Contagion (Brexit (10))

I (and others wiser than I) suggested that Brexit would be devastating for the EU, not least because several nationalist groups are very likely to press for (and a few will even win) similar referenda in their countries.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s right wing/anti-EU National front party says, in an article in the New York Times, that: “The decision that the people of Britain have just made was indeed an act of courage — the courage of a people who embrace their freedom … [and] … Britain decided to cast off from the European Union and reclaim its independence among the world’s nations.

Predictably, she trots our EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s ill-considered and tellingly authoritarian remark when Greece tried to decide for itself …

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… but what really annoys Mlle Le Pen is not the bureaucrats’ (typical) undemocratic, even anti-democratic, instincts it is, as she sums up in a few sentences ~ “IF there’s one thing that chafes French pride, it’s seeing the British steal the limelight …[and] … A quip attributed to Henry Kissinger, “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” now has a clear answer: Call Berlin.” ~ is that France is not Number 1, or even Number 2, it is just one amongst many in a new Europe in which Germany is dominant and Britain is, again, aloof …

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… the European Project, as envisioned back in the 1940s, was always about keeping the peace* by binding France and Germany, especially, so tightly together by bonds of mutually beneficial trade that the Germans would, finally, stop beating up on the poor, weak, but oh, so proud French. This was the project that Western leaders like Acheson, Churchill, Eisenhower, Marshal, St Laurent and Truman all supported, even if it was agreed, back then, that Britain might remain outside.

The European Project has worked for 70 years, so far.

(I remember a quip by General (ret’d) Sir Hastings (“Pug”) Ismay, who was Churchill’s military assistant in London and NATO’s first Secretary General. The purpose of NATO, he (only half) joked was “To keep the Russians out, the Americans in, the French up and the Germans down.” The EU has had a similar role: to level the field in Europe so that Germany’s many advantages over its neighbours do not lead to war.)

The European project should continue to work and Canada should be working, hard, to help Europe and Britain sort out a mutually beneficial arrangement … because that will benefit Canada, too. Our vital interests involve NATO, not UN peacekeeping, Britain and Europe, not visas for  Mexicans, and free(er) trade not green house gasses.

It is in our interests to help Europe, including even the unpleasant M. Junckers, to stop or, at least slow the contagion; it is in our interests to try to help broker a “new deal’ for Britain (and perhaps Norway and Iceland, too) in a revised, reshaped EU; free trade with Britain and Europe is in our interests; and so, above all, is keeping the peace in Europe, which is why supporting NATO is in our best and most vital interests.

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* People like Ernie Regehr, founder of Project Plowshares, are right: the military is NOT the only or even the primary tool we have for keeping the peace ~ diplomacy and trade are also key peacekeeping tools.

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