Thoughts on a referendum

I’ve temporarily added this one page to express some very personal thoughts to my European friends, coworkers, colleagues, and collaborators.  Like many of my British colleagues, I have been touched by the many warm messages of friendship and support I’ve had from across the continent in the last few weeks.

Something I and countless other people in Europe have been working at for years, carefully, slowly, maybe haltingly and falteringly, but always constuctively, each in our own way, building bridges and connections – fragile goodwill in a tumultuous world – was on 23 June smashed and stamped on by nothing less than a mob. This flawed yet wonderful country, its prosperity, its status in the world, the hopes and horizons of its young people, it values of openness and tolerance, were vandalised by ignorance, out of spite against a caricature, goaded on by duplicitous lies.

I am a citizen of Europe; of the continent of Shakespeare, Sappho, and Cervantes; of Einstein and Austen and Ostwald; of Donne, Darwin and Dante; of Maxwell, Messiaen and Mahler; of Curie and Kafka; of Bach, Burns, Brahms, Brueghel and Britten. And yet that European citizenship that I cherish is about to be taken from me and my compatriots. We have lost something great; and we have gained nothing.

This shameful episode will in no way stop me from continuing to work as constructively and supportively with my friends and colleagues across Europe.  If there is any lesson to learn in these sad days, it is that the values of collaboration, cooperation and friendship are far greater than narrow nationalism and isolationism.  We must never take these values for granted.


No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were,
as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Meditation 17, from ‘Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions’, John Donne (1572-1631)


We hope to reach again a Europe united,  purged of the slavery of ancient times, a Europe in which men will be proud to say “I am a European.”

We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land—and that without lessening any of their love and loyalty to their home and birthplace.

We hope that wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European continent, they will truly feel—Here I am at home, I am a citizen of this country too. These men are my brothers and friends. Let us meet together, let us work together, let us do our utmost, all that is in us, for the good of all. How simple it would be, how crowned with blessings for all of us, especially for the children and young men and women now growing up in this tortured world, if that could ever be brought about.

How proud we may all be, and should all be, if we had played any useful part in bringing that great day to come.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965): Speech in Amsterdam, 9 May 1948,


I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

‘A Dead Statesman’, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)




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