With a whole host of BBC air-time dedicated to World War One this year, arguments about whether the whole thing was justified have made a resurgence. There are those like Jeremy Paxman, who believe we had no choice in 1914, and those like Niall Ferguson, who think we made a fatal mistake.
Admittedly, most of those in Niall’s camp aren’t there for quite the same reasons as him- indeed, this is a mirrored trend when it comes to Niall Ferguson. While most hate the First World War for the horrors it involved, Niall believes that preserving the glorious British Empire for another decade would have been a far nobler cause than keeping Europe free of German hegemony.
Whatever reason they have for being in that camp, they are still wrong.
In total, Britain has lost roughly 1,582,545 soldiers in European wars between 1803 and 1945. This figure does not even include total casualties of the British Empire, which would have made it far higher. From Napoleon Bonaparte, through to Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler, men of the British Empire have given their lives to stop any European power from securing dominance over the rest. Indeed, the cost of WW1 left Britain unable to sustain an Empire after the 1940s.
Nigel Farage and his “swivel-eyed loons” are demanding a split with Brussels and the European community. Ignoring the fact that most UKIP supporters are mostly remnants of the country gentry, wearing tweed and smoking pipes, UKIP policy fails to recognise our duty towards the fallen.
The men who fell at Waterloo, Ypres, the Somme, D-Day and Operation Market Garden were probably not fighting for grand notions of European solidarity, but we would be wrong not to use the place in European debate that their deaths have bought us. We surely owe them that much? To ensure that the Europe they helped save doesn’t go to the neo-liberal shits?
The EU as it currently stands is not fit for any kind of purpose. Among Britons of all stripes, that is generally the consensus; whether from perceived excessive immigration from Eastern Europe (a paranoia not totally unconnected to the legacy of Bram Stoker) or exasperation at the nanny-state tyranny of the bureaucrats in Brussels.
Contrary to popular belief, what’s wrong with Europe has less to do with vampires coming to England and eating the middle-classes, and more to do with allowing the trans-national capitalist class a badge of legitimacy for anything that takes their fancy.
The European Union needs serious reform: the European Parliament needs far more members, and more power over the rest of Brussels machinery. Perhaps making the EU a more direct democracy will help to calm the British fear of Dracula.