looking politics.