02 June 2016, The Tablet

EU debate: Professor Nicholas Boyle examines the benefits of strength in numbers

EU referendum


As the referendum campaign enters its closing weeks, one issue rarely being discussed is that of the European Union as an alternative to the concept of the nation state. But in years to come could the EU act as a counterbalance to the commercial clout of global business?

In my previous article (“Fantasies of freedom”, The Tablet, 23 April 2016) I argued that Europhobia is a symptom of a specifically English crisis of identity. Once freed from the distorted perspective imposed by the Reformation, and by the associated rise and decline of the British Empire and of the United Kingdom, we can see that, as part of Europe, England is part of something not only far bigger, but also far older and far richer in promise than the dead end into which Europhobia wants to drive us.

Europe is not, of course, the same thing as the European Union, but only through the EU can modern England have access to its greater European identity. If the EU is not at present fully adequate to its inheritance and its mission, that is due, at least in part, to an English failure of imagination and commitment.

European civilisation is one of the two oldest continuous civilisations in the world and its origins are only a little more recent than those of China. Much of Europe’s origins are now known only as the background to the literature of ancient Israel.

Moses (perhaps 1300 BC) and David (perhaps 1000 BC) may be figures in whom history and legend are as difficult to distinguish as in the earliest Chinese emperors, but they and their successors are the principal points of reference for a set of writings, now known as the Bible, which for nearly 3,000 years has provided successive polities in the Middle East, and ever further north and west, with a historical framework for their own particular stories.

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