Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.
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My article from The Times:
Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission, is singing a more friendly tune to Britain than his fellow commissioners: “We’re not going away and you will always be welcome to come back”. In a similar vein, “You’ll be back,” sings King George III’s character in the musical Hamilton, in a love song to his rebellious colonies, but adds: “And when push comes to shove/I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love”. Though they have stopped short of sending battalions, too often the rulers of the European empire have seemed to be adopting a counterproductive hostility to their departing British colony.
When William Petty, Earl of Shelburne, became prime minister in July 1782 he faced roughly the same problem as the EU faces today: how generous an empire should be to a departing nation, in that case the 13 American colonies. As sore losers of the recent war, British ministers’ initial stance towards the Americans at the Paris treaty negotiations that began that year was condescending and tough: call them “colonials”, threaten to deny them access to British and Caribbean ports and refuse their demands for land beyond the Appalachians.
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