I am a Slovenian national by birth and a British national by choice. And I support Brexit. Why?
Every life is unique. You have not walked in my shoes, and I fully appreciate that I have not walked in yours. I have been asked to relate the benefit of my experience. I hope that you may find a different perspective helpful to your own thinking, but do with it what you think is right.
When I was born, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia. The nation I was born into was not free, nor was it independent. It yearned for its independence for centuries, if not millennia, and it had to pay for its independence in blood. I had to work hard to obtain the nationality of a free country and I value and cherish it. I find it painful to think that any nation would contemplate giving up its freedom and independence voluntarily.
I still remember the days when Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia: an over-regulated, corrupt federal state consisting of numerous different constitutent states with different cultures, different languages, different national characters. Slovenia, having previously been a part of the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was culturally Northern European, Croatia, having been a part of the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was somewhere in the middle, while the rest had mostly been under Ottoman control and were culturally Southern European or perhaps Middle Eastern.
Contrary to popular belief, communist Yugoslavia was not formally a dictatorship. We had an elected parliament. But it was toothless. It had no legislative power. All the legislative power lay in the unelected executive. We were ruled by the unelected commissars.
Slovenia, the most Western member state, had the most productive economy and everyone else in the union was living at our expense. Government at all levels was living beyond its means and became overindebted. The magic solution offered by our rulers? Money prin…. er, quantitative easing.
Sound familiar so far?
The word for an EU commissioner in Slovene (and many continental countries) is “commissar”.
Hyperinflation, economic collapse and bankruptcy followed. The economic drag became too much and Slovenia had no option but to leave the union. Others tried to stop it – who wouldn’t try to bully and force a milch cow into staying? But in a referendum in 1990, Slovenes defied the bullying and voted to leave with an overwhelming majority.
What lessons did I learn from this experience?
The first lesson: while the departure was painful (there was even a war as Yugoslavian federal army tried to deny Slovenia its constitutional right to leave the union), it was well worth it. The Slovene economy, free of its shackles and parasites, soon blossomed. Yugoslavia fell apart, more painfully still – but – having to become self-reliant and unable to feed off another, so blossomed the economies of the other former Yugoslavian republics. Everyone became more prosperous, freer and happier, and visibly so.
The second lesson: while Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, there were massive internal tensions between its constituent nations. As the economy declined, the tensions worsened. Marshal Tito, our brutal dictator, kept a lid on them, but after his death, the tensions boiled over and a bloody civil war ensued. But now that every nation is free and sovereign, all the former Yugoslavian nations are the best of friends and trade between them prospers like it never did before. “Brotherhood and unity” used to be a false and hated cliche, now it is almost reality.
The third lesson: by spending five decades in Yugoslavia, Slovenia lost a major part of its national identity and acquired many of the bad habits of its neighbours. Corruption, poor and unreliable business culture, previously unknown, were now rampant. The rule of law was previously followed in a Northern and now in a Southern European fashion. In my opinion, Slovenia would have been much better off had it left the union much sooner.
The one clear difference between Slovenia’s situation then and Britain’s situation today is that Slovenia never had the option of leaving while there was no federal army. It is always better to leave before they have their troops on your soil. If you wait until they do and try to leave then, there will be war and there will be dead bodies.
The longer Britain remains in the EU, the more its cultural uniqueness will be erased. Britain and its culture has contributed immensely to this world – modern democracy, industrial revolution, free markets, individual liberty, much else besides – and it would be a great shame if all this was lost in a great European uniformity.
Scepticism of the endemically and unreformably rotten, corrupt and morally bankrupt European Union bureaucracy is growing in countries across the EU. Only the British voters have the option to vote Out in a referendum and end this monstrosity. The political elites want Britain to stay in and they will tell you anything to con you into doing so. But don’t be fooled and have no fear – hundreds of millions of ordinary people across Europe are watching, are right behind you, praying and hoping that Britain bring us all – yet again – our salvation.
Tomaž Slivnik is a former academic, a current entrepreneur and technology investor, and a member of the Cambridge Angels.