That way dragons lurk

Being radical involves looking at history and realising that change doesn’t come gradually. It comes not at all, then all at once. Things which once seemed impossible rapidly become common sense. Most of the famous moments of history would have sounded ludicrous to people a decade earlier.

It’s important for radicals to remember that this is true both ways round. A neo-fascist with a penchant for Nazi symbology just came a few postal votes away from winning the presidency in Austria. Marine Le Pen is doing terrifyingly well in the French polls. An organisation calling itself the New IRA set off a semtex bomb in East Belfast in March, and violent unionists haven’t gone away

When we decide how to vote in the European referendum, it’s important to think about the real-life consequences of the result. Will it raise the temperature in the North of Ireland as debates around introducing a border with the Republic rage, and as peace funds are cancelled? Will it ratchet up tensions for the thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria? 

And will it boost Le Pen? Will French voters be tempted by her offer of the chance to escape an EU upon which we will have foisted a major crisis. And if the EU does begin to disintegrate, what will that do to the West Balkans, whose rare peace in the last decade is closely bound to a broad consensus around the desire for membership of the Union? 

I can’t pretend to know. But I’ll bet you that Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson don’t either.

One of the pathologies of being British is that we believe that we sit alone on our island, un-noticed by the rest of the world. But the truth is that we are one of the hulking beasts, bound up with the rest of our continent. When we breath, everyone feels it. Were we to leave, everyone would notice. The consequences would ripple across our continent. 

We do need radical change – hell, I think we need a drastic restructuring of the architecture of the international community. But I also think it’s important to look before leaping across a burn. And on the Brexit bank, dragons lurk.