21 April 2016, The Tablet

Fantasies of freedom: EU referendum highlights English fear of being small part of something bigger

Europhobia is at the heart of the campaign for the UK to leave the great European Union experiment


Those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU emphasise the loss of sovereignty that membership entails. But the fear of being part of a larger entity is a very English complaint

Europhobia is a better term than Euroscepticism for opposition to British membership of the EU. A phobia is an irrational aversion, while scepticism is a state of reasoned doubt. Euroscepticism, a mere doubt about the sustainability of EU structures, is not in itself a ground for leaving them. Europhobia is an instinctive revulsion, and like other phobias it is a symptom of a deep psychological disturbance – in this case, a crisis of identity.
An anonymous Scotsman, interviewed by the BBC on the streets of Edinburgh when the date of the referendum was first announced, saw straight through all the bluff and bluster that was to follow. Asked to comment on the difference between English and Scottish views of the EU, he replied that, through belonging to the UK, the Scots were used to being part of something bigger, but the English, as the dominant party in the kingdom, were not. There you have Europhobia in a nutshell: the morbid fear of being part of something bigger, and it is a specifically English disease. At its heart is the question of identity, of who the English are and what England is – not Britain, but England. If we concede that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, then we have to define our own character and limitations and history, and give up our childish dream of omnipotence.

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