A couple of days before Christmas…We arrived at the big Sainsbury's in Norwich, at the Longwater shopping centre, to find the car park busy with a car washing team. The car certainly needed a wash and there was a half hour or so for cleaning while we shopped, so we asked the price: five pounds for a basic hose-down, or ten for a full wash and polish.
“OK– we'll have the £10 wash and polish please.” (These were clearly people whose first language was not English.) I reasoned that all was sure to be well because Sainsbury's would soon order them off site if they did anything amiss.
We returned to an immaculately cleaned and waxed car. Giving him his ten pounds I asked the guy where he was from. “Bulgaria” he replied (only of course he pronounced it България). “Welcome to England!” I said, “and a happy Christmas”, adding a two pound tip with a smile and a handshake.
So what's the big deal here? It's this: a small fraction of a human lifetime ago, Bulgaria was an Iron Curtain country. We were spending– I don't know exactly how much, I'm not privy to military secrets, – shed-loads of money keeping missiles aimed at the Warsaw Pact bloc; plus maintaining all the espionage that went with it.
Thanks to the existence of the EU and Britain's part in it, they and other former Warsaw Pact countries are our friends and trading partners.
Thanks to the EU, when the collapse of communism occurred, those countries had a ready-made grouping of democratic nations to come and join, ours, rather than form some other alliance of goodness-knows-what political direction.
That's a great achievement, and all for the price of a few squeegees (minus the price of a few missiles).