Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle was recently adapted into a 10-part miniseries. This pillar of alternate universe science fiction posited a branch of time which diverged from ours with the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt: the Axis won the Second World War, conquered the Commonwealth and USSR, and occupied the Americas.
A common refrain from many in the Leave camp is “why do the SNP want independence from the UK, only to hand it over to Brussels?” Such a baffling false equivalence between the constitutional monarchy of the UK and the supranational union of the EU can only be the result of one thing – a parallel universe, where the EU truly is to the UK what the UK is to Scotland.
In this bizarre world, the European Union is a unitary state in the United Nations. It is composed of four nations: Britain, Ireland, Denmark, and the vast Western Europe, many times larger than the other three put together. The capital city of Europe is Brussels, in Western Europe, which is also the location of the parliament. In recent years, Britain has reconvened parliament following a historic referendum: they have responsibility over health, education, local government, law and order, social work, housing, economic development, transport, environment, agriculture, forestry, fishing, sport and culture, with 63% of total public spending from the EU devolved to the British Parliament. However, Brussels still has control over the European Constitution, civil service, defence, national security, foreign policy, immigration, fiscal and monetary policy, oil revenues, trade & industry, income tax, corporation tax, VAT, employment, social security, nuclear energy, and broadcasting.
I watched a current affairs programme from this strange alternate universe….
(SCENE: a lavish, high-tech studio newsroom at the EBC Studio, Brussels. The following is translated from Esperanto, the national language of Western Europe. A stern, serious-looking news anchor sits behind a desk.)
UMBERTO: This is EBC news, I’m Valora Umberto. The headlines tonight: Brussels to announce further cuts to the budget amid accusations of incompetence; negotiations between Turkey and Armenia open in Ankara; the Prime Minister of Bhutan speaks to workers in Myanmar, urging them not to strike; three Europe United players are suspended over allegations of steroid use; President Trunderton issues a stern address to Mexico over the drug cartels; and the Pope meets with the new Dalai Lama for the first time.
(the camera cuts to a much smaller studio. The anchor’s smile is just a little too forced, an expression of tired resignation in her eyes.)
ANDRASTE: And on Reporting Britain: controversial plans for a “British Six” are criticised; tears of joy as Britain’s Jelena Zarta survives the first round of voting in Europe’s Got Talent; Wembley’s fire-fighters organise a music festival to fix their station roof; traffic delays cause frustration on the A8 to Glasgow; a missing hiker turned up safe and sound in Antrim; and meet Welsh Mountain Zoo’s Rory, the world’s grumpiest quokka.
(the camera returns to the main studio)
UMBERTO: Now, on the 23rd of June, Britain will be holding a referendum on separation from the European Union. Joining me in the studio is the EU Secretary of State for Britain Georgo Britus, economist Johano Hermano, the editor of La Eŭropa Petro Franko, and live via satellite, British Independence Party MBP and First Minister of Britain, Arthur Brennus. Now, Mr Britus, how did this referendum come about?
BRITUS: Well, the British Separatist Party won an extraordinary election in the devolved Westminster Parliament on a manifesto that promised a referendum on British separation from Europe. Now, while the European Government strongly believes that Britain is better together in the European Union by pooling and sharing its resources with the people of Europe, we also acknowledge its democratic right to a referendum, which we granted to them in the Eton Agreement. Without our express permission, the referendum would be illegal. While the Separatists wanted a third option, as well as an extremely leading question, we dictated the terms, and allowed the British Government some concessions. I’m confident the people of Britain don’t want to break up the country, and am certain they will say NO to separatism, NO to nationalism, and NO to the divisions and isolationism which our proud nation of Western Europe rejected back when it was formed.
UMBERTO: And Mr Hermano, what of the economic case for separation?
HERMANO: Thanks to the huge subsidies generously sent from Brussels courtesy of the European Taxpayer, the Britons enjoy far more lavishly financed public services than those across the channel. But unlimited public subsidy invariably produces a dependency culture of irresponsibility and infantilism — the assumption of entitlement without obligation. Britain is the dependency culture writ large. It can whine about Europe safe in the certainty that the Brussels cash cow will continue to deliver regardless. The Brussels subsidies also helped create fertile soil for the politics of infantilism in which the Britons specialise — more genteelly styled as Left-wing thinking — whose radical disconnection from reality has been cushioned by the generous largesse of the European taxpayer.
