Monday, 14 January 2013

Not a clue about the EU!


A good few years ago, Mrs D and I were sat in a restaurant in Sandals resort, Antigua. On each side of us were seated an couple of Americans.

The one on my right was some sort of executive on Wall Street. When he discovered we were British, he turned to me and asked "What's happening with the employment situation in Norway right now?"

"Sorry," I replied, "but we're British. How would we know?"

The confusion arose because my American friend seemed unaware that the EU is not actually a country, much as the Germans would like it to be. He thought that Norway was just another state of Europe - much like California or Arizona are states of America. Eagle eyed readers will, of course, also have twigged that Norway isn't actually in the EU either.

I found this rather worrying - especially coming from a Wall Street executive - but it does demonstrate a  simple, unassailable truth about the Americans. They don't have a bloody clue when it comes to Europe - a view which seems to have been echoed this week by Tory MP Bernard Jenkin in his reaction to remarks made by Philip Gordon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for european Affairs.

According to Gordon "We (the USA) have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU," he told reporters during a visit to London. "That is in America's interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it."

And Bernard Jenkins reaction? "The Americans don't understand Europe. They have a default position that sometimes the United States of Europe is going to be the same as the United States of America. They haven't got a clue," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

Another Tory MP, Peter Bone, said Mr Gordon should "butt out" and that it was "nothing to do with the Americans. It's like us trying to tell Germany or France how to run their affairs. It's quite ridiculous and it's not what you'd expect from a member of the senior executive in the USA, and I hope that the president will slap him down very quickly." Seems unlikely to me...

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg thinks this is all good stuff and that the opinions of our American friends are of great importance. But then he would, wouldn't he?

More interesting to me was that our esteemed American friend considers that referenda are damaging and cause nations to be looking inwards when they should be looking outwards - perhaps towards the interests of our US bosses? (Sorry, I meant allies, of course!)

But coming back to my own personal experiences, I also remember some friends of ours from California cancelling their trip to London during the second Gulf War because "London is in missile range of Iraq."

Considering so few Americans even hold a passport, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at their appalling grasp of basic geography, but if that's the case then perhaps they should mind their own bit of knitting?...

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