Wednesday, 1 October 2014


The remarkable thing about the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles was the teamwork Europe showed in this most ‘teamly’ of golf formats, the foursomes, which we won 7-1. I shall no doubt reflect more and deeper on how it is four Englishmen and representatives from eight other European countries came together as one cohesive synchronised unit. How it was that even suspiciously UKIP looking spectators were howling “Europe! EEUURRope!!!” How for one glorious weekend we all felt as one.

And yet we are increasingly Eurosceptic with 51% saying they’d vote to exit and only 40% voting to stay in in a recent MORI poll.

I suppose if we exit we’ll no longer be part of the Ryder Cup which will be very good news for the USA. Just as it was for us when an always-beaten Britain in golf joined forces with Europe and the miracle started because of that alliance. Do we detect a possible lesson here?

But that would be less sad than the loss of what feels like an increasingly natural link. I actually feel more European than at any time in my life. Do I hate Brussels bureaucracy? Of course. Do I admire the Euro economy? Not particularly, no. But do I think we have a huge and necessary leadership role in the Europe of the future - of course I do. Without the UK I really do suspect Europe may not make it.

And I’m influenced by UK business leaders - a hard headed bunch - 80%+ of whom say we should stay with Europe. The CBI spell out the numbers saying that at around £70 billion a year EU membership is worth nearly 5% of Britain’s GDP.

The desire to leave is less well founded by far than the Scottish “yes” votes’ argument was.
Back to golf and that astonishing cultural harmony we saw. It was more than golf. The US team were statistically on average slightly stronger but the star spangled banner didn’t have the clout or the passion of that star-circled device for the EU.

I felt as though I was watching the possibility of “Europeness” as German embraced Spaniard and Dane embraced Scot. Unlike the World Cup or the European Song Contest Britain seemed happy to be in close company with its neighbours.

The mood in Britain is pretty well anti-everything at present. We have become a nation of “Doom Dabblers”. Given this I am not hopeful of a referendum on Europe.

I am (I recognise this) irrepressibly and even irritatingly optimistic.
But there are two guiding principles here though not just a bucket of warm Bonheur.

The world needs more collaboration. Being small may be beautiful but things are too complex to do them solo.

Learning to be in and loving being in a team needs strength of will and empathy. Opting out is always the easier choice.

Little Britain could be great in a united Europe which it helped lead. Or we could be proud, independent, little and ignored.

Our choice.

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