Friday, 5 May 2017

Wales: Independence or not? It's No Contest Really.

Whenever I've heard anyone debate Welsh independence, there's always the inevitable "Wales is too small to survive on its own."  Oh really? The reality is that there are seven countries in Western Europe with a population that is lower than that of Wales; and guess what? They all have a nominal GDP per Capita that's higher than what Wales's GDP Per Capita is right now.

But I suppose the obvious question to ask is, "If Wales were not already a member of the UK, and instead an independent country like Ireland, Iceland or Slovenia, would she chose to join it?"
On the left is a map of the areas of Europe which were poor enough to receive EU funding in the period 2007-2013.  Those areas in dark red are those areas which did qualify.  Just take a look at the UK, and then take a look at France and Germany - two countries with similarly sized populations. In Germany the only area which was poor enough was the area that was once communist, while in France, nowhere was economically disadvantaged enough to qualify. The same cannot be said for the UK; The UK, it seems, has done a pretty bad job at making sure that none of its regions are economically left behind compared to how its neighbours have done.  Meanwhile, Ireland, once the poorest part of the British Isles when it was still part of the United Kingdom, has no such areas, and in fact now has a GDP per Capita higher than that of the UK. It seems that Wales hasn't benefited as much from this political union as much as the unionists like to say she has. 

But its not just about the economy, its a lot else as well.  As part of the deal of being a member of this United Kingdom, it seems you're kinda expected to give up your own language; that's of course what Scotland and Ireland (before 1922) did, and Wales has for-filled that requirement to the extent that only 8% of children in Wales now speak Welsh as their main language at home, according to the school census of 2013.  Having said that though, one of the UK's members, England, seems to have got away quite well with not having to hand in its language.  At least in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovenians and Czechs and other nationalities continued to hold on to their own languages right the way through.    Identity, too, seems to be something which you're expected to at least half hand in at reception; when I was in France, there were a lot of people who seemed to refer to Scottish and Welsh people simply as 'English', and yet I seriously doubt that they would now refer to any Slovenians as 'Austrians.'  

And then of course, there's the flooding of welsh villages, like Capel Celyn.  This happened despite the fact that not one Welsh MP voted in favor of the scheme, while such reservoirs, such as those which flooded Capel Celyn and Nant-Y-Moch, were created not to water Welsh mouths, but for the benefit of industries in English cities such as Liverpool and Birmingham.  Welsh villages such as Trawsfynydd and Mynydd Epynt have had to put up with military encampments on their doorstep whether they wanted them or not, while the latter community was actually forced out of their homes.  Many of the wars which Wales has been involved in since, as a member of the UK, are wars which I hardly think an independent Wales would have considered worth fighting in.  Then of course, there are the nuclear power plants, placed in areas such as Cemaes in Anglesey and again, in Trawsfynydd.  Somehow I think its hard to imagine them being placed in the Thames Valley or in Oxfordshire.   And, of course, thanks to a decision made in England, you can no longer travel by train from the north of Wales to the south without leaving the country.  I mean, what the.....?

It's very simple, folks; the difference between those other countries already mentioned and Wales is that while Wales is on the edge of someone else's country, ruled for the benefit of that other country, all those other countries, from Ireland to Lichtenstein, are countries of their own, and get to rule themselves, in the interests of themselves.  Would Wales chose to join the United Kingdom if she were already like them? Hmm, that's a hard one.  If I were a Welshman, I know what I'd vote for. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

French Election: Food for thought for us in Britain?

Last Sunday, the first round of the French Presidential Election, 2017,  took place and the two candidates who made it into the second round are Far right leader Marine Le Pen, and the party-less centrist firebrand, Emmanuel Macron.  Neither of the two candidates from the traditional two centre-left and centre-right parties made it to the second round.  In fact, the Socialist party only got 6.36% percent of the vote, despite the incumbent being of that party.

