I remember so clearly when the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in January 1973, which we all referred to colloquially as the Common Market, and I also remember the referendum in 1975 when the UK chose still to remain within the EEC. I remember particularly because we did an EEC research project at school at the time, politically simplistic perhaps in the grander scheme of things but my first real awareness of the longterm consequences of political choices and decisions.
It’s where in particular I learned all about the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which for me, growing up in Scotland’s rural agricultural/ fishing/ forestry community was probably the topic of most relevance to me at the time, and was certainly the most pertinent political issue in my pre-teen world that has stuck the longest in my middle-aged brain. I was suddenly keenly aware of the whole geographical context of being in Scotland, of being within the UK, and then of being within Europe and how that works within the context of the rest of the world.
And now here I am in my mid-fifties and the UK is currently in the process of extricating itself existentially from what is now the more modern version of the European Union (EU) in what feels like a far less dignified manner than the accepted concensus with which we first entered into the original legally binding relationship. And like any other divorce after 40-odd years of marriage, it’s messy and manipulative as each side inevitably seems to want to have its cake and eat it too when negotiating such a complex divorce settlement.
Except it’s not even as simple as that one-on-one duality because the UK is effectively divorcing itself from 26 other disgruntled partners, not just one. And its the UK alone that wants to dissolve the partnership, so to all intents and purposes it is the multi-national EU who is the injured party, and the UK who is playing the arrogant aggressor in this complete disintegration of economic and national security alliances, so surely we have to accept we can’t have everything our own way? Especially as we can’t even agree as a country as to what we want out of it.
In my mind here in the UK we’ve gone from the Common Market to an Uncommon Mess, and I’m sick to death of the stupidity of still squabbling inwardly over it all. The way I see it we now have three stark choices – walk away self-righteously alone with nothing but our ‘freedom’, accept the already negotiated but vastly compromised settlement on offer and get on with it, or just give up on our divorce proceedings altogether and stay married for the forseeable future. But we need to decide soon, because the clock’s ticking down while we waste our time picking faults and prevaricating over perfection…