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TV review: Inside Europe: Ten years of turmoil, and Traitors

22 February 2019

BBC/European Council Newsroom

A still from Inside Europe: Ten years of turmoil, showing (from left) Mark Rutte, Angela Merkel, and Donald Tusk, and (bottom) Jean-Claude Juncker

A still from Inside Europe: Ten years of turmoil, showing (from left) Mark Rutte, Angela Merkel, and Donald Tusk, and (bottom) Jean-Claude Junck...

IT IS good practice to confront your nightmare — to gaze directly into the face of the demons who haunt you. Thus BBC2 has been performing a valuable moral service with its three-part documentary Inside Europe: Ten years of turmoil (Mondays), showing us the inner workings of the European Union.

What it reveals is, of course, nothing like the Jesuit-ridden source of Machiavellian intrigue whose plots and stratagems are aimed, above all, at securing the impoverishment and downfall of the plucky and virtuous UK, as so energetically promoted by many of our politicians and media.

Instead, it told a tale of honourable and honest attempts to achieve, in the inevitably compromised world of realpolitik, the best outcome for the most, actuated by the admirable conviction that it is better to seek to find common cause, a shared course of action, than to pursue individual and conflicting directions.

Last week’s final episode focused on the Greek financial crisis and the European response to the huge pressure of immigration. It reminded us, admirably, of the ethical, economic, and political complexities of the issues. Different nations and different leaders allowed one or other of these to dictate their response. For some, the refugees were a plague to be kept out by any means possible. Angela Merkel dared to allow her Christian conviction, and her compassion and generosity, to overrule every other consideration, achieving remarkably the moral leadership of our continent.

Outside the relevant agreement, the UK nevertheless agreed that we would play our part in accepting immigrants. You will know from your local attempts to welcome them how eagerly the Home Office has facilitated this hollow sentiment. As increasingly common nowadays, it is another reason to be ashamed to be British. On this showing, the surprise is not the difficulty the EU has in striking a deal with the UK to enable a clean departure: they should have, unceremoniously, booted us out years ago.

Political compromise and moral confusion reign in Channel 4’s new Sunday-evening costume drama Traitors. The Second World War is ending, and the idealistic toff Fiona is no longer needed as the British spy she longed to be. But our American allies think that she might be just the agent they need to uncover the Soviet infiltration that they are convinced riddles MI6. Yet the particular Americans hoping to use her might actually be rogue extremists rather than their state representatives. The landslide Labour election victory convinces them that the UK is on the verge of turning communist. Can they stop the rot?

It is not really convincing: the political background is signalled by clumsy exposition, and the plot is difficult to follow. I found it hard to know which man with a moustache was which. But it offers agreeable and well-dressed distraction from that despair which, one might conclude, is the only proper reaction to the state of the world today.

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