Left Leg Out, Right Leg In… Georgia Beware: Ogden on Brexit


People have been asking me lately in which direction I am going to vote in the referendum to decide whether the UK will remain in the EU or not. The answer, I regret to say, is that I don’t intend to.

This seems strange, since whenever I am confronted with someone who chooses not to vote for anything at all, I babble about it being the only voice one has in this day and age, and the only chance to change things. This time, however, I am going to leave it to the British people.

I’d normally sheer away from doing anything of the sort, of course. You can’t trust people; as a great man once said, people like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis. But this time I really feel as though there is no choice but to abstain.

The European Union began solely as an economic body that has since evolved into a supranational quasi-state with its own legislation that duly affects all member states. Quite why Britain was dragged into this neither I - nor anyone else - will probably ever know. I don’t consider myself European; we don’t kiss when we shake hands, after all, nor do we feel the need to fill our beer with gas.

It’s fashionable amongst pretentious socialists to forget history these days and pretend that none of it matters now. The condescending university graduate will scoff at historical references, blind to the obvious truth that our past is unescapable and continues to shape our future. The bold speeches of the statesmen of previous decades (and centuries) might have faded to less than whispers on the wind, but they’re still there, gently pushing, pulling, influencing.

I am not, in my own estimation, a European. I’m an islander. Too many of our people fought too many wars to be free of continental rule for me to be anything else. I imagine the ruffled collars of Drake and Raleigh ruffling (that’s what a ruffle collar does, I imagine) in the sea wind as they smashed the Spanish Armada off our coast; and after those national shades faded into memory, others took their place: men wearing red coats at Waterloo marching to meet Napoleon one last time, or exhausted figures in air force tunics climbing into Spitfires to tear the German war machine apart.

It naturally begs the question of what on Earth the point in all that was if we were to be dragged into European rule anyway. In that sense, then, I find myself siding with the ‘Out’ faction, for sentimental and patriotic reasons for which I will make no apology.

Yet it is, really, too late. As much as it may be possible for an EU-free Britain to renegotiate trade deals with the continent, Brussels is hardly going to be in the mood to do any favours to a country it feels has walked away; President Obama categorically stated this week in London that the USA will not hurry to make any trade agreements with an independent Britain.

‘Out’ campaigners complain about immigration, with vague worries over Islamic extremism being bandied about. As compassionate as Germany is being to refugees from the Middle East, many recent terrorist attacks have been orchestrated by home-grown radicals; immigration simply does not figure. Besides which, easy residence within and travel to the EU is very convenient (though why we can’t have had a deal like the Norwegians and the Swiss is still beyond me). With my sentimental soul wanting out and my practical spirit knowing there is no choice but to remain in, I feel unqualified to vote.

What, you might wonder, has any of this to do with Georgia? I’m happy to say that I’ve been a Georgian citizen these last four years, and the future worries me. I do not want my second home to make the same mistakes of my first.

I am not solely referring to the European Union here, though I will say that Georgians can be blinded by Western political rhetoric; I’m still convinced Saakashvili thought the Americans sincerely meant every word of their professed friendship before 2008. I haven’t got the feeling that the EU particularly cares whether Britain stays in the Union or not; likewise, I can’t imagine they’re as interested in ‘bilateral cultural relations with Georgia’ as they like to say.

Georgian politicians seem happy with the way foreign deals are developing, what with increased Turkish cooperation, the New Silk Road project, and investment interest from the UAE. As a Georgian citizen, I’m horrified by the increasing Ottoman-era rhetoric from Erdogan (as all Georgians should be, remembering Turkey’s activities here), as well as concerned by human rights abuse in the UAE. As for the New Silk Road project...well, as wonderful as it is to have more Chinese money being pumped into this country, I don’t think it wise to forget that the purpose of a road is to be walked on (I dread to think how little of English infrastructure is actually owned by Brits).

I am, as ever, over my word count. But please, Georgia, do be careful.

Tim Ogden

28 April 2016 21:47