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Will Britain stay an island forever, or join the happy European family?

Today the British House of Commons will listen to a ‘historic announcement’.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, will present the results of his Five Tests to see if Britain should join the Euro-zone. The five tests focus on convergence, flexibility, investment, financial services and growth, stability and employment. According to the pro-campaigners, not joining the euro would cost Britain 3.500 jobs a month, and £20 billion, or €28 billion a year in lost trade. The No People see a lot of causal relations between the euro and a weak economy, and besides that “we do more of our trade in dollars than euros” (not paying attention to the official numbers: over half of the UK trade is done with the EU, only a fifth with the US. (Source)).

Both Yes and No camps are not afraid of turning facts into valid arguments to win people for their just cause. Prime Minister Tony Blair will probably announce Britain should join, but ‘not yet’. It is strange that only economical criteria are used in this discussion. But what about cultural ones? Money is an important item to distinguish a national identity. Becoming a member of the Eurozone will strengthen the European identification of the Brits, and will make them maybe less hostile towards the continent (which they prefer to call ‘Europe’, as if the UK were not part of that perfid area ruled by bureaucrats in Brussels). Ever since the UK joined the European Union (1976), they have been a bad player. Thanks to Thatcher’s big mouth, the UK is actually being paid by the other member states to stay in the Union (the so-called ‘rebate’ of £2 billion, or €2.8 billion). And although the UK never joined the Schengen Area (every other member state did, even Norway and Iceland, non-EU members), they do not refrain from meddling in the way the passport free zone is being managed.

Actually, Britain’s list of bad behaviour to the EU is endless. It is therefore quite amazing that the other members of the Union still want Britain to be part of their club. Maybe the time has come start a Union-wide discussion on whether the UK should stay a member at all.

I personally think that Britain should be in the EU, but only when the Brits will play the game following the European rules they have set themselves. It would be a cultural, political and intellectual mistake for Britain not to focus on Europe, and in stead to focus west, to Big Brother US for instance. But if that’s how they want it, then they should do it. It is time however, to stop the ambivalence. My advice? Stop whining, and take the euromoney. Or run!

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