The EU is being made redundant by technological change. In the 1950s, a regional trade association arguably made sense. But in a world where capital surges around the globe at the touch of a button, physical proximity becomes irrelevant. When deciding whether to invest in a country, corporations will consider many factors – tax rates, regulation, language, corruptibility of public officials – before they worry about geography.
The Internet makes it as easy for my constituents to do business with a company in New Zealand as with a company in Belgium. Easier, indeed, because the Kiwi company shares our common law, accountancy practices, commercial traditions and language.
This point last was more or less conceded by Martin Kettle in this morning’s Guardian. Kettle regrets the phenomenon, and complains that the Internet has left us “trapped in the Anglosphere”…He goes on to note, disconsolately, that we are more familiar with political developments in Australia than in Europe. Well, duh! Australians are, as Kipling might have put it, folk of our own blood and speech. We share a head of state; we watch the same TV; we visit each other regularly, often to see relatives. Both the candidates in the Australian election were born in Britain, for Heaven’s sake. How could we not be interested?
The Internet, as Douglas Carswell argues, is ironing out a kink in our cultural and political alignment, whereby a small elite artificially reoriented our foreign policy, our trade and even our news cycle away from our old alliances and towards Europe. That’s the great thing about the web (or, from a Europhile perspective, the disagreeable thing): it democratises.