Is the term “The European Union” no longer a legitimate title for the EU? After all, as from 1st January 2021 there are two “European Unions” (The EU and The United Kingdom). Perhaps the term “European Conglomerate” (EC) would be a better description for the remaining 27 countries?
Should the semantics be dismissed, and the UK simply ignored? After all, the EU still contains over 446 million inhabitants and covers more than 4 million km2, whereas the UK has only 66 million and covers a mere 0.2 million km2. The latter represents about 13 percent of the combined block in terms of population. On the other hand, the UK is the second largest economy in Europe below Germany but ahead of France. It is made up of several nations and is part of Europe. Glossing over reality will not change the situation; the (old) EU has suffered a severe dent and today we are in a totally different Europe.
For decades, historians will mull over why the UK left the EU. There are many reasons. Ironically, the old EU was fixated on the notion of unity, which was promoted under the catch phrase “European Identity”. But this concept is commonly acknowledged as … one of the most complex phenomena within European studies and social science. In an earlier article on this website it was pointed out that the core of the problem resides in the interpretation of “identity” (here). If we cannot define this word then, by inference, we cannot define any related term like “European identity”.
Wake up call
The blow that the old EU suffered is a wakeup call. The remaining 27 need to reflect on the top-down attempts that Brussels made to create unity amongst citizens and member states. Despite repeated indications that people tend to associate themselves with their nation or adopt a wider cosmopolitan (i.e., universal) outlook, elites in Brussels insisted on promoting what they called “European Identity”. A myriad of terms was employed to woo citizens and nations to embrace their vision. Words and phrases like “cohesion”, “integration”, “collaboration”, “acting together”, “speaking with one voice”, “commonality of interests”, “forging Europeanness”, “core European values”, etc., were unable to achieve the elusive “buy-in” to the European project so coveted by these elites.
Fundamental and incompatible gulfs exist between what are termed “conservative” and “progressive” elements in Western society, which were exhibited in the stark contrast between opponents in the recent presidential elections in the US. European examples (besides Brexit) include tensions between Brussels and Member States like Poland, Hungary, Italy and Austria. Sharp ideological differences also exist between faith communities and European leaders. Europe is far from united. Yet Brussels’ elites seem to give the impression that they regard dissidents as minority aberrations.
A New Identity Paradigm
Enter the new paradigm of “objective” or “universal identity”, which is described here. It succeeds in separating the concept of “Europeanness” from the strict definition of “identity”. The suffix “-ness” (as in “Irishness”, “Britishness”, etc.,) is understood to mean the distinctive attributes or characteristics of the collective group in question, which tend to change over time. But the essential mark of identity is its distinguishing “sameness” at all times or under all circumstances. Therefore, by definition, there can be no such thing as European, or Irish, or British identity.
All issues relating to “sense” of self (affinities, affiliations, belonging, communality, connectedness, cohesion, self-understanding, self-identification, etc., etc.,) are distinct from the underlying “sameness” which is located in the human genome at the individual and species levels. The long list of interpretations that are linked to contemporary views of identity are hereby discarded, allowing us much needed clarity when it comes to understanding ourselves.
Towards a New Europe
In 2021, Our Own Identity intends to explore the apparent dichotomy between these two aspects of humanity (i.e., individual and collective identity on the one hand, and the perspectives of individuals and social scientists on the other). They are not the same. But objective identity and cognitive viewpoints of ourselves are complementary. Furthermore, the most important outcome arising from the new paradigm of identity may be a resurrected hope in a more unified Europe but one that will be completely different from the vision which is promoted today.
 Pedersen,T. 2008. When Culture becomes Politics; European Identity in Perspective. Aarhus University Press; p. 10.
Nigel Farage here