The way I see this election, is as nothing short of a sea change in Western politics.  Or, rather, this election is the sign that such a change has happened.  No longer is the game a match between socialism and capitalism.  No longer is the main debate about whether or not workers should seize the means of production.  It is instead between ultra-nationalism and internationalism, cosmopolitanism vs parochialism. Although the French election is reflective of this, it is a change which has not merely happened in France.  In the UK, the same debate divides the nation; whether you are pro-Brexit or pro-EU - whether you want the United Kingdom to cooperate with other nations in an organisation where we are equal partners, or whether you believe that we are just too good for any of that.  In the United States too, this change has come in the form of Donald Trump.

The Elephant in the Room
Here in the UK, the issue which divides the country is of course, Brexit, and everything associated with it - immigration, our place in the world, and generally how we view things foreign, whether that be people or institutions.  But unlike in France, that is not reflected by whose in parliament.  In France, the two candidates who have made it into the second round are, 1) the most eurosceptic of the candidates (Le Pen), and 2) the most pro-European of the candidates (Macron).  By the same token, the two largest parties in the UK's parliamentary system ought to be UKIP and the Lib Dems, for they were the parties who epitomized each side of the referendum campaign the most. Yet the two largest parties in Westminster are, the Conservatives and Labour, still, as if the debate is still between capitalism and socialism.  In the referendum campaign itself, the former was neutral while the labour party only appeared luke warm in its support of remain.  Our party political system, or in particular, the makeup of parliament, has not kept up with the debate outside.

It's not just because we haven't had an election for two years.  Two years is not very long, and bare in mind that UKIP had actually won the most votes in the European elections back in 2014. No, its because of our electoral system, which favors traditional parties over any new ones.  A key lesson from the French presidential election therefore, is just how much our First past the post system is preventing the makeup of parliament from taking its natural, and most representative, course.

Now I'm not saying that we ought not to have a socialist party, for example.  What I am saying however, is that the size of political parties in parliament, and on the political stage generally, should be somewhat reflective of the percentage of people who actually believe what they stand for.  By all means, have a socialist party, just like we have a Green party, for example - I am in favour of a pluralistic multi-party system.  But the key to having a multi-party system that no party should be too big for its own ideology.  If for example, more voters believe in liberalism than believe in socialism, then it makes sense that the liberal party should be bigger and more influential than the socialist party.


Friday, 21 April 2017

This Election May Not Be a Foregone Conclusion, but the Tories Winning it does seem to be one.

On Tuesday the 19th April, Theresa May announced that she and her cabinet intended to hold a general election.  It is due to happen on the 8th of June.

Obviously, Theresa May saw that the Labour Party was 20 points behind in the polls and could not resist.  Knowing that the only possible outcome, unless she somehow suffers the same fate as Francois Fillon, is that the Tories will gain a very large majority at the expense of Labour, she has everything to win and nothing to loose;  a larger majority will give her a freer hand, should any group within her party oppose her on anything.  Given how badly Labour performed at the last election, despite its more favorable position in the polls then, one can only guess how many seats the party will loose this time round, particularly when Corbyn's position on Brexit seems to have pleased neither its heartland supporters who voted Leave in the Referendum (and particular its policies and rhetoric on immigration) nor its staunch remain-supporting voters.  At least it no longer has to worry about loosing many Scottish incumbent MPs.

As for the Lib-Dems, the future is bright.  I have read articles which suggest that they may well win 30 seats, largely from the Tories, but I see no reason why they may not also take seats from Remain supporting Labour voters who don't support Corbyn.  What I would say is this though, many of the seats which the Lib Dems lost to the Tories, such as those in Cornwall, are seats which voted to leave in the referendum.  Will the Lib-Dems manage to regain many of its traditional 'remote rural' seats or will it become much more of an urban party given the centrality of pro-Europeanism to the party, particularly now.  This election has been described as a de-facto referendum on Brexit after all.

The trouble with this election being a 'de-facto referendum' is that those who support Brexit and the new status quo have only one option to vote for, the Tories (UKIP being irrelevant now, let's face it, and excluding the Ulster Unionists) while those who support remain/don't like Theresa May have a multitude of different parties to vote for - Labour, Lib-dems, Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein... have I missed any out? Either way, the Pro-Brexit vote is now as unified as ever while the anti-Brexit vote is divided, and under the First Past the Post system, this can only be bad news.  I agree that Theresa May has called this general election to be essentially a referendum on the Brexit process, and tried to make it a referendum in which the choice is either yes or yes.  The fact that she has refused to attend any televised debates shows that she does not view it as a normal election.

