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Phone versus Zone (again)

Dan Hannan, in a piece about how Indians would like Britain out of the EU so that Indians can more easily do business with Britain, ruminates upon the irrelevance of mere geography in the modern world:

Two generations ago, when most business was localised and freight costs were high, regional customs unions had a certain appeal. But in the Internet age, geographical proximity has never mattered less. Culture and kinship trump distance.

Likewise, in many eyes, lack of cultural affinity and lack of kinship trump geographical proximity, or they should. The biggest reason why Brexit seems now to be winning in Britain is that we are now watching EUrope make a hopeless mess of mass immigration from its geographically near but culturally very distinct eastern neighbours.

Near the end of the same piece Hannan says:

Next year, Britain will have to decide whether we are defined chiefly by our geography. Must we merge with states which happen to be in the vicinity, or do we recognise that some values transcend continents, linking us to kindred peoples in more distant lands?

I was having similar thoughts here, a while back, when the internet was just getting into its stride as a mass experience.

I see that I also had some rather prophetic things to say in that piece (posted in 2002) about the recently concluded Rugby World Cup (2015). The point being that rugby is an activity that was then and still remains at the mercy of geographical proximity. Rugby tournaments that happen every year, all the time, need to be based in the same approximate locality. Northern Hemisphere rugby teams were in 2002, and remain in 2015, physically separated from their superior Southern Hemisphere rivals. England had a little moment of superiority in the noughts, just winning the 2003 World Cup and coming second in 2007. So when England recently got knocked out at the group stage of the latest Rugby World Cup in 2015, in England, it felt like a uniquely terrible failure. But come the semi-finals this time around, no Northern Hemisphere teams remained in the tournament, despite the event itself having been held in the Northern Hemisphere. In the quarter finals, New Zealand slaughtered France, and Argentina decisively defeated Ireland, France and Ireland having been regarded by many as the best Northern Hemisphere bets. Many had realised that Argentina, who now regularly play against the Southern Hemisphere big three (NZ, Australia, South Africa) have recently got a lot better, but many others, me included, were amazed, not just by the fact of Argentina’s victory over Ireland but by the manner of it. Wales and Scotland did better but still lost, to South Africa and Australia.

However, the fact that regular rugby tournaments are obliged to cluster geographically is no reason for political entities to attempt to do the same. Geographical proximity to weaker teams and separation from the strongest teams is seen by Northern Hemisphere rugby people as a problem, not as any sort of answer to their problems.

With Dan Hannan, I say: Brexit. And it has to be a good sign that this anti-Brexit guy, in an article with very high google visibility, is making excuses about why his team may be about to lose rather than even attempting to make persuasive arguments about why it should win.

25 comments to Phone versus Zone (again)

  • Patrick Crozier

    I think it’s worth pointing out that Argentina is a very long way from Australia and Australia is a very long way from South Africa. Indeed England is nearer South Africa than Australia (depending on how you measure it).

  • Mr Ed

    The wondrous standardised shipping container is part of the reason that costs in long-distance trade for many items are so low. That and refrigeration make trade a global matter in a way that it was not 80 years ago, although from an economic history book I read a few years back, I noted that Denmark appeared to supply most of the UK’s pork prior to WW2, and war cut off a major source of food, definitively in May1940.

    I source my wine supplies from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Moldova and Macedonia, with a bit from EU Portugal and also some prosecco. There is no price or quality benefit from buying EU produced wine.

    I dare say that the EU would wish to standardise sports teams, the Soviets never allowed ‘national’ teams, e.g. Kazakstan or Ukraine.

  • Regional

    There was an incident during the 1940s when Europe tried to take over Britain but the Brits told them to FOOK OFF.
    It’s a world economy now, one may buy and sell where one pleases.
    As mentioned before containers have freed up world trade much more than treaties.

  • Regional

    Mister Ed,
    The Chechens had a national sport, shooting Russians.

  • I have never understood the need for governments to forcibly cram disparate peoples into a single socio-political unit. Even the Germans, the most obedient of subjects, still push against unification. (A word of explanation: a German once explained to me that despite the common language, most Hanseatic Germans have less in common with Bavarians and more in common with the Dutch.) And, as I said, that’s in Germany. Remember then, how the Serb/Croatian/Bosnian admixture only existed because of Titoist Communism, and how quickly it fell apart when Communism fell in Yugoslavia.

    Why, then, should Britons, who have even less commonality with Continental Europe than the erstwhile Yugoslavs, have to apologise for not wanting to be part of Festung Europa?

