In between the nerve-jangling music relayed over the public address system in the supermarket nearest my house in France, there were today announcements about special offers of various comestibles. On each occasion the announcement ended by proclaiming that the comestible in question was produced in France. Next door the supermarket is one of those stores, more numerous in France than in Britain, for do-it-yourself equipment and materials. Over the entrance was a big banner: All our materials are made in France.
Naturally enough, the fact that the food and materials were produced in France was intended as an enticement to buyers, predominantly French of course. I have no criticism of this, it seems to me the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, you encounter the same thing in most countries.
The point is this: neither the supermarket nor the do-it-yourself store would advertise their wares as ‘Made in Europe.’ Marketers tend to know their customers, and they know that such a slogan would entice no one. Indeed, it would probably raise suspicion that something second-rate or botched together was being palmed off on the public. It is true that nowadays you sometimes buy things that tell you only that they were ‘made in the EU,’ but they tend to be the kind of products, such as rubbers or kitchen towels in whose origins no one is much interested.
Although this is only a small thing, it is a sign that, though we are all Europeans, there is no such thing as a European people. We feel European only in contradistinction to people of other continents. Within our continent we feel French, German, Polish, Portuguese, etc., as the case might be.
This, it seems to me, is not without importance for the so-called European Project, whose precise nature is never spelt out or even demanded, but which is pretty clearly the creation of a United States of Europe whose main object is to be powerful. But this is the obsession of the European political class, not of most of the people.
Where there is no demos there can be no democracy, that minimal (and decreasing) control over its own politicians that our individual countries presently enjoy. It is true that national identities are not fixed in amber, as we are in the process of rediscovering in Britain; but to create a unitary European state in the hope that identity will follow seems to me to court a Yugoslav-type denouement.©
An interesting quirk is that many of the products that are made in France have labels on them that say “Made in France” not “Fabrique en France”. What’s more if you look closely in the do-it-yourself store you will find that fittings for plumbing piping such as valves have numbers such a 1 or 1-1/2 cast into them. This is the size in inches, not in millimetres! I wonder if this will change on Brexit.