The cultural and trade links which join us with Europe are evident in an ancient Byzantine ring, found in the UK.
Around 8000 years ago, Europeans started to enter Britain in larger numbers. Unwelcoming ice age glaciers had retreated, the newly complete English Channel not a formidable barrier, or further travel along our coastline.
Goods, or ideas came with, or followed them, along with a culture that was reinforced many times in history. We have welcomed, or been invaded by the Beaker People, Romans, Saxons, Scandinavians, Normans and a myriad of others who themselves were a fair mix.
We choose to divide Europe into countries but the reality is that our heritage comes from each other. Subordination has changed many times, with us being ruled, or supposedly British monarchs ruling parts of Europe, now we have another change.
The Brexit Hiatus
Hopefully we will not go back to William the Conqueror style diplomacy, or our child ruler, Henry VI presiding over France. Brexit has nevertheless caused a split but history tells us this will be temporary.
The building of, or needs of empire will not cause centuries of delay, before we are further involved in Europe. People’s outlook and access to information have also changed, although the process won’t be instant.
As happened in the 1950s and 1960s, we may for a while lean away from Europe, for similar political reasons. This could prolong the gap, or leave us facing disadvantageous terms on trade, or on rejoining if that is the wish.
We are however less concened than in past times about Europe dominating us, or one European country trying to dominate them. In the global scenario we now inhabit, relationships elsewhere will lead thinking.
To other nations, the words of Margaret Thatcher make sense, “We are inextricably part of Europe.” In exchange for trade, they will want us to ensure access, to make their lives easier as we enrich our own.
They understand that the old benefits of truly free trade, such as those which made America a power house, no longer apply. Partnerships are required, even China has accepted this in a variety of ways.
A Joint Future
Those of us who are old enough will recall pre Common Market days, when suddenly being able to travel to France without a passport was news. This gradual softening may well be what we see over coming years.
Politicians will change, as they do, leaving wriggle room for those following. Officials, business people and scientists will find kindred spirits and cooperate, quietly insisting regulations are relaxed, so they can achieve.
Perhaps a decade before the talk of sovereignty and borders totally falls away, in recognition that we don’t rule the waves any more. Even when we did, our politics and economics were essentially European.
Over the past few weeks our ATA carnet business has started to grow again, on the back of visits to a continent we are an integral part of. Welcome in a sense but there is little doubt the time will come when people don’t need them.