NapoleonMartyn Richard Jones

Carmarthen, Wales 13th July 2017

I’m British by accident of birth. It’s not a bad accident. In fact it is fortunate. But, that is by the by.

I was born in a very welsh Wales of tightly knit communities, close harmony choral singing, coal of Saudi Arabian proportions, heavy industry, agriculture and larger-than-life legends.

I have lived, loved and worked throughout Europe, the Middle East, China and the USA.

Last year the Brits were asked if we wanted to stay in the European Union. I voted to remain, as I had done in 1975 – the year of the previous referendum.

Yes, we’ve had two referendums about Europe.

But the funny thing is, many people try and correct me on this point. “You didn’t vote for the European Union in 1975” they say, “you voted for a common market”.

But, the simple answer to that is both yes and no. In 1975 I voted for the reality of the common market and the promise of a united and federal Europe. In 2016, I voted for the European Union that I know so well, and the promise of a united and federal Europe at some point in the future – whether I am here to see it or not.

My conception of a united Europe, unites the spirit, imagination and drive of so many people. From the known to the unknown. My Europe is of the greats and not-so-greats of literature, arts, science, philosophy, politics and economics. As well as those who fought for social justice, dignity, equality and human rights.

I was a child of Goethe, Byron, Shelley, Lorca, Alberti, Bachman and Betjeman. Of Bach, Beethoven and Elgar, and many others. But, also of Napoleon – that great European.

Let me explain.

As a child growing up in Wales and later in England, I came to believe that Napoleon, far from being a villain of the peace, was a historically significant and enlightened visionary and strategist who united, explained and encouraged the very idea of European unity.

Over 200 years ago, he wrote: “I wished to found a European system, a European Code of Laws, a European judiciary: there would be but one people in Europe”.

I first read this when I was about thirteen – probably in The Observer or The New Statesman. It was the discovery of an amazingly progressive and rational philosophical, political and economic concept. It was heady stuff. I was left in little doubt. Napoleon was the first European. I was convinced by the reasons, rationality and enlightenment of the ideals of the great European. I too wanted to be European.

Over the years, I have been involved in many areas that have reinforced my conviction that the EU (in whatever stage of its life, or whatever name it was called) was not only contingent but also absolutely necessary.

My conception of Europe has evolved over the years, and now closely mirrors that of Europeanism, notwithstanding my own interpretations, desires and bias. This, to state it simply, encompasses secularisation; trust in the state and scepticism about the accomplishments of markets; realistic expectations about technological progress; morally consequential welfarism; a low threshold of tolerance for the use of force; and, multilateralism within the framework of a reformed United Nations.

This journey has led me to where I am today.

For me, and I imagine many others as well, the common market, the EEC and the European Union were always about far more than just another single market, just another free trade area. So, I am sceptical when people make such claims.

If in 1975 I had a conception of Europe that went beyond even what the EU is today, surely other people around at that time also had similar views and aspirations.

I look at the European Union and see much that can be improved. But, I also see much that is to be admired. The European Union has achieved so much that is positive. It strives to be just, egalitarian and democratic. It strives to become – in broad terms – what I want it to become.

I believe that the Union can achieve so much in the future.

It makes me very happy to think that I am a citizen of a Europe made up of citizens from so many countries, and that we are all part of this great project known as the EU. It makes me happy to think that I can move, from one part of the EU to the other, to enjoy the freedom of the EU, the many and varied cultural and social differences, the similarities and shared values, and to happily embrace the rights and duties that come with it.

This is why I cherish my citizenship of the European Union. Something that means very much to me.

So, my position is simple.

I sincerely hope that the European Union will protect my wish to continue to be a citizen of the EU.

That is my deepest desire.

The European Union is my country, my home and my patria, and long may it continue to be.

Many thanks for reading.