This week’s ban on British beef by France caused something of a problem for our nation’s red-top tabloids.
The import restrictions, which are in direct breach of a European Court ruling – not to mention the fundamental principles of the common market – were met with predictable outrage from the Sun who fumed that “the French were threatening the EU’s legal credibility”. Zoze nazty froggiez.
But hang on a second. Isn’t this the same Sun who, only last month, questioned the legitimacy of the EC’s ruling on metric measures? The very same Sun who, with the backing of the vast majority of its readers, demanded that Britain should be allowed to make its own laws without Europe poking its nose in? Why, yes it is.
But we can’t have it both ways. Either we want free movement of goods – even if it does mean that old women will get muddled and greengrocers will have to use a tiny bit more chalk on their pricing boards – or we want to play by our own set of rules – in which case we can’t complain when the French do the same.
Of course, the root cause of all this hypocrisy is the immense pride we take in knowing fuck all about Europe. While school children in other member states are being taught about the economic implications of the euro, the pros and cons of a central European judicial system and the motives behind free movement of goods and people, our European learning stops at August 1945. And it’s not just kids – adults are even worse, whining as we do that Europe (or ‘Brussels’) will ‘undermine Britain’s national identity and sovereignty’.
Of course it will. Or at least it would if our foreign policy decisions weren’t already being made in Washington, our entertainment and culture wasn’t being piped in from Los Angeles and our high street coffee shops, clothing and computer software weren’t being pre-fabricated in Seattle. After all our national dish is curry (or possibly Chinese), our national costume is Gap, our national currency is the Visa card and our national inflection is Australian. what exactly do we have left to lose? Our national xenophobia?
At least that one’s solid.