UMBERTO: Mr Franko, how have the people of Britain become so disillusioned that it’s come to a referendum on ripping up the country?
FRANKO: I just don’t know, Valora. What I do know is that Britain has been a happy region of Europe for many years: it’s only with the rise of British Separatism that we’re starting to see divisions and sectarianism. I don’t know whether it’s because very many Britons are stupid enough to believe that Henry V was a documentary, whether they’re brainwashed by their fascist-communist-socialist-libertarian-authoritarian-anarchist leader, or if it’s the atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity: whatever it is, it will be economic, political, and social suicide. It’ll end up a third-world tourist destination by 2030, a laughing stock and a backwater with a third world economy, too small to matter to anyone but itself. All because the BIP hate the Europeans.
UMBERTO: So, Mr Brennus, why do you hate the people of Western Europe?
BRENNUS: We don’t hate the people of Western Europe at all, Valora! What we want is democracy and self-determina-
UMBERTO: But surely you have democracy and self-determination already? Don’t you have a parliament?
BRENNUS: Yes, we do, and it’s a parliament with a far greater popular mandate than the current European government, but we don’t have all the powers which allow us to pursue the policies the people of Britain have shown they favour time and time again. In fact, the people of Britain rejected the very party which Mr Britus represents, not least because of the emphasis on the negative word “separatism” instead of inde –
UMBERTO: But is it not the case that without European subsidies, Britain would be facing a crippling financial black hole, a junk credit rating, and economic ruin, making it entirely bankrupt and forcing it to implement austerity on a scale seldom attempted in Europe?
BRENNUS: That “black hole” is what other countries call a deficit, and the reason we have this deficit is because the European People’s Party has control over our total budget.
HERMANO: Well, if you don’t like the party in power, then you can just vote them out, can’t you?
BRENNUS: Mr Hermano, the people of Britain haven’t voted for the European People’s Party since the 1950s, but we still get them as our government because the rest of Western Europe outvotes us every time. The only time the people of Britain get the government they want is when the rest of Europe agrees with them.
HERMANO: Yes, because we acknowledge that we are One Nation Europe, and the majority of the people of Europe voted for the European People’s Party! You don’t hear other regions like Austria or Slovenia wanting to separate just because their parties don’t get elected, do you?
BRENNUS: The fact that you’re calling Britain a “region” is why this referendum is happening!
(Hermano and Brennus talk over each other for a bit)
UMBERTO: Mr Brennus, if I may: you must admit Mr Hermano has a point. In a letter published today, many businesses throughout Europe signed a statement urging the people of Britain to vote No; this follows a statement from over 200 European celebrities asking Britain to stay in the EU. The EU security services have warned that Britain could be bombed by North Korea. The NATO Secretary General warned against attacks by space monsters. Are you saying they’re wrong?
BRENNUS: Valora, what we’re hearing is scaremongering from people with vested interests in making sure Britain remains in the European Union. Meanwhile, we have a member of the European People’s Party as the Secretary of State for Britain even though only 12% of the British people voted for it! In fact, he is the only member of the European People’s Party to be elected in Britain at all. This is the central point of independence for Britain, the right to have the government we vote for.
UMBERTO: Mr Franko, do you agree with Mr Brennus?
FRANKO: No, I don’t, and in fact I must confess to being quite appalled by Mr Brennus’s rhetoric. My mother was born in Britain, and my son goes to university there: I would be devastated if Britain separated from Europe, because then my son would be a foreigner. I don’t want my family to be foreigners to me. I don’t want my country – the country I was born in – to be broken up, and I think it’s appalling that only the people of Britain are allowed to vote in this referendum. Surely all of Europe should have a say in the future of this nation?
