It’s not the VE Day we would have wanted, but it will have to do. Bunting still abounded, Vera Lynn blared from our screens and radios, and the Queen played her part as well as ever. This year’s remarkable status has been confirmed, with another bank holiday weekend turning out (for the most part) warm and sunny. Of course, that would happen the one year we are all locked down.
The reflective but optimistic patriotism of VE day is something we can hope will be emulated as Britain continues to think about its role in a post-Brexit (and, we must hope, post-Covid) world. It has been a good time to look back at the bravery and resilience of the wartime generation – qualities that will be needed again in the coming months. May the next 75 years see our country operate as a force for good in international affairs, cooperating with other nations, while not forgetting to celebrate and uphold our own values and traditions. And here’s hoping it won’t be too long before we can get to a pub for a proper celebration.
It is probably condescending, but it is possible to feel sorry for Remainers. Their preference for a super-national body over the tried and tested national democratic sovereignty of the UK seems very old hat only a few months after leaving the EU. Not only have most EU populations ‘turned to the nurse’ of their national state in preference to the ‘something worse’ of the EU when the chips are down in a pandemic, but the UK is a blaze of union jacks celebrating a generation who were overwhelmingly Leavers.
Meanwhile even the Germans celebrate VE day. This year President Steinmayer said ‘we Germans…must liberate ourselves from the temptation of a new nationalism … from xenophobia and contempt for democracy’. One important move in this direction came from the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, which this week explosively ruled itself to be supreme over the ECJ. The issue was ECJ support for ECB purchases of the debt of countries like Italy. It is illegal says Karlsruhe, overruling the ECJ which takes the opposite view.
We shall have to see what is said about the loosening of the lockdown later this evening. All reports suggest there will be little change, though some of the more pedantic rules about the number of times a day it is permissible to exercise will most likely be relaxed. The government – worried by earlier mistakes in delaying lockdown and an infection rate inflated by outbreaks in care homes – seems determined to behave with the utmost caution. Not that we can be sure that continuing the lockdown is in fact the most cautious option, with deaths from non-corona causes and the toll on the economic and mental health of the nation continuing to mount.
The Brexit negotiations have been eclipsed by more pressing matters and have reached something of stasis only weeks before the June talks deadline. The big issues of free trade, regulatory autonomy and fish are all on hold. Thankfully, little progress is being made on the Irish Sea border, although many do not seem to realise that the principle of an Irish Sea border was already conceded in the Withdrawal Agreement and is independent of any negotiations on free trade etc. HMG are likely to continue refusing Brussels’ audacious demand for a customs overview office in Belfast, but this is not the main game. A British go-slow on customs infrastructure is infuriating the EU Lets hope it continues to do so.
BfB co-editor Robert Tombs has written a piece in this week’s Sunday Times, discussing Germany’s role in twentieth-century century European history, entitled ‘You might almost think Germany won the war’. He discusses how Germany’s reluctance to take a leading role continues to shape the politics of the EU today.
Meanwhile, our other co-editor, Graham Gudgin, has written an analysis of Irish coronavirus statistics, ‘Covid-19 across Ireland: What the data can tell us’, for Policy Exchange. He shows that with the available data it is not yet possible to reach a definitive conclusion on which jurisdiction – Northern Ireland or the Republic – has the higher death rate. The most reasonable judgement is that the death rates are approximately the same.
On the website this week
The end of global trade? Not likely, by Catherine McBride
Recently there have been many newspaper articles about how the Covid-19 virus and subsequent lockdown will change our lives forever: less commercial, less international travel and much less global trade. However, in the case of global trade, economist Catherine McBride is not convinced.
“Global trade will not stop until it is just as efficient to produce the same standard of good in one country as another.”
EU: Done for? by John Ranelagh
Hard-headed financial experts are beginning to think that the EU is beyond saving. It’s been said before, of course. But this time it might be true. Historian John Ranelagh explores the evidence.
“There are non-economic factors that push towards major changes in the EU, if not break-up.”
VE Day, Winston and Us, by Adrian Hill
Former diplomat Adrian Hill provides us with an eye-witness account of VE Day as a not quite five-year-old child, Winston Churchill’s vision of our future, and how that might guide us today.
“The coming era will see three groups of countries – those who believe in freedom of thought, word and deed; those who believe in fortress walls controlling everything within their empires; and those who don’t know which way to jump.”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook. Liz Glaisher thinks that the end of the EU is imminent, commenting, “At Last, the penny has dropped with the bubble dwellers.”
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge