On Saturday night (or rather Sunday morning) I was doing the paper review on the Stephen Nolan’s Show on BBC Radio Five Live, alongside David Banks, a former editor of the Daily Mirror. David was obviously well known to Stephen, who addressed him familiarly as “Banksy”. Can this be the man who does all that wonderful graffiti art in his spare time, I asked myself?
Stephen raised the issue of David Davis’s big speech where he is calling, inter alia, for an orderly dismantling of the €uro, in preference to the disorderly breakdown which is otherwise inevitable. David (Banks) used this as a pretext for what sounded like a pre-cooked rant against “anti-Europeans”, and “Little Englanders”, and UKIP. Unfortunately we were cut off by the 12:30 a.m. news summary, so I had no opportunity to reply.
I don’t hear the phrase “Little Englander” very often these days. It represents such transparently shallow, sloppy, careless, lazy thinking that it’s self-defeating and self-evidently absurd. It’s so last-century. How does a belief in freedom, democracy and independence make one a “Little Englander”? Has Mr. Banks noticed that the Americans are also very keen on freedom, democracy and independence? Does this make them “Little Americans”?
But for what it’s worth, and in case Mr. Banks is interested, let me set out my qualifications as a “Little Englander”.
Before politics, I spent thirty-three years in international businesses. I travelled widely in the USA and Europe. I also spent a total of a dozen years living and working is several Asian countries. That included several years running a textile business in Malaysia where I was the only Westerner, and I spent a fair bit of my time trying to resolve ethnic animosities between my Malay and Chinese employees.
Since being elected in 1999 I have continued to travel widely in Europe and beyond. I have formed good working relationships and some close friendships with MEPs and staff from many countries. During my thirteen years in Brussels I have employed staff from several European countries — Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Moldova — plus more than one from America and from Australia. I had a Nigerian called Isaiah working with me for a year or so. He proved to be both efficient and agreeable, and a great favourite with the girls down the corridor. And right now I have a first-rate Italian Lawyer in my Brussels office.
In our corridor in Brussels we have one Argentinian-born Spanish UKIP MEP, Marta Andreasen, and a number of staff of other European nationalities, including our Group Secretary-General, who is French. And our Party Leader is married to a German.
Face it, David. We are the Internationalists now. We are the global free-traders. We have recognised that the EU is the only significant economic area in long-term relative decline, and that growth will come from the Americas, from the BRICS, from the Commonwealth — not Europe. And we’ve noticed that Commonwealth GDP has just overtaken eurozone GDP. We have recognised that an over-emphasis on Europe means that we’ve failed to realise our trade potential with the rest of the world, and we want to redress that.
We’ve noticed that the EU is, to a large extent, the author of its own troubles, with its ideological commitment to a deeply flawed monetary experiment, the €uro. We eurosceptics explained fifteen years ago why it could never work, and history has proved that we were utterly, overwhelmingly right. Yet with so much political capital committed to the project, European leaders find themselves unable to change course.
But it rather looks, David, from your comments, that you are not a Little Englander, but a Little European. You are wedded to a last-century vision of Europe that has utterly failed to materialise. You support a Europe which is protectionist, inward-looking, self-referential, bogged down by regulation and dogma and dysfunctionality, and increasingly irrelevant in the world. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. There’s a whole world out there beyond the confines of Little Europe.