My own view is coloured by geography as much as history. The British Isles were always far further apart from the continent than the English Channel might suggest in its history, economy and philosophy. But World War II, which began 80 years ago this week, changed all that. Out of the carnage, the European Coal and Steel community arose in 1951 to stimulate economies and avoid conflicts via integration. It led directly to the European Union’s formation in 1993.
All my conscious life, the issue of the UK joining or leaving Europe has been contentious, starting with the French president Charles de Gaulle’s infamous “non” in the 1960s to the present-day farce. My father, an active Conservative, strongly supported integration for one reason: peace. He had been plucked from school to serve in WWII in Burma and had no wish to see war ever again.
The EU’s promise was of prosperity and peace and perhaps the focus has been too much on the former and not the latter. A united Europe has indeed delivered peace. It seems we take that too much for granted.
There has been too much overreach from Brussels affronting the independence we British hold so dear. However, to dispense with membership after the bungled Brexit referendum is surely a bridge too far.
From my eyes, albeit in another hemisphere, there remains much more that unites the whole of Europe than that which divides it.
Expatriates should usually butt out of the politics of their former homelands because they have no up-to-date experience, little stake in its future and often no authority.
But while we have no power or clout we can but hope, even pray, a better way through can be found without Britain beating itself to death.
Christopher Zinn is an Englishman with dual Australian citizenship. Since 1983 he has lived in Sydney, where he has previously worked here as a foreign correspondent for The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.