BRENNUS: Mr Franko, Western Europe’s population is much larger than Britain’s population: even if everyone in Britain voted one way, only a small proportion of Europeans have to vote the other way to overrule them. This should be a matter only for the people of Britain to decide, because the people who are most affected should have the ultimate say.
FRANKO: But how can you say that when so many Britons live in Western Europe? And yet, you allow Western Europeans living in Britain the vote, when they weren’t even born there! What kind of nationalist are you?
UMBERTO: On that note, Mr Brennus, a recent poll showed that only 25% of Britons say they feel “British not European”: does that not indicate that most people in Briton don’t want separation?
BRENNUS: Well you’ll note that the poll also says only 8% of Britons feel “European not British,” so I don’t know what you’re trying to-”
UMBERTO: Another – please don’t interrupt, Mr Brennus, it’s very rude – another poll found that only 33% of Britons support your government’s free tiny hats for little puppies policy. How can you justify that when 77% of the population doesn’t support it?
BRENNUS: Now that’s really unfair, the polls you refer to only say 2% are opposed, and the rest undecided. In any case, this referendum isn’t about any one party’s policy, it’s about the basic democratic principle that the people who live and work in Britain should-
UMBERTO: Mr Britus, Mr Franko raised an excellent point over identity. Don’t you think the people of Britain already retain their identity far more than, say, Gallia or Iberia?
BRITUS: I’d say the the British Parliament is the strongest devolved parliament in the world, for one thing. For another, we in Britain are unique in that we don’t have to choose between being British and European – we can be both. We can have all the benefits of being British, but also share in the success of the nation of Europe. I mean really, what would we have for a separate national anthem when the Western Europe anthem is so stirring and rousing? What would we use for currency? Who would be our central bank, if not the Bank of Europe? Would we even be forced into using English as our national language, a dead tongue that’s only still being perpetuated artificially by a separatist agenda that’s ultimately pointless, since every British speaker already speaks Esperanto anyway? You see, it all gets really very silly-
BRENNUS: I’m sorry, what’s silly about the idea of Britain having our own national anthem, or currency, or language?
UMBERTO: That’s actually a fair point from Mr Britus: Mr Brennus, the European Government has ruled out a currency union with you. So what’s your Plan B? Will you go back to the old British Pound, the Guinea, the Florin, what? Maybe the “Skinto?”(guests stifle giggles)
BRENNUS: We in the BIP believe a currency union will happen, and that this is just posturing from the European People’s Party: in the event Britain votes Yes, I think we’ll see a change in tune from Brussels. Really, we’re not looking to isolate ourselves from Europe on this or other issues like the European Broadcasting Corporation, or the Holy Roman Emperor.
FRANKO: I’m sorry, Arthur, I’m really very sorry, but that is just the height of arrogance and sheer hypocrisy. You say you want out of Europe, cut off all ties, break up the country, yet you want to share our currency, our EBC, our monarchy? It doesn’t even sound like independence at all: you just want to have your cake and eat it!
UMBERTO: Mr Hermano, is anything Mr Brennus proposes practical, or even feasible?
HERMANO: Well, frankly, I don’t see how. You’ll remember of course that Britain was completely bankrupt before the Union, and we Europeans spent an awful lot of money propping up a failed state. Now that Britain’s been part of Europe for such a long time, it seems an incredible act of self-mutilation that would trash our global identity. In voting for separation, there is a very real likelihood that Britain will become an economic backwater, enter into bankruptcy again, grovel at the feet of Europe begging to be let back in, and would have come cap in hand to Genova and the IMF, saying please rescue us from our own stupidity!
UMBERTO: Mr Franko?
FRANKO: I think it’s clear the economic case for separation is holed below the waterline – I see Mr Brennus shaking his head on the screen, but you cannot deny the hard facts – and I think in the months, perhaps even weeks following a Yes vote, we would be seeing chaos in the streets from the British people. The people of Britain may rue the day they followed the Pork-Pie Piper, and I think Mr Brennus should be careful what he wishes for: he might end up dangling from a lamppost if he gets the separation he so desperately wants.
UMBERTO: We’re running out of time, so I’ll ask for some final thoughts, starting with Mr Brennus: can you please sum up the case for separation in two minutes or less?