So what about Plaid Cymru and the SNP? If the SNP manages to hold on to all its seats won at the last election, that will be a clear green light from the people of Scotland to Nicola's Sturgeon's plans for a second referendum.  It is interesting that Theresa May has said that now is not the time for such an independence referendum but feels that it is the time to have a general election.  So what about Plaid Cymru? The fact that the party nearly won Anglesey and came 229 votes short of kicking out Labour there should be hopeful, let's hope that any leave voters who have traditionally voted Plaid Cymru will not hold a grudge against the party and instead recognize that Wales sure does need a voice right now.  What will be equally interesting is whether or not Plaid Cymru can repeat the progress that it made in the Welsh Assembly elections, particularly in the valleys, where not only did Leanne Wood win in the Rhondda but large vote increases happened elsewhere, such as in Blaenau Gwent.

Another aspect to this election is the talk of a 'progressive alliance' between the left of center parties, an idea which can count Caroline Lucas as one of its keen advocates.  This certainly seems like a good idea in which the parties involved can choose to not run against each other in seats where it looks like a split in the anti-Brexit or left of center vote could lead to the Tories getting in.  Unfortunately, it seems that Labour, in its arrogance, is not so keen on the idea.  Although I feel that they deserve all the extra disaster that comes with that decision, it is actually highly understandable that they should decline such an offer - they are used to their age old place in a two party system, and where they were able to win elections without any other parties' help, and it can only be hard for them to accept that such a position is now over for them.

This election my not be a foregone conclusion but whether or not the Tories are gonna win it, does seem to be one.  What will be interesting is 1) what progress the Lib-Dems are going to make and the extent to which they will be the flag-bearers for the 48%, 2)Whether or not the SNP are going to keep their seats, and 3) at least for me, whether or not Plaid Cymru makes any noteworthy gains in Wales.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

What Brexit was Truly About and Why it Happened

Article 50 has now been triggered and there is no doubt that it will go down as a defining moment in British, and European History, no matter what happens next.   I agree with what Guy Verhofstadt had to say; the relations between the UK and the rest of Europe can indeed by described as an unhappy marriage.  The key question that was always in my mind both long before and after the referendum was why.  Why did the UK have such an unhappy membership of the EU and why did it vote to leave on June 23rd, 2016? Why the UK, and not any other country?

At first, when I asked this question to the rest of my family, back when Cameron was negotiating reforms and Nigel Farage was sounding off against them, the answer seemed obvious.   Britain was an island, not part of Continental Europe, and therefore felt less European.  After a while, I started to scratch my head a bit more, as it became more and more obvious that the UK was, in fact, not on the 'edge' of Europe at all, in fact, it was very close to the center.  Think about it: if you consider the 'true' center of Europe in particular to be where Brussels and Strasbourg are, or to be more exact, that entire region of Western Europe including the Netherlands, Belgium, Western Germany, Luxembourg and North East France (which are arguably the economic beating heart of Europe) then we are very close to it;  Much closer, in fact, than Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean or Ireland.   Not only that, the very parts of the UK that were furthest from the Continent, namely Northern Ireland and Scotland, voted to remain.  Clearly, our physical detachment by the English Channel had little or nothing to do with our unease in being part of the organisation.

But that is not to mention that in many ways, Britain is the center of Europe.  For example, the financial capital of the EU, at least for now, is London.  In addition, Europe is known for being a wealthy and industrialized continent and was the first continent to undergo industrialization.  But where in Europe industrialized first? Great Britain.  Europe is also known for being a continent of parliamentary democracies.  Britain is the land of the Magna Carta and the 1688 Bill of Rights, with its parliament in Westminster being the icon of parliamentary democracy.    Europe is also known for its past colonization of other continents.  Which country built up the largest colonial empire? Great Britain.  Europe is also a continent in which the English language is the leading lingua-franca.  Where in Europe does English come from? England.  

