Friday, April 16, 2021
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Please leave - a letter to the UK from the scorched lands

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Antonio-Carlos Pereira Menaut. Jean Monnet Chairholder at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.

I make no arrogant claim to have a say in a matter that concerns only Britons, unlike Messrs. Obama, Merkel, Gates and others, who enjoy lecturing or even menacing the people of the UK.

Nonetheless, I think I may be able to make some relevant observations. Like most Spaniards, I am, and indeed always have been, a Europhile, as well as a federalist, since federalism protects small states. I used to see the EU as broadly a force for good. It can even be plausibly argued that my nation, Galicia, has received more funding and aid from the EU than from Spain itself - all the while recognising the costs are paid for by our fishing, shipbuilding, cattle-breeding and other sectors of the economy.

That said, after anti-crisis remedies administered by the EU and Troika in recent years, Spain is becoming (if you will permit a mild exaggeration) something of a scorched land - albeit to a far lesser degree than Greece or Portugal. Young doctors, architects and engineers have left Spain in their hundreds of thousands (many of them now in London, as I saw on a recent visit), simply because ruthless austerity measures have wiped out all but a very few decent jobs. Not even the most optimistic expect unemployment to fall below 15 per cent in the foreseeable future. The EU, traditionally a friend, might thus be mutating into a foe. Possibly for the first time in recent history, Euroscepticism is now growing in Spain.

I do not favour Brexit, neither in principle nor in theory. Where I give a blank sheet of paper to re-arrange EU affairs, my ideal solution would be for the UK to take over the helm for some period of time to reshape the whole thing. No other member state has the experience they have of presiding over a broad association of nations and peoples of all races, cultures and continents, and of accommodating all without imposing uniformity. The UK itself may be viewed as a result of multinational integration. My preferred option would be for the UK to remain, but instead of always looking to opt out, to assume a directive role. Some of us would like to think that other forms of the EU might be possible. Since the Germany-France duopoly seems in practice to lead us to nowhere but a centralised mega-state, why not let the British have a try.

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