Thursday, May 26, 2016

Will it all end in tears – either way? Well, that’s what they seem to be predicting. But, hey, I’m still on holiday

Bad Gastein – Day before the Last Day (whichever that is)

And the should we/shouldn't we tell the EU to fuck off and leave our cucumber sandwiches along circus rolls on and on and on, leaving you, me and just about everyone else who doesn’t have a dog in this fight baffled and bewildered and bored. Both sides are predicting an economic holocaust if we don’t follow their cause – both sides. Which leaves me just a teensy bit uncomfortable: things are going tits up whatever happens. Well, great!

I have talked to several people over these past few months about it all – I’m not shy with strangers, just people I am close to – and by a stretch most seem to feel they are in the same schtuck as me, that just because you don't, as I don't, buy into all the Brexit/UKIP/Boris Johnson bollocks doesn't mean you are obliged to accept the other side hook, line and sinker. And it’s a real pain. Most of us
are very familiar with the genesis of what is now the EU, but I suggest it is unfair, perhaps even downright dishonest, to suggest that the original six, then 12, ultimately had their eyes on what might be characterised as a 'United States of Europe'.

What was uppermost in their minds, given that World War II had ended just a decade earlier, to come to some kind of arrangement which might ensure Continental-wide war and the death and destruction that brought with it was as unlikely as possible. The original grouping of six then evolved into an effective and profitable trading body and over the years other states joined. And that was when Britain first became interested (and there's nothing wrong with that). It has been pointed out ad nauseam that when Britain joined and when Britain first voted on whether to remain a member or not, the notion of political union was, at the very least, not a public one and was most certainly not publicly discussed.

It is quite fair to claim that private discussions between the politicians and theoreticians of different member states notwithstanding 'political union' was most certainly not presented to the public as an ultimate goal. And had it been, a certain Mrs Margaret Thatcher who campaigned to remain a member of the then EEC in the first referendum would most certainly not have done so. All that changed with the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and I think when in future historians attempt to trace the seeds of the collapse of the EU, they will pinpoint that treaty.

This was when all the political union bollocks came in. And this was when that and attendant notions of a common currency etc were introduced. In a sense it was all introduced in a rather
underhand fashion. For most member states, especially those which had emerged from totalitarianism or dictatorhip, membership was economically fabulous and they were prospering rather well, and rather sooner than they might have expected to do so. In addition they were benefiting from all kinds of EU projects to build up the infrastructure of their countries.

When gradually the various former Communist Bloc states joined, it was most certainly to be able, to put it bluntly, to get a piece of the action: they wanted good times and good business, and becoming a member of the EU seemed the easy way to get them. I don't doubt that they were also aware of the, by now public, aspirations for 'political union', but nor do I doubt that they didn't fully realise the implications.

Then there was the infamous Lisbon Treaty and the cracks were already beginning to show. And as happens with such cracks in fundamentally flawed organisations, they were papered over as best as was possible with more serious repair work put off until later. But just how - I shall consciuously use the word - corrupt the EU had become was demonstrated by the response by Brussels to the Irish
No vote. It was ignored, the Irish were asked to vote again and this time a slight majority said Yes.

Certainly, there was a bit of tinkering with the Treaty text to ensure a Yes vote, but that was largely legerdemain: the ultimate objectives, arguably which the Irish had initially rejected, were still in place. Corruption doesn't necessarily have to mean backhanders and cronyism. One salient point, I think, is that the post-war idealists and bureaucrats who organised the Coal and Steel Community with time grew older and retired and were replaced with a certain other kind of politician and bureacrats.

By the late 1970s on establishing a career in the EEC/EC/EU was a nice number, a very, very nice number. I also suggest that those men and women who in the 1970/80/90s threw in their lot with 'le projet' as it became and made Brussels their home were the same who 10/20/30 years earlier were part of the 'student revolt' of the 1960s and who came to realise that they might still have their left-liberal ideas adopted Europe-wide by using the mechanisms of the EU. But they, too, in time
and very ironically, came to be seduced by the exercise and trappings of power, the copper-bottomed pensions and the rest. I am pretty convinced the EU will collapse spectacularly and destructively if isn't subjected to a root and branch process of reform. But that is unlikely to happen.

The trouble is that if Britain does remain a member, the danger is that any long-term reforms will be shunted aside in the interests of short-term advantage and it will all be back to square one. Come June 23, I shall be voting to Remain, but only because it is the lesser of two bloody great evils. But not by much. As for the EU ensuring peace in Europe (a facile claim which could equally be made about the Eurovision Song Contest), that piece of fiction might well come to bite Europe in the bum by 2030.

. . .

Was off again yesterday, to a place called Zell am See. Well, actually, not to the place but to a Gasthof on the side of the mountain overlooking the lake, called Mitterberghof. There I had my first Wienerschnitzel of this holiday and pretty much my first piece of meat. I did have a few slices of smoked ham and salami in a salad of sorts the other night at an Italian place called Angelo’s, but I’ve got to save that although I am most certainly not a vegetarian, I do find increasingly that I don’t eat a lot of meat. The exception will be tonight, however, when I go to a nearby steakhouse which, the owner of the Pension St Leonhard assures me, does a mean steak tartare. And boy do I love steak tartare, especially if it’s a mean one.

Sitting at the Mitterberghof, I was also again messaging a woman the other side of the world who has agreed to let me mention her here, but to please now call her Libz so that she cannot be identified. I did actually mention her in an earlier post by name, but I can’t think that will do much damaged. She isn’t 54 as she first told me, but 34, but I am still 66. (Oh, well, I had my time.)

I must admit there is still a small part of me who wonders whether perhaps he is quietly being lined up for some Nigerian scam and that it has started in Melbourne, Australia, is merely an indication about just how subtle fraudsters are getting. But what the hell: as long as I keep my hand firmly on my wallet in my back pocket – and make it obvious that that is what I am doing and not just feeling up my arse in public – I should be fine.

Here’s a piccy I took from my table on the terrace of the Mitterberghof.

PS Still got the hives, dammit. It comes and goes. It is rather like the prickling I got when I was coming off the codeine addiciton I accidentally landed myself with.

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