It is precisely because of all this, ironically, that Britain, or rather England in particular, voted to leave the EU.  As my seminar tutor said (in a seminar on Welsh history) just over an hour ago, Brexit can be described as an English/ Anglo-British nationalist move in which the prevailing thought can be described as something like 'We invented parliamentary democracy, started the industrial revolution, built the largest Empire the world has ever seen and the world speaks our language, so why do we need to be equal partners with other European countries within this organisation?' I couldn't have phrased it better myself, and indeed the rest of the seminar group, all Welsh students (and one English guy, me), also agreed.   Yes Wales, as a whole voted to leave the EU, but I would argue that if Wales had been less connected to England, then it would have voted to remain, like Scotland, and in fact, Gwynedd, the only local authority area in Wales where a majority of school children still speak Welsh at home, voted to remain.  In the lead up to the referendum, Boris Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph that 'We are the European, if not World, Leaders...', and referred to what Britain had given to the world, and to the British Empire to argue that Britain could jolly well survive outside the EU; he did not say that we weren't European. Daniel Hannan, when debating alongside Nigel Farage on Britain's membership of the EU, closed his opening speech by saying 'That which we are, we are' and went on to refer to Britain's linguistic, military and economic power and influence.  Even David Cameron, who backed the remain side, argued that because of Britain's history and achievements, British membership of the EU should not be the same as other countries' membership.  

Thus I would argue that if England had not been the land of the Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights, had not started the industrial revolution, had not built the largest colonial Empire the world has ever known and if the English language was not the Lingua Franca of Europe and the world, then ironically Britain would be a proud signed up nation of the European Union like any other, and the English channel would be not much less of a division than the straits of ├śresund.  In addition, if the UK's 20th century had been different, say if we had been under either foreign subjugation for a portion of it, been a dictatorship or indeed had a civil war, then we would also be a much keener member of the EU.  A country like Spain, for example, which had experienced the latter two, saw the EU as a 'cool club' of economically developed democracies where as we in Britain, with our history, felt that we were already 'cool' and in 1973 didn't join up for quite the same reasons.  

With the great pride in our history and democratic traditions comes the accompanying view that the EU is an affront to all that; namely that the European Commission is akin to a continental despotism threatening Anglo-Saxon democracy in Britain.  It is the view that Continental Europe, having produced a long line of despots from Philip II of Spain to Louis XIV of France to Napoleon to Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler, has produced the EU as an heir to this tradition.  Don't take my view for it, take Boris Johnson's own words; he himself compared the EU to the Nazi dictator.  It is interesting to note that when talking to Brexiters on Youtube/facebook or indeed face to face, I was just as likely, if not more likely, to find people who argued that the EU was a dictatorship than to find people sounding off about immigration. 


The key question is, how could we have moderated the prevailing world view among the majority of us English, and how should we, in the future, in order to allow us to be prouder European and Global citizens? Both the Press and the Education system of course have a large influence.  We need an education system that teaches us the fact that other nations also invented constitutional government; that Sweden also had parliamentary democracy during the eighteenth century, in what is known as the Age of Liberty, and that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had a limited monarchy and strong legislature while we in England and Wales were living under the despotism and semi-despotism of the Tudors and Stuarts.  We need to teach ourselves that the Kikuyu, in Kenya, for example, also had a proto-democratic system of clan governance, that is, before we British conquered them.  And of course, we need to teach ourselves that the European Commission is not a dictatorship, that in fact, the European Parliament has legislative power and that the European parliament approves the President of the Commission, as proposed by the European Council.  Until we have an education system and press which teaches us that, I am afraid that Brexit will truly mean Brexit and all that that implies.  

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Yr Iaith Gymraeg: We need to talk about Conwy

Conwy County Borough is a local authority area located about half way across the coast of North Wales (see right) and is bordered by Denbighshire to the East and Gwynedd to the south and west, and in Gwynedd, Welsh is still spoken natively by a majority of the population.  Together, Gwynedd and Conwy share the Snowdonia National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Eyiri), known to be a bastion of Welsh culture and home to Wales's most iconic scenery, and which covers about a third of Conwy. One would therefore assume that Conwy was pretty Welsh speaking.  Yet the 2011 Census recorded that only 27.4% of the population could speak Welsh, while the 2013 school census recorded that of Conwy's primary school children over the age of five, only 10.6% spoke Welsh 'fluently at home'.  The figures for each individual primary school, however, give one an idea about how the Welsh Language is doing in different places around the county borough.

