The Blog

Europe's Fables 2: The Empty Chair

Since the first chapter of my re-imagining of the European story we have seen a couple of situations which provide an elegant illustration of the hysterical irony surrounding certain British people's attitudes towards the European Union.

Since the first chapter of my re-imagining of the European story we have seen a couple of situations which provide an elegant illustration of the hysterical irony surrounding certain British people's attitudes towards the European Union.

Firstly we heard the howling clamour of the right-wing press for European institutions to keep their beaky shnebs out of British sovereignty after opposition arose to a Westminster proposal which would deny foreign EU nationals certain benefits on the pure basis of their foreignness.

A couple of thousand kilometres south on the Costa del Sol, a similar situation was in the offing as foreign EU nationals were denied access to Spanish healthcare despite carrying EU health cards.

The only difference between these situations was that some of the foreigners in the latter scenario happened to be British.

Sure enough, in the same breath as their previous complaint, and in gleeful ignorance of their own hypocrisy, came the demagogic shriek from the selfsame Mail-reading bungalow inhabitants who had ten seconds earlier been decrying the demise of the nation state for the European Institutions they previously accused of responsibility for this treasonous act to step in and enforce the treaties they had sworn to uphold.


Chapter 2 deals with the origins of this pick-and-choose attitude towards European Integration.

The weeks pass and the apartments within reach of the iron grate warm, and with the new found warmth the relationships between the inhabitants begin to thaw and they gather to discuss other ways in which they may be able to make each other's lives easier.

Germany, still frail from his recent mauling, lives on the side of the building which overlooks the shabby, smokestack mansion through whose windows the sneering countenance of Russia is intermittently visible. Lately his rather gruesome visible presence is sometimes accompanied by obnoxiously sinister marching music and home-made firework displays which crackle menacingly past Germany's window as he tries to rest his shattered frame.

Losing patience, Germany suggests to his neighbours that they each sign a strongly worded letter warning Russia that his continued anti-social behaviour would result in physical confrontation. His Benelux neighbours in the apartment to the North murmur noncommittal agreement having suffered some sleepless nights themselves at Russia's hands.

But France objects.

Germany's fragility and the fact that Russia is keeping his severed right arm in a box of ice means that he would be no match in a fist fight for the lank and emaciated but still powerful Russia, even with the assistance of the stout but heavily scarred Belgium, scrawny, cowardly Italy, Lilliputian Luxembourg and passive Netherlands. In other words, nobody is going to fight Russia without France's support, and the letter to Russia remains unsent.

France makes it very clear that he does not want to do anything that could threaten or disturb the interior design or structural integrity of his flat, though he agrees that sharing the coal, the large steel grate and the gas bills has been a success and agrees to split electricity bills as well. He knows a nuclear energy co-operative nearby and the gang agrees to buy themselves in, in order to save money on their electricity bills.

The atmosphere improving, they decide to order pizza and pay £2 apiece for a large with shallots, brie and currywurst. They enjoy the pizza immensely and decide that pooling their financial and culinary resources can work occasionally so decide to try it again from time to time.

After another two successful pizza parties, at the latter of which the six agree to fork out for some beers and a bottle of Lambrini, France seems slightly withdrawn and introverted. The others on the floor, however, are in reasonably high spirits and decide to invite some of the other neighbours over to share in their new festivities.

France's already grey demeanour darkens on hearing that their communal activities are to take up even more time and money and that outsiders are to be let in. The situation worsens when somebody timidly suggests through France's locked bedroom door that they invite Britain so as to split costs more evenly.

France opens the door with a furious look in his gaunt face:

"Don't even think about inviting that stuck up B***!"

He slams the door and a grim silence ensues.

Sometime later, when they gather to order the pizza, France's seat remains empty. They don't have enough money to order and skulk back to their respective flats...