The arrogance behind British nationalism is not supported by facts
One of the nationalistic-inspired assumptions behind those who support Brexit is that Britain is in some way ‘better’ than its European neighbours, and, for that reason, should not be in a union with them. That assumption is worth probing with a few facts. Let me take Britain’s neighbours to be Ireland, France, Germany, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and Scandinavia, all democracies since the Second World War. It is worth noting that this group of countries, including Britain, contains a majority of the EU’s population and wealth.
Among these countries, according to the IMF in 2017, Britain is the poorest in GNP per head, with $ 43 500 per year – only marginally below France, but well below Germany on $ 49 800. The smaller countries of Benelux, Ireland and Scandinavia are all considerably richer. For working people, in comparison with their counterparts among the European neighbours, things are even worse: Britain is the most economically unequal, with inequality at an index of 34 – France and Germany both score 29. To understand these figures zero represents complete equality while inequality in the United States stands at 40.
In fact, Britain is more unequal today than at any point since the middle of the nineteenth century; and even in absolute terms in the period 2009-16 a massive 70% of households experienced stagnation or a drop in income. Inequality is linked to a dysfunctional society. In every 100 000 people Germany imprisons 81, France 118, but Britain a staggering 150.
And what will Brexit improve? Trade barriers will impede the economy; the only question is by how much. And, on top of that, Britain’s drift towards a low tax, low regulation regime will increase social inequality still further. The outlook is grim.
I am not suggesting that everything in Britain is bad and that everything is perfect among our neighbours, but merely that reality is very different from what the Tory Brexiteers tell us, and from what the ‘patriotic little men’ of UKIP believe.