Jessica Simor (Matrix)
[The following is the text of a speech given by Jessica Simor at the Matrix/UKAEL seminar “40 Years On – The Sovereignty Debate”, held today, 7 March 2013.]
Sometimes it feels not that progress is slow but rather, that nothing changes…and nowhere more so than in the context of the debate over sovereignty. The regressive nature of that debate seems to have got worse in the past few years, encompassing a general animus to anything vaguely ‘European’ – it is as if the ‘nationalism’ debate is no longer played out by reference to ‘foreigners’ in general but rather by reference specifically to “the Europeans” and anything vaguely “European”.
What European Unity symbolises for Britain and in particular the political elite is very different, certainly from Germany but also from traumatised Central and Eastern and indeed from France. Hans Dietrich Genscher in a recent interview describes how for Germany, sitting at the European table, meant “a return to the community of civilised nations”. By contrast, for Britain, it meant “a farewell to Empire”.