The Man in the High Castle

in Lifestyle · 09-02-2017 16:19:00 · 0 Comments

In case you have missed the series, this Amazon production fictionalises the premise that the victorious axis of Germany and Japan now rules the world, albeit that each of the conquerors is deeply suspicious of the other and seeks total domination. In the light of history, the hypothetical outcome of the chain of events stimulates the imagination sufficiently enough for us to say – what if?

The UK’s very own Man in the High Castle with his vision of potential Armageddon was finally vanquished on June 24th 2016 when, collectively, but with deep-seated demographic divisions, the UK voted to leave the EU. With the benefit of hindsight, our Man might well feel that he should not have been encouraged by political fear to seek a referendum and, even if he had, the questions for the public to consider should have been phrased with a slightly more accurate bias.

Had the knotty issue been presented in a marginally different way by trying some virtual reality questions, we might have ended up with a ballot paper which asked the following:-

  1. Should we not only stay in the EU, but seek to establish closer monetary, economic and political ties in the future?
  2. Should we put up with the arrangement as it is at the present and look to change things from within in the future with no guarantee that we can?
  3. We are only half in anyway. Should we come out all together?

The obvious response to this revised ballot is that it would have made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. As far as ex-pats living in the EU are concerned, the overwhelming majority would have split their vote between questions 1 and 2 with a larger preference for the second option. Within the UK, a few hard remainers, maybe led by Tony Blair, would have leaned toward option 1, an anathema to the vast majority. The second question might have sounded a little more appealing to some leavers, but overall, whether your vote was driven by the impact of immigration, the economy or plain old ingrained attitudes, there is no doubt that we would still be where we are today.

The ‘what if’ that intrigues is the appeal of question 1 had it been posed at the time of the first referendum on EEC membership in 1974. At that time, we were dealing in the UK with a three day week, an oil crisis, inflation of around 20% and eye watering levels of public and balance of trade deficits. Just what number of the 66% who voted to remain would have craved the heady heights of a major role in shaping the future of the integrated force of the seven most powerful economies in Europe?

The six founder members of the EEC who had come together in 1958 should have realised there was trouble ahead as far as the UK was concerned. Since the first application to join in 1961, De Gaulle had wisely blocked the British application on two occasions and it was only with his departure and the determination of Heath to give whatever was necessary to join the club, that, finally, in 1972, along with Ireland and Denmark, the UK succeeded.

It must have seemed to the Europeans that the UK saw the achievement of joining – and, in doing so, cocking a snoot at De Gaulle – as the objective and not the actual membership. The UK’s reaction was like the petulant child who has cried so long to get the ball from the other players that, having got it, he is no longer interested in playing. Can you draw any other conclusion from Labour’s decision barely two years after joining to insist on renegotiating the UK’s terms of membership and calling a referendum to decide whether we should stay or go?

It could be argued that this tantrum really determined the path the UK has followed in the forty odd years since Roy Jenkins became President of the European Commission and the UK opted not to join the European Monetary System. Successive UK governments have blown hot and cold as far as EEC/EU membership is concerned; the British influence over all aspects of European policy making has waned and the capricious attitude shown to certain major aspects of EU legislation must have demonstrated to many committed Europeans that we were doing more to undermine the Union than support its aims and objectives.

Of course, whoever happens to be the Man (or Woman) in the High Castle will defend the UK’s hokey-cokey approach to opting out and in of EU policy decisions as protecting the national interest. However patriotic this excuse may sound, it is, at best glib and, at worst, a determined stubbornness to see Britain as apart from the others. Can you ever recall a decision taken by a UK leader as being in the European interest? The simple truth is that the British are very inadequate at being European or, come to that, anything other than being British. The English Channel has a lot to answer for.

If you can stomach one more ‘what if’ by striving to imagine that Britain had seized Roy Jenkin’s high ground, joined the EMS and played a leading role in shaping the club rules, could we have convinced the founding members to avoid enlarging the membership as a sop to NATO with countries whose economic and social circumstances were simply not compatible with the rest, but offered a geographical defence against the Soviet threat?

There was a golden opportunity to adopt an elitist posture and create a formal associate membership scheme which permitted common market access, a programmed labour market integration based on the homogenisation of labour rates and economic performance. Above all, with the UK as a full blown member of the Euro and offering its muscle to enhance and strengthen the currency, associates would have their own currencies pegged to the Euro, reviewed at regular intervals with disciplines imposed which avoided major socio-political upheavals. Today, if Britain had flexed its muscles and insisted that new applicants achieve relative parity to move from associate to full membership, the club would probably have nine or ten full members and nineteen associates, controlled labour movement which did not spill over into more explosive immigration issues and a decision making forum which was manageable and really worked.

As it is, the long and unhappy saga is about to end. We have yet to see the economic and financial impact which the decision to leave will have both within the UK, but, equally important, within the EU. Whatever the outcome, the Man in the High Castle has left the UK and Europe with more schisms and potentially dangerous divisions than he could ever have imagined. In this instance the young turks were outgunned by the grey rinsers, but who is to say that when my generation and its prejudices are long gone, that sanity will once again prevail.

As for the rump of the EU that remains, whilst the loss of a substantial part of the UK’s financial contribution will have a serious impact, behind the crocodile tears and damp handkerchiefs, you can bet that a large number of committed Europeans will be trying to find the politically correct way to say ‘good riddance’. The real challenge that they face is to turn the cumbersome, unwieldy and disjointed structure into a cohesive and workable union for the future. This will be no easy task.

For the UK, there is one overriding factor to never overlook. Whatever the current OCD with free trade and immigration, as Joe Biden succinctly reminds us, the origins of this Continent’s union was to ensure that we would never again pass through a century when Europeans slaughtered Europeans as we did in the last.

Which brings us neatly back to the Man in the High Castle. Enjoy the series; it’s only fiction.

Geoff Cook


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