2007 - 2022


europe_on_the_globe_2171Cameron’s ‘Eurovision’ is a fundamental misreading of the mood of the nation (sic). While concerns about democratic deficiency are shared across the continent, there are quite different attitudes north and south of the border. All the talk, all the commentary has been about ‘Britain’ and ‘British attitudes’ as if such a place still exists. Not only this but the Prime Ministers position suffers from some dazzling dissonance. Follow this if you can: The EU status quo is acceptable (otherwise he’d want out). But unless it’s “fundamentally renegotiated” it will become unacceptable. If Scotland votes Yes then No it will stay in. If it votes No, then Yes, it will come out. Confused?

It’s not just us Scots who find the latest Cameroonian European positioning baffling. Writing in the Huff Post, Leanne Wood, the new (ish) leader of Plaid Cymru writes:

There are times when history seems to speed up. We are living through just such a period. By the end of the decade Wales may be outside not just the British Union of 1707, if Scotland votes Yes, but also outside the European Union of 1973, if England votes no. The prospect of being a semi-autonomous province of a rump successor State is hardly one to generate enthusiasm. But the new prospect created by David Cameron’s announcement this week of a parochial Anglo-centric future – for Wales, see Little England – should fill us all in Wales, Unionist and Nationalist alike, with horror.

Cameron’s European gamble has changed the tone of the debate in Scotland, despite frantic Unionist spinning over the last few days. Reality leaked out with former Labour FM Henry McLeish arguing in Holyrood Magazine:

The current government at Westminster is actually frightening the lives out of many Scots with their crazy, dated right-wing approach. And it’s quite clear that if – it’s not going to be before this [independence] referendum – but if the Tories are successful and Britain comes out of the EU, this I believe will shock enough people in Scotland to consider voting for independence post-2014. I would be very strongly inclined to want to be in Europe and to want to have nothing to do with a Union or United Kingdom that was not in the European Union. I would be reconsidering my position if that eventuality happened after 2014.

But there’s no guarantee other European nations will have any of this. Cameron acts as if we are in some pre-Copernican age, where the entire universe revolves around Westminster. The commentator Ruth Wishart writes: “Let’s be clear. There is not a four deep queue in Brussels anxious to indulge the fantasy life of the most semi detached of its membership. Why would there be ? They have one or two more important things on their minds right now at the heart of Europe. And little appetite for going down a route which might have another two dozen plus states demanding a fresh deal on the grounds of national self interest.”

And it’s true. Despite the extraordinary vision that the entire EU rulebook should or could be re-written according to the narrative of the swivel-eyed Faragista, there’s evidence that mainstream continental Europe will look askance at such a move.

According to a poll by Figaro 71/.4% of French voters want us out of the EU. Le Figaro – International : Souhaitez-vous que la Grande-Bretagne sorte de l’Union européenne ?

By hooking ourselves to the Europhobic south we may become ostracised and isolated. That’s not what a new country needs as it steps out into the world.

Comments (12)

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  1. Paul Kingsnorth says:

    I don’t know how well your irony-detectors are functioning today Mike, but perhaps you want to check their batteries 😉

    OK, so attitudes in Scotland and England differ, and Cameron should not say ‘Britain’ when he means ‘England.’ We can certainly agree on that. None of our Westminster leaders should but they all do, on all sides. Let’s hope this will soon change.

    On wider principles though – why are you going out of your way to attack Cameron on the basis that other nations and leaders disagree with him? If I were to attack Salmond’s referendum on that basis, what would you say to me? If I were to call him a ‘swivel-eyed’, or ‘pre-Copernican’ because he wanted a say in how he was governed, how would you feel? I suspect, you would say: butt out, this is a decision for the Scottish people. In fact, that’s exactly what you do say when pro-union activists attack Salmond in precisely the terms that you here use for Cameron – he’s backward, he’s insular, he’s romantic, he’s naive. And yet when it suits you, you wheel out the same tactics.

    I am struggling to see the difference in principle between two referenda – one UK-wide, one Scottish – in which a population votes on how it is governed. And I am struggling to see why someone who claims, as you do, to be all about self-determination, would not support both. Of course, if and when the Europe referendum comes, Scotland may have left the union. In which case: great! If on the other hand you have voted to stay in, you get a chance to have a say in our membership of the EU. Also great!

    Seems to me that a principled supporter of national self-determination would support both polls. Both cases involve nations deciding how they are governed, and by whom. What could be the problem with that? Unless it’s one rule for the Scots and another for the English. Or unless the real problem is that the Euro referendum is being proposed by a government whose political stripes you don’t like. In which case we take leave of principle and cleave to simple tribalism.

  2. bellacaledonia says:

    Thanks Paul. ‘Swivel-eyed’ is a short form gag, used to describe UKIP by the Tories. Which I now find amusing.

    To be clear, I’m not against a poll on membership of Europe.

