Tags
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

The Ireland Question is not just about Ireland, but a selective view of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 29th 2017

Brexit has become a constitutional and political clusterfuck – a rolling embarrassment for Britain in a show that is set to run officially at least until 11pm on 29 March 2019, and in all probability for years after.

It is a crash between a right-wing Fantasyland version of Britain (witness Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg) and at the margins, a left-wing British exceptionalist story led by Corbyn which hopes, by keeping quiet, to pick up the pieces, all based on ignorance of history and the hard realities of politics and diplomacy.

Nowhere is the Brexit debacle more clearly evident than in relation to Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the boundary between them that emerges after the UK leaves the EU. This has huge consequences, as the three areas the EU prioritised for initial agreement with the UK are the border, the rights of EU citizens and the monies the UK will pay to leave. This will all come to a head at the EU summit on 14-15 December, with the UK Government’s pursuit of a hard Brexit – leaving the single market and customs union – meaning that the current porous border is under threat. A hard Brexit could lead to a hard border. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fantasyland Version of Britain is alive and kicking – and driving Brexit

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, Oct0ber 25th 2017

British democracy used to be presented as the envy of the world – the Whig version of history, the rule of law and above all the sense of continuity which was meant to differentiate the UK from its European neighbours.

Such a view permeated British elites, institutions and public life. But it also informed many left-wing radicals and dissenters. One notable example was provided by the American writer Edward Shils on visiting the UK in 1953. He reflected on being completely taken aback to hear ‘an eminent man of the left, say, in utter seriousness … that the British constitution was “as nearly perfect as any human institution could be.”’ And Shils was even more surprised to find that ‘No one even thought it amusing.’

Fast forward sixty years and the prevailing wisdom is that few, if any, sensible people hold such self-congratulatory views. Britain has been buffeted by so many changes in the decades since 1953. While there are some examples of famous British continuity from then to the present day, such as the monarchy, in many respects, Britain today is a different country. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the end game for Theresa May and Tory Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 11th 2017

The British Conservatives have for most of their history been an impressively successful political force, winning elections and forming the UK government on its own or in coalition for two-thirds of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It then behooves the rest of us to try and understand the Conservative Party – what motivates its thinking, actions and ethos. And this matters even more when they are engulfed in infighting and faction fighting, in what looks like the lingering death rites of Theresa May’s premiership.

Trying to understand Tories is beyond some. From Nye Bevan’s ‘Tories are lower than vermin’ 1948 speech (which was reputed to have lost Labour half a million votes in the subsequent 1950 election), to the battle cry of many a protest of ‘Tory scum’, there is a long left-wing tradition of demonising Tories as one dimensional villains.

There is even a vogue in anti-Toryism in the popularity of ‘Never Kissed a Tory’ t-shirts and mugs, and the sentiment expressed by Labour MP Laura Pidcock who said she could not have a Tory as a friend because they represented ‘the enemy.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit, Dunkirk and a Britain Where the Past Shapes the Future

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 26th 2017

The past is always around us in what passes for modern Britain.

In recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, it seems more omnipotent and increasingly problematic. From politics to culture and most aspects of public life we are confronted with a fantasyland version of the collective past which is selective and sepia-tinged. This matters because it reduces the prospect of us believing that we can make a better collective future than the nasty, mean-spirited reality which is for too many contemporary Britain.

This predicament comes into full view in the summer of 2017 and in Christopher Nolan’s just released film ‘Dunkirk’. This has attracted many plaudits for its grand scale, alongside its depiction of chaos and confusion. But it has also attracted comment (including critical ones) for its lack of characters, central story, and context (one of which is the absence of any Germans or overall strategy from either side).

However it did portray powerfully the gathering foreboding and claustrophobia on the Dunkirk beachhead as the Germans closed in on the trapped British and French forces. This was after all the greatest British military disaster and reverse ever in the country’s history. In military terms it rates much higher than the American Wars of Independence and Irish independence – which were geo-political defeats – or the much cited humiliations of the loses of Tobruk, Singapore and Hong Kong in 1942. This is epic history on every level: a bigger encirclement of men than even at Stalingrad, and the biggest amphibious military rescue ever undertaken by anyone. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP and Independence Supporters

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 17th 2017

These are fast moving political times for Scotland. The events of the last week illustrate the accelerated fragmentation and disintegration of the UK as we know it.

But these are also times of high stakes and stand-offs, with the Scottish and UK Governments gaming and predicting the actions of the other. Monday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon took the UK Government by surprise and seized the centrestage of British politics – forcing the postponement of triggering Article 50. Theresa May’s most recent statement, declaring that ‘now is not the time’ for a referendum’ until the Brexit talks are completed, was predictable. Despite this, it would be ill-advised to underestimate May and the UK Government who, despite her personal inflexibility and lack of comprehension of modern Scotland, will play hard to keep Scotland in the union.

Similarly, while time works in favour of independence, it also has downsides. The SNP have been in office ten years, and with each passing year have more of a record to defend. Next time, the careful 2014 balancing act of being insurgent and incumbent will be much more difficult to pull off. And the SNP’s domestic political dominance (rather like the Tories in the UK) has costs: in that there is, across the SNP and Scottish Government, a tangible weakening in political antenna and sensitivity of how policies and stances appear to those outside the administration. Such a time of high-wire politics means that it is more urgent than ever to reflect, tell hard truths, and to institutionalise more effectively a deeper pluralist politics. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
Recommended Blogs