20 Jun 2016 - The patriotic case for Britain in the EU

The phrase "British values" is a powerful shibboleth. The utterance of it tends to separate people into those whose chin rises at the thought of fair play and railways, and those whose chin recoils at the thought of colonialism and other suspicious motives. It tends to be the case that the former are traditionalists and the latter are progressives; but I fall into what seems to be a relatively small group: the patriotic progressives who love British values.

One side effect of widespread disdain for British values among progressives has been the surrender of the patriotic case for Britain over to the Brexit campaign. This annoys me a great deal, because I think that liking British values is one of the strongest arguments for staying *IN* the EU. While European values are not identical to British ones, the fact is they are usually pretty damned close, and many of the European institutions were actually set up by Brits with British values in mind.

This newspaper article makes a very important point: global liberal democracy is *not* a predestined outcome in the future. In fact, right now it's pretty unlikely within our lifetime. There is no reason to believe that liberal democracy, as we understand it, will be dominant in any part of the world outside of Europe or North America - sections of the world that account for just 17% of human population and falling.

And while some progressive may cheer that as some sort of weird pay-back for colonialism, my experience of such people is that - while they may have had romantic backpacking holidays in Sri Lanka or equivalent - they haven't usually spent time in the great powerhouse cities and countries that will dominate the next century: China, Singapore, Dubai, Russia, etc; an experience that brings a stark understanding of what a world dominated by illiberal non-democracy might look like.

Those who cherish British values and think that's a reason to leave the EU are shooting themselves in both feet. We won't be stronger in the face of future Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern opposition to British values if we walk away from the other people who think most like us in the world.


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