    The EU was formed with really only two purposes in mind: one was to form an effective economic opponent to the United States (result: failure) and to create an alliance that would lessen the chance of intramural squabbling on the lines of the Thirty Years War through WWI/II (result: success, so far). Why Britian should form part of that alliance makes absolutely no sense, because Britain and the U.S. have always competed economically without much rancour — the largest non-U.S. property holder in the United States is and has always been Great Britain, for example — and outside the usual morons, nobody cares much about “Coca-Cola imperialism” in Britain, either. Plus, we’ve never fought each other as nations, apart from the 1810s foolishness which soon ended so we could carry on trading profitably with each other.

    No such comity had ever existed in Europe between, say, the Germans and French or the French and the Italians (Bismarck, Napoleon, coff coff), and indeed Britain only participated in the European fun and games as financier and proxy foe, until Napoleon came along. As foreign policy, it’s difficult to fault the machinations of Castlereagh, Palmerston et al. when one considers the results for Britain. (I know, it sounds like I’m arguing for “Splendid Isolation”, but the plain fact remains that isolation from Europe’s reindeer games served Britain very well until the Kaiser started thinking above his station.) Indeed, given the international trade scenario of today (as attested to by earlier commenters), it makes even more sense that Britain be not not constrained by an ironclad alliance (i.e. EU fealty) and has instead adopts a looser, more amicable one such as the “Special Relationship” with the United States.

    Of course, the Europeans, with their innate desire for self-subjugation, cannot bear to think of an independent Britain any more than they could imagine, say, an independent Greece; so of course the Euros are full of dire (and misleading) warnings about the financial catastrophe which would follow Brexit. Which makes it all the more compelling that Britain move away from the EU, because British heritage and custom are not only intrinsically but fundamentally different from those of Europe — and the foolish accommodation of Muslim “refugees” is just ONE example.

    And of course, once the Obama Foolishness has ended, as it must, the U.K. and U.S. can go back to being “cousins” again — a loose socio-economic arrangement which suits both nations’ character much better than treaty-enforced unity with the crowd across the Channel.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Kim, I hope you are right and that the Obama Foolishness does not simply slither seamlessly (albeit with plenty of sound and fury signifying Business as Usual) into the Shrillary Foolishness, as I’m afraid I think likely.

    And the re-rapprochement for which we both hope also depends on a sea-change of some sort amongst the British PTB. Of course I’m an outsider and not all that deeply knowledgeable about British politics, but are Cameron/Corbyn/May/whomever-and-et-al. as interested in picking up their marbles and going home as one could wish?

  • CaptDMO

    From USA:
    Are England’s landfills brimming with more EU manufactured “planned obsolescence” junk, or Chinese manufactured planned obsolescence junk?
    Are there many Tata XJs competing for Vauxhall space at the crusher, or recall remedy garages?
    Where DO the cheep automatic (I’m assuming) tea makers come from?
    Do Brits have illegal domestic help to do as much regular dusting of their “home exercise equipment” as Yanks do?
    Thank goodness for sea-tainers!
    (Does not apply to major Japanese auto/truck/tractor mfgrs.)

  • The Rugby World Cup can be seen as very much a British Commonwealth competition. We invented the game and exported it to the Dominions, but also to Argentina, Italy and France (introduced by a Welshman). It has always been overshadowed by Soccer which went worldwide ((except for the USA) much earlier, and it was mainly an amateur sport until relatively recently. So no big bucks, TV and sponsorship to boost it, but it is getting there now. Best World Cup I have seen so far, despite Wales losing by a hairsbreadth in the quarter finals.

    So let us think of our links to the Commonwealth and the rest of the world rather than the 19th century thinking foolishness that is the EU. Our trade with the latter diminishes and increases to the rest of the world.

  • Lee Moore

    The line in the McShane article about the horrors of allowing FOREIGNERS to own newspapers and so influence political debate in the UK is a precise echo of an angry Chris Patten a decade or so ago, making the same point – FOREIGNERS must not be allowed to influence British political decisions !

    It’s not a question of having no shame, it seems to be a question of entirely lacking self awareness.

    (Good to see the “Churchill wanted us in the EU” line being trotted out again.)

  • JohnK

    The genesis of what has become the EU can be traced to world government types such as Arthur Salter who developed their ideas in the 1920s as a response to World War One. When the Iron and Coal Community got going after World War Two, it lead to the EEC in 1957. One can thus see that the modern EU is a post WWII solution to a post WWI problem: the enmity between France and Germany. By 1957 there was no prospect that this historic enmity would ever lead to war between them again, but somehow the myth persists that the EU in some way serves to prevent war between European states. It is the Big Lie behind the EU’s foundation myth.