They show that of Conwy's 58 primary schools, 13 have a majority of their children over the age of five speaking Welsh 'fluently at home', of which five are above 80%, and of those five, three are above 90%.  The map below shows each of the schools in Conwy colour-coded to show the percentage of children speaking Welsh at home with the greenest colour representing schools above 80% and the gray representing schools below 20%.  Any school that is either green or 'greeny-brown' has a majority of its pupils from Welsh-speaking homes.
It goes without saying that we see a coast-hinterland divide here, with many of the schools on the coast having none of their pupils speaking Welsh at home.  Indeed, I once met someone who described the north coast of Wales as the 'Costa-Del-Scouse.'  When you look at the hinterland however,  what you see is quite bizarre; the strongest Welsh speaking areas are mostly not in the Snowdonia national park area itself, but in the less mountainous countryside to the east of it.  Mountainous areas tend to be very good at conserving languages and cultures which have disappeared elsewhere since they are less accessible to the 'outside world' yet here the countryside that is less mountainous and closer to England has conserved the language better.  Why is that? One word: Migration; English people who move to Wales are more likely to chose the scenic areas, or as already mentioned, the coastal areas; take the now anglicized Snowdonian village of Betws-Y-Coed as an example of the former, there, 43.3% of the population was born outside Wales according to the 2011 Census, and fewer than five of the twenty primary school children there spoke Welsh at home in 2013, while in Cerrigydrudion, only 22.8% of the population was born outside Wales and 85.7% of primary school children speak Welsh at home.  Similarly, in the book For Wales, See England, Martyn Ford, describes how another Snowdonian village, Penmachno, underwent rapid Anglicization starting in the 1970s; in 1971 the percentage of Welsh speakers  there was 84%, but a decade later, such a figure was only 70%, with 37% of houses being holiday homes by 1981.  By 2013, fewer than five of Penmachno's 23 primary school children over the age of 5 spoke Welsh at home.  Nevertheless, as the map shows, there are still some schools in the Snowdonian portion of Conwy where a majority of pupils do still speak Welsh at home, the three being in the villages of Ysbyty Ifan, Capel Garmon and Dolwyddelan, although the overall percentage for the primary schools in the Snowdonian portion of Conwy was only 36.6%.  The fact that a higher percentage of incomers from outside Wales appears to be linked to fewer children speaking Welsh at home suggests that it is not merely retirees moving to rural Wales, as is widely believed; after all, retirees tend not to be of the age group to be raising young children.

Despite the geographical paradox already discussed, the rule that minority languages tend to survive better in rural areas is certainly present in Conwy; although truly welsh speaking towns do exist in Gwynedd and Anglesey, in Conwy everywhere where a majority of children speak Welsh at home is rural.   Llanrwst is the most welsh speaking of Conwy's towns, but even there, only 25.6% of pupils in the town's primary school speak Welsh at home.  Llanrwst is a key example of where the Census can be quite deceptive; the 2011 Census recorded that 61% of the population could speak Welsh, potentially giving one  completely the wrong impression as to the actual state of Welsh in the town.

So how far back would you have to go to find a predominantly Welsh speaking Conwy? Figures for Conwy as a whole don't go back very far, since the area as a unit of local government only came into existence in 1996.    What are available however, are the individual figures for different urban and rural districts, and in particular, the percentages for each age group are available for the 1911 and 1921 censuses (but not after!!.)  So what was the situation then?  Below are the percentages of children aged 3-4 speaking Welsh within each town at the censuses of 1911 and 1921 with every town except for Llanrwst and Betws-y-Coed being located on the 'coastal strip' across the north of Conwy:

Both inland towns had very high percentages of children speaking welsh at home and neither of them saw a decrease at this time and thus they had not yet diverged from their rural surroundings.  The coastal strip, however, was a different story; Llandudno and Colwyn Bay had already ceased to be primarily Welsh speaking by as early as 1911, while the other four seaside towns, although majority Welsh mother tongue at both censuses. all experienced spectacular decreases during the 1910s.   I therefore think it is highly likely that none of the coastal towns would have had a majority of their children still speaking welsh at home by the era of the Second World War. The fate of Welsh in Conwy can therefore be described as having first lost the coastal strip to, it seems, seaside tourism, in the first half of the twentieth century, and then much (but not all) of the scenic and mountainous hinterland in the second half of the twentieth century with the arrival of the motorcar.

