Project Enthusiasm: the ultra-positive case for Britain to Remain in Europe

An unusually positive and enthusiastic case for Remain (Britain remaining in the European Union) is made in a new article by two writers who have both had extensive but different experiences of working with EU colleagues in an EU context to advance British and European values, interests and influence in the world.  One is a former senior British government official with experience in the Treasury, the Prime Minister’s office in No. 10 Downing Street and the Department for International Development.  The other, now retired, was a British diplomat who served as ambassador or high commissioner in five countries in Africa, Europe and Australasia over a period of a dozen years.  Both testify to the central importance of the UK’s membership of the EU for the effectiveness of their work, not just in amplifying and leveraging British influence in the world (a significant and valuable objective but an intangible one, even when grandly re-named ‘soft power’), but also in helping to shape international and indeed domestic policies that support and advance British political, commercial and economic interests.  The article doesn’t echo Blimpish calls for Britain to “lead” in Europe, but more realistically recognises the enormous benefits from a UK role of collaboration and consultation among European equals, stressing that the challenges facing Europe and the rest of the world — climate change, inequality and poverty, economic stagnation, terrorism, refugees and economic migrants — need to be tackled on a continental or global scale, not by separate little nation states acting impotently on their own. The writers stress that membership of the European Union is a right and a privilege, not a burden to be reluctantly borne, and that we should be as proud to be European citizens as we are proud to be British — and simultaneously proud to be Londoners or Glaswegians, Afro-Caribbeans or Asians, Muslims or atheists, primary school teachers or members of the House of Commons.

You may have come across the writers of this paean to Europe in other capacities.  One is Owen Barder, Europe Director of the Center for Global Development and visiting professor in practice at the London School of Economics, an economist specialising in global development issues.  His co-author is his father – me.  You can read our joint appeal for a vote for Remain on Thursday at  If you agree with it, please tweet or post on Facebook your support, with a link to the article; and please pass it on to as many as possible of your friends, colleagues and relatives, with priority for those who may be considering a vote for Leave: only do try to make sure that they read it before they go out to vote in the referendum in a few hours’ time.  And if they are firm supporters of Remain, do urge them to read our article and then to be sure not to Remain at home on Thursday.  Please vote Remain!

PS to those who receive this in an email: please write your comments on the two Barders’ joint article, preferably before Thursday (23 June), at the bottom of this post at, not in reply to the email.


4 Responses

  1. Your opening para above. 318 words in only six sentences, one of 77 words. THAT’s enthusiasm!

    Here’s a different view, all about UK diplomats and Brexit (written before I saw your take alas):


  2. Lorna says:

    An excellent post.  Thank you.

    Brian writes: Thank you, Lorna. I trust that you’re referring to Owen’s and my joint article and not just to this post!

  3. Michael Hornsby says:

    A most eloquent paean in favour of the EU, as one would expect from two such distinguished public servants.  I have cast my vote for Remain though, alas, without being able to say that I share all your “unusually positive and enthusiastic” reasons for doing so. My feeling towards the EU is perhaps closer to Churchill’s famous defence of democracy as “the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. For all its manifest failings, the EU is still the best hope we have of maintaining Europe as a global economic and political power promoting civilised and democratic values. It undoubtedly played a huge role in enabling Spain, Portugal and Greece to get rid of reactionary military dictatorships and in encouraging the democratic revolution in eastern Europe that led to the demise of  the Soviet Union. A British exit would be bad economically and politically for Britain and no less bad for Europe — a spectacular case, as Antony Beevor put it in a recent article in the Guardian, of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

    That said, it is surely evident that the EU is desperately in need of reform. Surveys of public opinion show widespread and growing disenchantment with the EU project, not just in the UK but in other member states too. The dogmatic and ideological pursuit of the utopian vision of “ever closer union” has fuelled this mood and helped to provoke the nationalistic backlash seen in many countries. This vision might have made some sense for the original six countries in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War but is plainly not realistic for a grouping of 28 at very different stages of political and economic development. The baleful consequences of the attempt to accelerate unification through the premature imposition of a common currency on countries and economies that were fundamentally incompatible are all too apparent. You do not need to take my word for it. Here is the view of Donald Tusk, the current EU President: “Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe, do not share our Euro enthusiasm”.

    David Cameron’s attempts to negotiate reforms in the run-up to the referendum gained little traction, it is true, but that was hardly surprising given the EU’s preoccupation with the mass migration and eurozone crises. The mood seems now to be shifting, notably in Germany, where there is talk of revisiting the terms of the Treaty of Rome when it marks its 60th anniversary next year. It does not seem to me “blimpish” to hope that the UK, if it votes to remain, might play a leading, and of course collaborative, role in the reform process.




  4. Lorna says:

    Sorry, Brian.  I was of course referring to your joint article as well as your post.