An email from the high-minded Carnegie Endowment, marking the triggering of Article 50 and the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, speaks of ‘The Closing of the European Mind’. ‘The cult of the protective sovereign nation-state,’ it goes on, ‘will not provide convincing solutions to 21st-century challenges, which are inherently transnational.’ This is true, in a way. Lots of modern challenges cannot be solved by the nation-state alone. But is there anyone — even including the ‘Anywheres’ defined recently by David Goodhart — who would be happy to inhabit a space completely unprotected by a sovereign state? Surely it is only with the confidence engendered by living in a well-functioning nation-state that one can reach transnational agreements which will stick. The analogy might be with house-owners. Everyone knows he cannot exist in his house without being dependent on vast numbers of other people whose houses he does not own. But he will be much less fearful of co-operating with them if he feels secure in his ownership title. When Theresa May said that if you are only a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere, she was criticised, because it sounded nationalistic. It was a statement of literal fact. Citizenship of the world sounds a fine thing, but it offers no protections. It has no rule of law meaningful for the individual and no democratic government. The failure of internationalists to understand the need for secure nations is, from all points of view, tragic, because it means that what Gorbachev used to call the ‘Common European House’ is built on sand.
One must not make odious comparisons between Mrs May’s legs and those of Ms Sturgeon, but it is not sexist to ask which is the more sure-footed. So far, Ms Sturgeon has run much the faster, and by doing so has gained attention far in excess of the numbers she can command.