Watching the furore over the people waving flags at the Last Night of the Proms has been something indeed. The hypocrisy has been particularly stunning since it has come from those who label themselves patriots and free speech warriors and have a pattern of alleging that ‘the left’ is trying to cancel what they label, often somewhat imprecisely, as British culture.
Patriotism vs nationalism
Nationalism believes in a homogeneous society with strong leaders, authority, and a particular slant on history and ideology. It demands loyalty and devotion to a nation. It boosts the identity and superiority of one group in direct opposition to other individuals or group interests.
Patriotism requires love of the country as a whole, which includes ALL the people who live within it.
Charles de Gaulle, who led Free France against Nazi Germany during World War II and later became president of France, said, “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first”.
Albert Einstein said, “Nationalism is an infantile disease; it is the measles of mankind”. The people who are upset about EU flags at the Proms tend to have nationalistic traits as opposed to patriotic values.
Shutting down political opposition smacks of extremism
It is noted that some of the more extreme commentators vociferously attack anyone who speaks out about Brexit, and we can expect this to worsen. They seem to be in a state of increasing panic, with daily news now seeping out of every sector telling the public just how bad it has been. Environmental standards are being slashed so big businesses can make more profit, and they know they are approaching the Brexit-shattering realities of a demographic time bomb. Research shows that for every day that has passed since the EU Referendum, 1,356 votes have been added to the pro-European side with older voters naturally passing away and younger voters coming of age.
If someone speaks out against Brexit, or the ideologically constricted government, daring to state the obvious, i.e., it has been bad for the nation’s wealth, is damaging to business, has hurt British farming, or daring to suggest that Britain needs to be part of the EU, they will receive a torrent of abuse, or be told to stay in their box. Notable lightning rods for this invective include Carol Vorderman, Gary Lineker, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, lately, Stephen Fry.
The people who have been the most vocal about EU flags at the Proms take great pains to insist they are proponents of free speech and freedom of expression. It’s clearly arrant nonsense as their latest tirades demonstrate. What they mean is they want the freedom to use bigoted language against migrants, to deny well-established science and spread Covid misinformation, to indulge in unevidenced conspiracy theories, to attack net zero, and blame everything on some enigmatically unidentifiable force, like ‘the blob’ or the ‘wokerati’. Those who challenge them are labelled the enemies of free speech and part of an amorphous ‘metropolitan elite’ that they’ve never been able to quite define.
Brexit has been deeply damaging to British music industry
The Proms itself represents musicians and music from all corners of Europe, indeed, from all over the world. Members of the EU Flags Team have run this campaign and their slogan is #ThankEUForTheMusic. They are trying to highlight the issues facing the music industry and the effects that leaving the EU has brought.
“Music has no borders and we should want our music industry to succeed.”
The loss of freedom of movement has been devastating to musicians and orchestras. Visas and paperwork for every country. The 90 in 180-day rule, and particularly ‘carnet’ paperwork, which allows an individual traveller/business to temporarily export or import goods for commercial purposes to and from a country without having to pay duty or value-added taxes (on their equipment) being hugely impactful.
Arron Banks’ meltdown in response to Blur’s Damien Albarn daring to explain the issues aspiring musicians face due to Brexit, renders a near-perfect example of both the ignorance and arrogant nonchalance espoused by some.
Yet, almost half of UK musicians and workers in the music industry have had less work in the EU since Brexit than before, and more than a quarter have had no EU work at all. Musicians who participated in the survey said:
“It’s been impossible to be heard/audition in European opera houses since 1st January 2021. European opera companies are reluctant to audition UK singers since the changes.”
“Work has come to a halt … The offer of European gigs simply dried up … My band simply can’t make any kind of living in the tiny UK market, so we basically have folded as a working band.”
The UK’s music and arts industry is huge
The UK’s music industry – contributing some £4.4bn a year to the UK economy – is a dominant global force and a central part of the UK’s creative industries, which, valued at £92bn a year to the UK economy, are worth more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences, oil and gas industries combined.
Patriots would understand that the British music industry is one of our best exports and a huge source of soft power to the United Kingdom. They should be appalled at how Brexit has affected it. The extremists don’t seem to care about the damage to individuals’ lives or UK industries, yet waving a flag they don’t like is enough for some of them to deem you a ‘hater’ of your own country. They would certainly identify themselves as ‘patriots’, yet how patriotic is it to appear so relaxed about the destruction of one of the UK’s most successful industries and the disenfranchisement of so many of their fellow citizens?
Thank EU so much!
The Proms is screened on national television in Germany and France and around the world. Those EU flags were also seen by the three and a half million people who tuned in to watch in the UK, which would be a success in itself. However, the pro-European rejoin movement, including the amazing EU Flags Team, owes a big thank you to those who commented with such passion. They showed the world how intolerant they really are while bringing much-needed national and international attention to the damage Brexit has done to the UK music industry.
You couldn’t pay for this type of coverage. Their reactions have also brought a considerable amount of much-needed light entertainment.
The likes of Richard Tice, Nigel Farage, Isabel Oakeshott, Nile Gardiner, former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, and even PM Rishi Sunak are amongst those who seem to have had kittens in their commentary. Days on, the fallout and commentary is still going. What a great job! Thank you, guys.
Thank EU for the music
In an open letter to Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, from the campaign organisers, EU Flags Team (read here in full), they said:
“Music has no borders: it is a universal language, expressing as it does the voice of humanity. In order to express the best of Britain‘s cultural beating heart, musicians and all artists should not face borders either.
“The deleterious effects of Brexit are antithesis to that aspiration, and ignoring the damage being done now in favour od falsely calibrated impartiality can only perpetuate the impression that all is well, when manifestly it is not.”
No one forced members of the audience to take or wave the EU flags; they took them voluntarily. Those individuals may feel they are British and European. They may come from an EU country or understand the issues that leaving the EU has brought to the music industry and want to show solidarity. They may be musicians themselves. So, forgive us, please, if we call you hypocrites when you say these people ‘hate’ their country if at every turn you are unwilling to admit how much car manufacturing, farming, fishing, the arts and culture, your fellow compatriots, and so much more are suffering because of Brexit.
Rejoiners are now in the majority
Currently, over 60% of the UK wants to rejoin the EU, with that rising to 86% of those under 25, without any significant political party or politicians calling for it. Joining the EU again is looking like an inevitability. The most extreme contingent of Brexiters know this, so expect more hysteria from them in the coming months.
The second National Rejoin March is happening on 23 September in London, with speakers that include myself, Gina Miller, Guy Verhofstadt, A C Grayling, Mike Galsworthy, Terry Reintke and many more. You can find all the details on their website, MarchforRejoin.co.uk – Join us on the road to rejoin. The will of the people has changed: those who disagree can either get on board or get out of the way – increasing numbers of us are done with being shut down and we are making our voices heard.