  • JC

    Myns buddy, the late lamented Larry Miggins, claimed that the only reason he played Rugby was so he could have a chance to kick cops in the head. To be honest, the Houston Police Department said something very much like that, but they said they wanted an excuse to kick him in the fork.

  • My vague understanding is the French (who obviously got Rugby from us) also exported it – particularly to Romania, possibly Italy? Of course there is a huge Italian influence on Argentina. It’s a great game so I don’t care how it spreads (though the history is probs interesting). An example of how these things spread is of course the story of a bunch of fellas from Turin who in the C19th had heard of this game of soccer and wrote to Notts County about it. Well, they were invited over and to this day Juventus play in the same strip as Notts County.

  • Derek Buxton

    JohnK has it correct except in one regard. Salter teamed up with Monet at the League of Nations, two sleazy bureaucrats. As such their idea was to build a single State, non democratic, run by and for bureaucrats and it is working just as they designed it to work. They knew that Great Britain would not accept that and so the word went out that it had to be done by lies,obfuscation and stealth. The politicians bought it hook line and sinker. But the deceit is still ongoing and will until the EU fails by its own contradictions, I hope!

  • bloke in spain

    It’s a good argument for a Europe that looks totally different from the current one. Not only get rid of the EU but get rid of some of the European nations, as well. Look much more to smaller, much more localised, political units.
    Take France. What’s it for? It’s a melange of agriculture, industry, maybe tourism. All trying to be governed as an undifferentiated whole. There’s actually more similarity between the industrial areas around Paris & Toulouse with the Ruhr & Barcelona, than with Normandy & the Vosges. So some sort of cooperation between the industrial areas of Europe & trade with cooperating agricultural areas makes much more sense. Almost a Europe of city states, bound together by mutual advantage.
    Of course, now you’d have to ask what India’s for?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    bloke in spain
    November 8, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Of course, now you’d have to ask what India’s for?

    Gratuitous moral guidance?

  • mojo

    I agree, exit the soon-to-be-ex EU while you can. The Commonwealth is the key. Stop the swearing to HM stuff, make it purely economic. The Aussies are probably going to end up a republic anyway, so get ahead of that.

    Invite other like-minded countries along, too.

  • lucklucky

    “The biggest reason why Brexit seems now to be winning in Britain is that we are now watching EUrope make a hopeless mess of mass immigration from its geographically near but culturally very distinct eastern neighbours.”

    That’s a bit rich coming from the UK, and i would even not go how being an island give an advantage if the Marxists= self hating elites well would not be self hating elites and not wanted mass immigration to expiate civilization success guilt.

  • RAB

    Could you try that again in grammatical English please, Lucklucky?

  • Wassamatta RAB… you don’t speak Slacker-Trendy?

  • JohnW

    Why we should leave the EU by…by…Tony Parsons…?


  • …although I can’t wait to use the phrase “expiate civilization success guilt” in an argument sometime.

  • Paul Marks

    A good post.

    Although the transport costs of physical goods have not actually fallen much in recent years – which means there must be other factors involved in such things the vast rise in Chinese manufacturing exports (from nothing to the largest manufacturing exporter in the world) over the last few decades.

    I do hope that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union – the E.U. is additional layer of government (a bad thing) and it insists on imposing endless regulations not just on trade with “its citizens” but on domestic British economic life and upon the trade between British people and third parties – such as third parties in India.

    The E.U. really is a dreadful thing and we (and all other countries) should get out of it.


  • JohnK


    As you say, the EU (as it now is) was designed not to be democratic. Salter, Monnet et al did not trust vulgar democracy, and wished for a caste of disinterested bureaucrats to run their new European state. People sometimes complain that the unelected Commission, not the EU Parliament, initiates legislation, but this is a feature, not a bug. Also, it was not just the people of Great Britain who had to be hoodwinked. I suspect none of the peoples of the European states in the 1950s and 60s would have accepted the Plan, which is why it was given cover terms such as Common Market, implying it was a free trade project, rather than the plan for an overarching superstate; that doesn’t sound nearly as friendly does it?

  • Julie near Chicago

    JohnK, along the lines of your remarks about the EEC … that must explain why I am so thrilled about NAFTA, CAFTA, SHAFTa–er, sorry, I made that last one up….

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Yes, the sooner we establish Oceania, the better! Who needs those EUrasians?