Sunday 13 March 2016

Citizen and Subject

Postcard from the turn of the last century
Last week, reluctantly the Queen has been dragged into 'Brexit'.  While the nature of her entry into the debate was unexpected, the lack of debate on her changing role in Europe and Britain is surprising.

We are, afterall, citizens of Europe and 'British subjects', because in a monarchy the monarch is the source of authority in whose name all legal power in civil and military law is exercised.  While legally the term 'British Subject' since 1981 is only used for Comonwealth people who do not have citizenship in the country where they live, if we were to exit Europe our status would change to being solely under the protection of 'the crown' - a significant change in our status and that of the Queen.

So, as Winston Churchill, chief architect of 'European Union' once said:
'What is this plight to which Europe has been reduced? Some of the smaller states have indeed made a good recovery, but over wide areas are a vast, quivering mass of tormented, hungry, careworn and bewildered human beings, who wait in the ruins of their cities and homes and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new form of tyranny or terror.'University of Zurich, 19 September 1946
The language very much reflects that of our press (and some of our politicians) in reference to both the recent economic crisis and the refugee crisis in Europe - only yesterday the BBC yesterday noted Europe faces 'the biggest migration crisis since the second world war'

Do we once again consider the states of Europe as 'tyrannies' as in the words of 'Rule Britannia', holding up our own model monarchy as the best example of statehood?  Is our constitutional monarchy a model state, with a Royal family its emblem of nationhood?  Can we truly hold up our royal family, the embodiment of 'rank and privelege', our reduced status as no longer 'Citizens of Europe', to 'British subjects' a move away from 'Britons never, never, never shall be slaves'?

While our press depicts Angela Merkel as 'under pressure' from the far right in Germany', my understanding is that, particularly given its recent history, most in Germany (and Europe) have great compassion and support the huge numbers of refugees entering their country.  In contrast, the British government response has been compassion and support for increased border patrols.

We would do well to remember why the European Union was formed, and consider exactly what freedoms it has afforded many people in Britain and Europe.  We need to loose any romantic view of nationhood and consider exactly what 'Brexit' means for us as individuals in a democracy, and as citizens.

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