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Among the key disputes of the Brexit years has been whether the European Union fancies itself as a full sovereign state or merely an international club. Leavers tended to believe that statehood is the ultimate destination, with mainstream remainers arguing such a view is paranoid.
The distinction has been seen in a squabble over whether the EU ambassador to Britain deserves full diplomatic treatment. The Foreign Office has said that the ambassador will only be given the same privileges as representatives of other international organisations, which are more limited than those granted to diplomats from proper countries.
Given this debate, it is interesting to see a recent video tweeted out by Frontex, the bloc’s border agency.
To paraphrase a comment by the journalist Peter Hitchens, uniformed personnel are not just a symbol of a sovereign entity, but a fact of it. Just as a security guard is there to safeguard the interests of their employer, border guards are there to safeguard the interests of whoever controls that border – in this case the EU.
Given that remainers tend to be less warm towards the United States than leavers, there is an ironic American flavour to the video. For all the alleged jingoism of Britons, any respect we have for uniforms pales in comparison to American fervour for them.
That said, I’m sympathetic to the EU’s need to bolster its nationhood through videos like this. Although nationalism is often seen as a source of division, a sense of shared nationhood – an ‘imagined community’, in Benedict Anderson’s phrase – is often needed to secure public support for redistributive measures.
Next time you hear an argument about whether hard-working Germans should pay for freeloading Greeks, think back to this video. If enough people warm to Europe’s boys in navy blue such disputes will be consigned to history.