    That’s fine, but it is comic that the poll is proposed by people who have spent months if not years vehemently denouncing the Scottish referendum on the grounds that it will bring some kind of traumatic uncertainty. As I wrote in the Guardian: “In a two-day period the Prime Minister has lanced the NO campaign’s two most powerful arguments against Scottish independence, the twin arguments that have been employed relentlessly ad nauseam by the media and Better Together campaigns (the two are often indistinguishable). These are first that independence will result in Scotland being cast adrift from the European fold, outcast and isolated, to become a sort of less affluent but more northerly Albania. The second is that the very process of holding a referendum some time in the future will somehow distort, undermine and fatally destabilise business interests (which we all know are king).”

    So I’m objecting on the grounds of hypocrisy and the whole narrative that business is king. Basically these people hate democracy.

    I would also love to see a debate about Europe that’s not grounded in the arguments of xenophobia, which most of this seems to be based around.

    I also think – and the Figaro poll and others would back this up – that the pre-Copernican line is fair. Cameron isn’t in Europe arguing for change – he’s semi-detached and arguing that the entire organisation bends to his will.

  3. jasonjanuary says:

    I’m no supporter of Cameron, and I agree about the hypocrisy on that score.

    On the other hand, I don’t see any evidence that scepticism about the EU stems from ‘xenophobia’. What leads you to say that? It may do for some, but for most i think it is a mater of principle. I remember when Labour and the wider left were arguing vociferously that the UK should enter the Euro. Opponents of that were rounded on as ‘xenophobic’ too. But they were right. And there is a very good case to be made against the gigantism of the EU and its impacts on local and national culture, democracy and even landscape.

    For me this is about self-determination on both fronts. It is also about killing off a lazy ‘progressive’ narrative that big is best and futuristic and small is backward and insular. You’re right that this is the argument that many use against Scotland leaving the UK. But that’s exactly why you should not be using it against the UK leaving the EU. In both cases, supporters of change are arguing that withdrawing from a transnational body would mean more flexible, democratic and accountable government. You may agree with leaving the UK and not the EU, and that’s fine. But you need to be very careful about using a ‘big is beautiful and progressive’ argument on the one hand and not the other.

    Speaking personally, I think a Scottish and an EU poll are both very good things. Now I’m just waiting for the referendum in England about how we govern ourselves. I suspect this may take a bit longer …

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Paul you asked about my Irony-Detectors yet you seem to have lost the point I’m making (and Leanne Wood makes) that if a) other countries have a different political response to the European question and b) this is a pan-UK poll then c) England’s view will prevail.


      1. ‘England’s view’ – or at least the view of people in England – will prevail numerically in any UK referendum, of course. I appreciate you want to leave the UK for this, and other, reasons. Which I support.

        The wider point remains though – you either support self-determination – for everyone – or you don’t. I do.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          I do.

  4. I’ve no idea why I am called ‘Jason January’ in that comment, by the way! Damn the Machines …

  5. bellacaledonia says:

    Oh, you are plain Paul Kingsnorth on my damned machine, but Jason January has a jaunty vibe to it?

  6. Craig M says:

    Cameron’s announcement is bascially an admission that England’s economy is trashed and can’t compete in a fair pan European market.
    Cameron and Osborne basically have a one trick pony to produce revenues. It’s called “the City” and it’s located in London. In order to keep the Establishment’s cherished little world together, Cameron is required to do some tweeking of the arrangements that bind us to an institution (the EU) that threaten to fatally prevent his pet pony from producing the goods. There are simply no other economic levers to speak of that are available to Cameron and Osborne. They need “the City” to be free of of interference and to operate in it’s own rule free world. This isn’t about zenophobia. It’s about 3 decades of economic mismanagement by successive UK Governments and now the chickens are coming home to roost. The economy (to use another farmyard metaphor) is a dead duck. The London centric elite are pulling up the drawbridge!

  7. Doug Daniel says:

    In regards to the points Paul is making, I would say that I’m all in favour of people having a referendum on an issue that is on their political radar. The problem is the EU is an issue in England, not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, because it’s an issue in England, it becomes a de facto issue in the UK – and this just highlights the problem with a political union where one member outnumbers the rest put together by more than 5:1.

    I have no problem with England having a vote on the EU. UKIP’s popularity in England would suggest that it is indeed a “burning issue” down there. But the rest of the UK doesn’t care, hence why UKIP lose their deposits everywhere in Scotland (although admittedly, they did finish fourth in Wales). So for England to get its “self-determination”, the rest of us are made to come along for the ride as well, and the result will be what England decides, not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    The day an anti-EU party is getting popular support in elections in Scotland is the day Scotland should have a referendum on the EU. We needed to get a majority SNP government in place before Westminster would let us have our say on Scottish independence – the same should apply to the EU issue.

    So, there is no inconsistency in supporting a referendum for Scottish independence, but not one on the EU.

  8. Domhnall Dods says:

    The EU issue existing only south of the border simply confirms that what England really needs is home rule.

  9. bellacaledonia says:

    I don’t like to say ‘I told you so’ but …


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