BRENNUS: To be frank, Valora, I think yourself & your the studio guests have made the case for independence far more convincingly than I ever could, but I’ll try: all the people of Britain want is to be a normal country like hundreds of others on the planet. We want the right to decide whether we go to war or not; for our bank notes and language and culture and life to be taken seriously, and not dismissed as parochial or quaint or cringeworthy by our own broadcasters; to choose not to have American nuclear bombs parked outside London against our will; to assert our right of self-determination without being called anti-European; to have our own national anthem that doesn’t call us rebels that need to be crushed; to decide for ourselves what to do with our money instead of Brussels deciding how much of our own money we get back, & calling us “subsidy junkies” for wanting our fair share. It isn’t about Britain being better than anyone else: it’s about nobody being better than us.
UMBERTO: And to present the case for Better Together, Mr Britus?
BRITUS: Well, we have a while to go until the referendum, but currently polls are showing 25-30%. I think it’s pretty clear that there is no appetite for separation among the British people, and it looks unlikely they will gain enough ground for anything over 35%. A close result like 40%-60% will be undesirable, of course, but given that Mr Brennus has pledged that this referendum will be Once In A Lifetime, I think it’d be safe to say that it would be the settled and sovereign will of the British people. We have already seen countless European politicians promising to make Westminster the most powerful devolved parliament in the world, a proposition far superior to the uncertainty of independence. Our pensions, jobs, and national security can only be safe with a No vote, and Arthur Brennus’ plans for a separate Britain have been comprehensively debunked. All this, without questioning whether Britain would be allowed back into the UN: the Secretary General said that Britain would have to get to the back of the queue, after all. Strangely, nobody seems to question the sheer hypocrisy of leaving one union of nations, only to join another! Why swap Brussels rule for New York rule: why reject our fellow Europeans, but welcome anyone else with open arms – so long as they don’t have a European accent? There is no case for separation, be it on economic, political, or – especially – moral grounds.
UMBERTO: I think it would be quite hard to get back in. Now, our two neutral and impartial guests; Mr Hermano?
HERMANO: I actually wonder if Mr Brennus really does want “independence” at all. We already know he wants to keep the currency, the EBC, and the Emperor: I think this whole referendum is just another ploy to wrest more concessions from Brussels, funded by hardworking Europeans. He can threaten us with separation, and Brussels will just send more money and powers. Already, Europe spends much more on Britain than Britain contributes: I don’t think the people of Europe are happy with that state of affairs. Britain needs Europe a lot more than Europe needs Britain. Much safer, Mr Brennus no doubt thinks, to remain in Europe, but put on a big show of “taking the fight” to Brussels on behalf of the British people without actually doing anything meaningful. Speaking as someone strictly neutral, I don’t think there’s a single positive argument in the case for separation.
UMBERTO: And finally, Mr Franko?
FRANKO: I’m dreadfully worried that we may be too complacent. We are content in being in the right, and having the clear majority. Not one newspaper in Britain supports separation; none of the major news channels do either, certainly not the unbiased EBC; nearly every member of the European Parliament opposes separation apart from other fringe separatists; the vast majority of businesses, economists, banks – people who are responsible for an awful lot of money – all warn of economic disaster in the event of separation; even the BIP’s own former leaders have criticised them. Yet one need only look at what happened decades ago to see where complacency led us: selfishness, parochialism, hatred, fascism, treason, blood and soil nationalism, which is what the BIP are promoting no matter what they say. These things are no laughing matter, nor – again – the despicable disenfranchisement of millions of Britons who live in Europe by xenophobic dictators. As another neutral who doesn’t want to tell the people of Britain how to vote, I can only pray that the people of Britain aren’t making a huge mistake.
UMBERTO: Thank you, our studio guests. Coming next is the film, except for viewers in Britain, who will be treated to a special two-hour debate on separation at 9 o’clock tonight. From all of us here at EBC, good night.
In all seriousness, “Ode to Joy” vs “God Save the Queen” isn’t even a contest. I’d even take it over “Flower of Scotland,” it’s so glorious. (But not “Scots Wha Hae”)