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Say "Yes" to the EU  

1) Green Energy - How to not use it
2) Railways - History and Future
3) A Silly Story
4) Cinderella
5) Croess
6) The House
7) How to Control Your Government
8) After Expenses: Is it time to abolish the House of Commons?
9) Say "Yes" to the EU
10) Dihydrogen Monoxide - An Appeal
11) The Train Operator's Guide to Getting Students Drunk in a Brewery
12) The Well
Department of Comment, Satire & Tripe

We like arguing things which nobody else will argue.

Britain plays host to three notable opinions on the EU - that we should go in as deeply as possible, that we should go in up to a point and that we would be much better off out. The extremely vocal "Silent Majority" is apparently currently of the latter view and so, in order to avoid losing votes over the subject, the Labour Party has taken to pretending that it doesn't like Europe, the Lib-Dems want a referendum on membership and the Tories have removed the EU from their maps and replaced it with "Here Be Monsters" (the last of which is actually a joke pinched from the short-lived ITV show Headcases).

The history of the EU is very simple. Once upon a time Europe was occupied by the Mediterranean people (around the Med.), the Celts (France, Britain, Ireland and a few other bits), the Goths (Germany, Austria, Poland and a few other nations), the Norsemen (that lot in furs, the north and the dark) and the lot who lived on an arc around the eastern end of the Goths between the Baltic and the Black Sea. Travel was difficult and the races were all separated by mountains, big rives or large expanses of sea, so they never met.

One of the Mediterranean tribes called the Romans got a bit full of themselves around 100BC and started invading everyone else. By 1BC they had halved the amount of space the Celts had to play with and smashed most of their Mediterranean neighbours. They had also had a go at the Goths, who proved not to be very squeamish (not so squeamish that they would opt out of stringing the guts of their defeated enemies around the trees) and very fond of passing on dubious stories about elk and their sleeping arrangements. By 100AD the only European race which hadn't had to worry about them too much were the Norsemen, who were happily isolated on the north side of wasteland, mountains, sea and the line which it is possible to go north of without starting to wear trousers. Then the Roman Empire collapsed and Western Europe entered the Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages ended up with the Celts losing Britain to the Goths in exchange for not losing it to the Norsemen - which worked for 300 years or so until the Goths invented the Danegeld (you pay the Dane not to come to this nice warm country and murder, rape and pillage, with the result that they take to coming much more frequently so they can be paid to go away again). The Celts in France stopped calling themselves Celts and the Goths, having bashed up the Romans and nearly destroyed civilisation, named themselves after the Romans and took to a very strange system of democracy where the person who called himself Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was elected every 20 years or so by the princes that he would be governing. The princes accepted this system as long as the Emperor didn't impose himself on them too much, with the result that the Goths couldn't get up enough fighting force to do anything of note. Thus the Eastern Europeans could fight each other, the Mediterranean people could divide up into city states and fall out and the Pope could claim that he was responsible for all of them and demand that they pay him to rebuild big stone buildings which they would never see. He had rather less luck with France and Britain, which grew too big and powerful to listen to a bloke in Rome, instead beating each other up at irregular intervals for most of the Second Millennium (excluding when one or the other took it out on the Spanish instead). When the Holy Roman Empire or its successor nations were in sufficiently good state to get involved they occasionally helped out at beating up France and upsetting the Pope.

The Holy Roman Empire fragmented and then reformed as Germany; the Italians and the Greeks began to reform their nations (the Italians because they had got rid of the Austrians and the Greeks because they had got rid of the Turks); the Eastern Europeans conglomerated into various countries and the French, British and Spanish stormed out to conquer the rest of the world and find other places to have their wars. Then they came home and demolished Belgium between 1914 and 1918; this war was truncated in November 1918 and after a 21 year ceasefire resumed in 1939. Germany conquered everyone apart from Italy (who were allies), Spain (who were sort of allies), Switzerland (who were so buried in the Alps that it was easiest to leave them alone) and Britain (who was left for later). The Russians and the United States of America eventually pitched in and in 1945 Europe was left in ruins with a dying Britain murmuring "I won" at the quartered Germany and the broken France.

The solution, Britain decided, was to revive France and Germany and persuade them to form an alliance. Russia opted out of this and took the eastern third of Germany and points East to form its own Empire. Points West were tidily formed into the Coal and Steel Union - a group which Britain would have joined were it not for a Labour Government which wasn't sure what to do about a Leader of the Opposition who had stormed off to change the world, with Truth, Justice, Freedom and the Churchill Way.

Instead Britain remained out until 1973, by which point the European Economic Community had obviously been a success since Europe had managed a record 28 years without France going to war with Spain, Germany or Britain, Britain punching up Spain or Germany inadvertantly invading Italy. There was also a union with the US which was useful for things like sharing nuclear secrets between each other and selling them to Russia without the US being able to tell who did it. There was the small matter of a recession in Britain caused by the British Government being too proud to accept that its currency really wasn't worth as much as it wanted it to be, but apart from that the European project was successful. Trading was much easier and everyone wanted to be part of the gang.