Conwy, is thus today an area where only a minority of people are able to speak Welsh overall and where an even smaller minority of children speak it at home.  However, even though it has lower overall percentages than say, Ceredigion, this is more than made up for in my opinion by the fact that genuinely welsh speaking areas genuinely do exist in Conwy.  As for why Conwy is so much less welsh speaking than Gwynedd, and has such a low percentage overall, an obvious factor is the fact that Conwy is simply closer to England, while other factors include the fact that the county has such a sparsely populated hinterland, and a densely populated but incredibly anglicized coastal strip.  The lack of a significant slate industry in the interior meant that the hinterland did not see the growth of the slate mining towns that Gwynedd has, and which provided the interior of that county with urban centres of population which are also heavily Welsh speaking.

Talking of Gwynedd, if you are interested in reading my blog on the status of Welsh there, click here, whilst I have also written blogs on Anglesey and Ceredigion.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Suggestion: Elections to the House of Commons should be staggered by region/nation within the UK


   The United Kingdom is, in spite of devolution, a rather centralised state and it is one where a sufficient number of people feel that power is too centralised in one corner of the country.  We also have a voting system which many regard as unfair.  I have a suggestion that I do not claim will cure any of these, but I do feel that it would be of some help:

What I propose, is that instead of having nation-wide General Elections every five years in which every seat in the country is up for election, we should have a system whereby elections to the House of Commons are staggered so that the different parts of the United Kingdom elect their MPs during different years in a five year cycle.  One year, for example, it might be Wales and Northern Ireland electing their MPs, while the next year it might be Scotland and East Anglia.  Therefore, Scotland, Wales, Northern and the nine Regions of England will each have an election every five years, meaning that during three years of a five year cycle, there will be two elections in the year, while in the remaining two years, there will be three elections in the year to the House of Commons.  By-elections will happen as normal with the duly elected MP serving until his/her division of the United Kingdom next has an election.

Such a system would, in my opinion, by beneficial for several reasons.  One, it would serve to greater incentivize governments to be more accountable since the next election would always be soon and they may well loose their majority in the House of Commons in any year.  Two, it would force politicians in Westminster to pay attention to every region and nation within the United Kingdom, albeit with different regions/nations being in the limelight at different times.  Three, it may well even reduce tactical voting, since in a potential scenario where the outcome of an election in a certain region will not impact who has a majority in the House of Commons as a whole, the voter will feel more able to vote with their conscience.

Before each election, there would be be a mandatory televised debate in which every political party contesting a majority of seats within that nation or region would be invited to send a representative, with that representative having to be someone who is standing for the election in that nation or region.  Said debates would also help to 'zoom in' attention to each part of the country, more so than UK wide televised debates do, of course.

Thus that is a suggestion of mine.  Feel free to express your views on it in the comments below.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Remain Campaign should not have argued that the EU was what had kept the Peace

Leading up to the referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union, many on the remain side argued that the EU had kept the peace in Europe ever since its existence.  I feel that this particular argument should never have been used, and indeed, it was obvious to me that Brexiters were quick to take advantage of this obviously floored argument and ridicule us on the remain side.  The truth is that however undesirable we may feel the consequences of an EU breakup may be, a European war would never one of them.  Were those speakers and politicians representing us on the remain side seriously saying that were the EU to collapse, France would suddenly find itself at war with Germany again? I sincerely hope not; since anyone who can make that argument without questioning it would clearly need to think it through a bit better. If anything, the willingness of Western European countries to found and cooperate within the European Coal and Steel Community, along with its successor organisations, was caused by a collective desire to avoid war; not the other way around. In this blog, therefore, I will try to argue why I think European history since 1945 has been so comparatively peaceful.

