Friday, 19 September 2014

One problem less in life

And it would have been a big one - had the 1.6 million Scots wanting to break up the country where I was born actually turned out to be a few hundred thousand more in number.

I'm British - but not English (I'm Polish). A citizen of the United Kingdom, yes - but not English (I'm Polish). So had the Scots voted to leave the United Kingdom - I'd have found myself this morning bereft of my motherland (my fatherland is Poland). The Britain that gave my parents refuge after the war; the Britain that brought me up; gave me free NHS orange juice and check-ups as a child; gave me an education; gave me respect for the rule of the law, private property, fair play, trust in society - the very foundations of a civilised existence. These are priceless treasures, a birthright.

Had the Scots voted 'Yes', the consequences for the Former United Kingdom and all its citizens would have been catastrophic. It would have become overnight a land with no name and no flag. Angry, wounded and introspective, it would have intensified another big problem - the threat of the UK leaving the European Union.

Europe needs Britain as much as Britain needs Europe. Of the EU's 28 member states, the UK (I'm so grateful to be still be able to interchangeably use the two terms 'Britain' and 'the UK') was the only active belligerent in WWII not invaded by another country.

This unique experience should not be lost to the rest of the EU; Britain proved not only to be a gutsy fighter, but also a winner. That spirit of 1940 - that darkest of years when the US was still neutral and the Soviet Union was an ally of Adolf Hitler - should reside within the very viscera of the EU, and not evaporate as the UK drifts off to sulk as an offshore irrelevance. The EU is a mix of big states and little states. The former - Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain and Poland. Germany and France need to have their mutual complex-laden relationship balanced by level-headed states with a different historical outlook. Poland and the UK are a necessary counter-balance to the Franco-German axis to keep the EU from straying into fairy-land federalism steered from Brussels. So - a United Kingdom in a strong, competitive European Union.

The next big problem is of the bare-chested imperialist Putin, recently boasting that he could invade Warsaw in two days. How much is this talk is bluff and how much is genuine intent? Only a strong West - a strong NATO and a strong EU - can act as a bulwark and deterrent to a man who realises that he can only remain in power by playing the strongman to his disorientated electorate. And a strong EU needs to be united and determined to face down the bully.

After yesterday's vote, the United Kingdom remains a member of the United Nations Security Council; its nuclear deterrent remains parked in Holy Loch; Alex Salmond's threat to castrate Britain's ability to face down Putin has fizzled out. And to make the point, RAF fighters had to escort two Russian bombers away from the coast of Scotland earlier today. Had those RAF Typhoons not been scrambled - the Russians would have been able to probe deeper into NATO airspace, and found the resolve to defend it weak.

As I wrote back in March this year, European history is at a tipping point. One of the crises has passed - the threat of the United Kingdom breaking up. This makes it less likely that the UK will leave the EU in 2017 (Scots are more likely to vote to stay in than the English, Scotland's propensity to vote Labour reduces the chances of an outright Conservative win next May). And a stronger EU makes it less likely that Putin will fancy his chances against Moldova, Latvia, Estonia - or central Ukraine.

All of this makes more distant problems - Islamic State, Syria, Ebola virus - look marginal from the perspective of Warsaw.

I thank all those who put in such an effort to keep the UK together - canvassing on the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, tweeting and retweeting, blogging; it feels so good that this evening I can still write about a United Kingdom and a Great Britain.

That moment last night when I walked into the TVN24 studios and the first unofficial exit poll result at 54-46 to keep the union flashed up on the monitor behind the newsdesk I shall cherish always.

Over the past two weeks, I did no fewer than 16 live or recorded radio and TV interviews regarding the independence referendum (I still have two more in the pipeline). TokFM, Radio PiN, Radio dla Ciebie, Polskie Radio 24, Polsat, TVN and TVP Info. My key message was - it is absolutely in Poland's interest that the United Kingdom stays together. Thank God it did.

Footnote. I'm less than thrilled by the new Polish government announced today. At a time of external threat, the notion of having a political street-fighter with little foreign experience and language skill like Grzegorz Schetyna running Poland's diplomacy worries me somewhat. Fingers crossed for the new team nevertheless.

This time last year:
The S2 opens all the way to Puławska

This time two years ago:

This time three years ago:
Push-pull for Mazowsze

This time four years ago:
Okęcie runway repairs are complete

This time six years ago:
I know that painting from somewhere...

This time seven years ago:
The March of Progress, ul. Postępu


Bob said...

The new FM will be like a deer in the headlights or a bump on a log as we say. Very poor decision in my opinion. He has no value to add.

AndrzejK said...

The Scots, or rather the arch ex communist leader of the SNP scored a very neat own goal. Having insisted on the independence vote which led to promises of more power to the Scottish "parliamen" has led directly to the Tories announcing plans to devolve powers to the English and limit the powers of Scottish MP's at Westminster to vote on issues which do not affect Scotland.

Not the outcome Salmond was hoping for which is why I guess he had no option but to resign.

Interestingly my younger daughter Ewa is doing reseach on attitudes of second generation Poles born in the UK. Some describe their nationality as Polish, many British and a few English.