Actually, this isn’t fair, it’s not just the EU. Defending any unsound proposition can make even an intelligent person sound silly.
Take atheism, for example. Someone who doesn’t believe in God may be bright, within certain limits. But even an extremely intelligent man sounds idiotic when he tries to defend his atheism rationally.
Nietzsche, for example, was clearly a smart chap, though I’m baffled whenever he’s described as a philosopher. But, when trying to rationalise his anti-Christian animus, he said manifestly cretinous things, such as that Christianity was never able to create a culture.
A fervent belief in European federalism falls into the same category.
I happen to believe in God and despise the EU, but I’m not prepared to say any old thing in defence of either belief. Before speaking I tend to submit my argument to a test of logic, to see if it holds water.
Hence I may challenge my opponent to suggest an alternative to God as the only possible explanation of the origin of being. Or I may ask an EU enthusiast since when does a country have to abandon its sovereignty to practise free trade.
But I’m not going to say that an atheist will never get a good job in his life or that Britain will suffer a cholera epidemic if it stays in the EU. Alas, this is roughly the intellectual level at which Eurocrats pitch their arguments.
Three recent examples spring to mind though, with all possible deference and respect, we aren’t talking here about Nietzsche’s intellectual equals.
First Dame Carolyn McCall, head of EasyJet, promised that Brexit would spell an end to cheap flights. Only the rich would be able to travel, but they would be scared to do so because Brexit would also make British tourists easy prey to terrorists
Dame Carolyn doubtless had constructed a valid argument in support of those propositions, but out of sheer modesty she chose not to vouchsafe her rationale to hoi polloi.
Such diffidence is a laudable quality, though in this instance it runs the risk of people suspecting she’s mentally challenged. For British sun seekers are currently able to travel cheaply even to countries like the US or South Africa, which, the last I looked, aren’t EU members.
How would leaving the EU affect the cost of such travel? Also, considering that landing fees at British airports are among the world’s highest and are therefore a significant cost factor, how will Brexit make flying even to Europe any dearer? Will Heathrow and Gatwick feel obliged to raise their landing fees even more?
Nor is it immediately clear how British travellers to Europe will be at a greater risk if Britain left the EU. Unless, of course, Dame Carolyn thinks that Rumpy-Pumpy and Junker will be so frustrated with Brexit that they’ll take to the streets brandishing guns and declaring an open season on anyone addressing them as ‘mate’.
However, one suspects that Dame Carolyn, though clearly not a towering intellect, still possesses some basic intelligence, for without it she wouldn’t have got where she is.
In the case of the actress Emma Thompson, such an assumption would be misplaced. For even basic intelligence is a disqualifying circumstance in her profession, and those few thespians who are cursed with it have to work hard to overcome this handicap.
Miss Thompson too has come up with what she doubtless sees as a strong argument. Britain should hang on to the EU for dear life because she is “a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe, a cake-filled misery-laden grey little island.”
This is a far cry from ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ observed by Blake, but it’s Miss Thompson’s logic that’s most refreshing. Her underlying assumption seems to be that staying in the EU will improve Britain’s climate, increase her size, lower her annual precipitation levels and encourage the Brits to replace cakes with tofu.
Yet Britain, though never blessed with France’s velvety climate, Russia’s size or Italy’s dietary habits, managed to be one of the world’s most successful countries over the last millennium – this, without belonging to the same state as Bulgaria.
The less said about Miss Thompson, the better – as I say, she’s an actress after all. That similar views could be expressed by our future king, on the other hand, is deeply worrying.
The Palace’s subsequent denial notwithstanding, Prince William was clearly talking about the tragedy that Brexit would represent for his future realm.
Having international allies, he said, was “the bedrock of our security and prosperity”. True, to some extent. But Britain furthered her security during two world wars by forming alliances with quite a few countries without having to dissolve her statehood in theirs.
The Prince also said that the “ability to unite in common action with other nations is essential” in “an increasingly turbulent world”. Again, turbulent as the world is now, it’s still relatively serene compared to the time of the two world wars, when Britain was ‘united in common action’ with half the world – without becoming a province of a continental federation.
One would expect a greater awareness of our constitution from a man born and raised to be its guardian. Surely the Prince must realise that he and all other members of his family are now but citizens of the EU, rather than sovereign monarchs. One gets the impression he didn’t study such matters deeply enough at St Andrews – or else his advisors are remiss in their duties.
But I don’t despair. I’m convinced that sooner or later someone will come up with an argument against Brexit that can’t be destroyed in two seconds flat by any averagely capable 10-year-old. Alas, such a breakthrough hasn’t happened yet.