100 years ago, Europe was in the middle of the First World War.  In many ways, not much had changed since the 4th Century BC when Alexander the Great was fighting the Persians. Whereas in that war you had two main Empires fighting each other for a greater share of the pie, in the 1910s, you had opposing Empires fighting each other for a greater share of the pie.  Wars were in no way a one off in the thousands of years before the 20th century, and even when they weren't happening, war was more often than not, in the air, with different powers most often viewing each other as rivals to be contained.  Today, the situation is totally different; the nation states of Europe now see each other as neighbors to cooperate with and not rivals to be contained.  Yes, arguments between neighboring countries do happen but they are no comparison in any sense; whenever, say, France and Britain have had a disagreement, it has been over border control at Calais and the Common Agricultural Policy; not over the Channel Islands or colonies in Africa.

That, I believe, is at the heart of it all.  Conflicts over territory are far less common in the world today than they used to be; territory is no longer something that you simply acquire, and with that, territorial expansionism, a leading cause of war, is (almost) unheard of.  But just why have our attitudes territory changed so much?  First of all, we live in a Europe, and a wider world, where the vast majority of countries are nation-states, and in Europe, for the most part, international borders reflect ethnic and linguistic countries.  Therefore, it doesn't make sense to go round annexing territory where the population is of a different nationality.  The belief in territorial self-determination has been critical, stating that the population of any given area should have the final say, meaning that traditional ways of acquiring territory, such as through marriage or conquest, are now seen as illegitimate.  This change, along with the related belief that all men are created equal, has replaced expansionist ideologies such as social Darwinism and Lebensraum.  Lebensraum, for example, was a German belief, that they, the Germans, were superior to the peoples of Poland, Russia and other Slavic countries, and that they therefore had to right to conquer and enslave them and steal their land.  It was perhaps the most important cause of WW2, and therefore its demise as an ideology, and of any similar expansionist ideologies, has made any kind of repeat of WW2 completely out of the question. The end of colonialism, in which certain European countries had large Empires on other continents, has meant that nations such as Britain and France have one less thing to fight over.  It is no coincidence then, that the demise of Empire and this long lasting period of Peace have come about at the same time.   Then of course, there is Constitutional Democracy and the fact that under such a system, governments can no longer go to war on a whim and expect their populations to unquestionably serve up.  The idea that Democracy brings peace is as old as Thomas Paine.  It can only be a good thing, then, that Constitutional Democracy is the dominant political system across Europe and the wider industrialized world today.  But in addition to the important political changes that have just been described, I also remember someone arguing on youtube that the post-war economic miracles that took place in Europe, South Korea and Japan, helped to prove once and for all that territorial expansion was not a prerequisite for economic expansion. Today, when countries do compete, it is to attract foreign direct investment, to get to the top of the PISA rankings, eetc, and to out-perform each other in ways that do not involve any kind of territorial aggrandizement.

 The three main Europe-centered conflicts of the Twentieth Century, the First World War, the Second World War and the Cold War, did a lot to bring about the conditions described above.  Not only did the first two show just how destructive war can be, and thus act as a deterrent against future wars, a notable achievement of the Cold War was that it served to further consolidate unity between nations which were on the same side.  In the West, the capitalist nations realized that they had to pull together and become allies in the face of the communist threat while in the East, the Red Army made sure that no conflicts broke out between the Warsaw Pact countries.  Thus, when the Iron curtain finally came down, the allied countries in the West, for example, were now so used to being allied with each other, that they weren't going to suddenly start fighting each other again, while more importantly, the factors described in the previous paragraph were now firmly established.

Thus, while I was a staunch remainer in the lead up to the referendum, and count myself as a pro-European even now (though I do accept the result of the referendum), I feel that it was neither wise nor correct for the Remain Campaign to go so far as to say that the EU was what had prevented war breaking out.  Such an argument only allowed Leave supporting politicians to get another chance at ridiculing the Remain Campaign, a chance which individuals such as Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan most definitely took.