Nowadays there are many grand advantages. Standardisation is an obvious one. With the exception of Britain (and, occasionally, a couple of others), everyone in Europe works no more than 40 hours per week under the same safety law, is paid in the same currency, uses the same weights and measures and drives on the right. This allows people to travel much more easily and cheaply and they all have a rough idea of what their rights are as an employee. The problems of people entering lb into a box marked kg or miles into a box marked kilometres are reduced and cars sold in one European country can be sold with minimal modification in almost any other - barring Britain, who uses miles and lb, charges for things in a different currency (which is at least now based on base 10 rather than a mix of base 12 and base 20) and insists on all cars being modified at immense expense for right-hand drive, which rather reduces the benefits of the project. Occasionally Britain is backed up by the Irish.

Warfare has also been reduced. Nowadays the top politicians are treated as an international joke - Sarkozy is short, Berlesconi is corrupt and excessively fertile and Brown, like all British politicians, has a popularity rating which is inversely proportional to his success abroad. No longer is there an urge to summon up an army and destroy such people. Instead they are cheerily ridiculed and long speeches are made round tables in Belgium until they surrender and give Britain an opt-out. Germany has found that rather than taking over the world by invading everyone it can simply buy out their companies. Thus after British railfreight company EWS added some French services to its portfolio it was bought out by German national railway company Deutsche Bahn, which therefore now operates the majority of railfreight in the UK, various freight trains in France and Spain and the British Royal Train. Then we have Deutsche Post, which started out as the national German postal system and now owns DHL, thus giving it a finger in most countries in the world. The unfair thing is that the Germans co-operate - e.g. Deutsche Post looks at taking over Royal Mail while Deutsche Bahn takes over Royal Mail's rail-based postal services in the UK. It would have been like Royal Mail and British Rail sitting down and talking to each other so BR could do as much as possible for RM at a minimal price. This form of taking over the world makes the Germans feel good without involving any bloodshed, which is quite a good thing.

Each country can also now decide how they want to contribute to Europe and settle down to working at that. Britain can do the accountancy, Germany can do the aggressive marketing, Belgium can produce the chocolate, Eastern Europe can provide the food and the workforce, France can bring the wine and Spain can provide the holidays. This is helpful to everyone, since Britain no longer has to produce cars (which it was never any good at), France no longer has to make its agricultural industry competitive (which it was incapable of doing) and Eastern Europe can rest assured that it won't keep getting invaded by people who want their food.

Each country also finds it much easier to trade with other countries. Things can be sold between European nations much more cheaply than between countries which are outside Europe, which means that these products can be cheaper and the companies involved can make bigger profits. For some reason, this has avoided leading to a "closed shop" and Asian cars, American aeroplanes and African food are still popular.

Then there are the law and order benefits. The legal systems remain separate - something which causes trouble when Britain interprets things very literally after they have been written to leave France in no doubt at all that it is supposed to be doing something. But a criminal who goes around causing trouble on one side of the EU can be locked up for it on other sides of the EU. Which is really jolly handy.

Finally, what happens when Britain abandons the rest of Europe has been shown before. In 1530 King Henry VIII pulled out of the political union of Europe of the time - called the Catholic Church - and declared independence from everyone else. Shortly afterwards Europe's best time-keepers noticed that the calendar which was being used was ten days out of sync with the planet (the longest day of the year, for example is supposed to be on 21st June, but was falling on the 11th of June). Further calculations showed that there had been 10 leap years more than were really needed - 1500, 1400, 1300, 1100, 1000, 900, 700, 600, 500 and 300 - since the calendar which was being used had been introduced, so it was decided to take them out. The opportunity was taken at the same time to move the beginning of the year from March 25th to January 1st, which is neater. Leap years still happened once every 4 years, except when the year divided by 100 (when they were omitted), except when the year divided by 400 (when they still happened), which makes the calendar more or less accurate.

Britain, however, was not in Europe at the time. It was not in the fast lane going slowly, as John Major later put it. It had pulled over at a service station and was having a nice cup of tea (believed to be with a milk and two sugars). So it ignored this little alteration of the calendar, which meant that (as far as Continental Europe was concerned), 1601 began in Europe on January 1st and in Britain on April 5th. Britain, meanwhile, saw Europe begin 1601 on December 21st 1600; 1601 would not begin in Britain for another 93 days. This sort of thing makes working together very difficult. Unsurprisingly, Britain spent most of this period isolated from Europe or at war with someone. Things got slightly worse when Britain insisted on having a leap year in 1700, while the Continent wasn't planning on having another leap year which divided by 100 until the end of the millennium, so the new years ended up being 94 days out of sync.

Britain turned out only to be putting off the changeover; in 1750 the Calendar Act was passed and the two calendars were aligned again. Britain began 1751 on March 25th, as usual, but finished it on December 31st, only 11 days after the rest of Western Europe. The 11-day difference was eliminated in 1752, when the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th of September were all omitted from the calendar. The financial year remained 365 days long in both years (technically that which began on 25th March 1751 was 366 days long, since 1752 was a leap year - quibble quibble) and so the 11 days were added onto the end of the 1752/3 financial year, taking it to the 6th of April - pleas to the Exchequor that they had received 11 days of excess taxation since 300 being ignored. The calendar has remained that way ever since. It is now taken as read that every country in the world has the same calendar and that, whatever date and year today is, it is the same everywhere. It actually isn't; a few countries insist on having their own calendars, although it doesn't do them any good.

As there was nearly 200 years of inconvenience as a result of this delay caused by excessive British independence and Britain still ended up doing what everyone else did (and it now seems perfectly natural to do so), it seems fairly reasonable that, if the rest of Europe is going to standardise in a sensible manner, we should also do so.

So why not be in the EU?

Last modified 14/03/11

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