And in the ancient city of Bruges – the most important trading centre of North-West Europe in the Middle Ages – it is not easy to resist the idea of a united European trading bloc.
With a touch of criticism for the ‘populist British media’, and a borrowed quote from US president George Bush’s inaugural speech, Ward launched into a pro-Europe soliloquy.
By question time, a few more of the College’s expected 400 attendees had arrived and were ready with questions.
But the students, not so quick off the mark, had to take a temporary backseat while attending MEPs made their voices heard.
Attendance at the after-lecture drinks and canapes surpassed that at the lecture, but those that it missed were keen to find out what was said.
One group of students was even overheard to say that it was one of the best debates they had experienced at the College.
Roger Helmer, Conservative MEP, on the other hand, wanted to clarify whether Ward was speaking in the capacity of president of the institute or as an individual.
To which Ward’s reply was: ‘No-one can ever speak on behalf of 120,000 people’.
In a bid to ‘put things in perspective’, Helmer said the EU’s current 3% growth rate was a result of the devaluation of the euro and not, as many argue it is, due to rising exports.
Later at the dinner in the Governor of West Flanders Palace, Helmer confided that if he were in charge of the Conservative Party he would pull Britain straight out of the European Union leaving just basic free trade agreements in place. It was these kinds of comments that propelled the rest of his dining company to ostracise him from the ensuing conversation.
Any pro-European sentiment continental Europeans had felt emanating from the British contingency present that evening appeared to vanish in a rhetoric of ‘Britain for the British’.
The question might not be as posed by Ward ‘Can Europe win the global race?’, but rather: ‘Can Britain be part of a Europe that wins the global race?’
Michelle Perry is a reporter on Accountancy Age.
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