Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

The European Debate has only just begun for Scotland and the UK

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, November 15th 2015

Europe has returned to the centre of British politics. The phony war within the Tories is over as David Cameron revealed his want list from European leaders.

It wasn’t exactly long or substantial. He wants change in four areas – exempting the UK from ‘ever closer union’, boosting economic competitiveness, protection of the non-euro countries from further integration, and restrictions on EU migrants drawing UK benefits.

These requests are not far-reaching, leading Tory MP Bernard Jenkin to ask ‘is that it?’ and others dismiss them as a ‘rag bag’. Only the last negotiating point is going to cause Cameron problems. But the debate and referendum won’t be about these small details. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greek Crisis matters to Scotland, Britain and Europe – as well as Greece

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 21st 2015

Europe is not a happy place.

The European Union has failed to agree a common stance on the human disaster of Mediterranean immigrants, while Vladimir Putin has used military aggression to alter the boundaries of Russia and Ukraine and annex Crimea, as Europe has stood by.

Closer to home, Britain is preparing for a referendum on whether or not to continue its EU membership – the first full member state to ever do so. And then most seriously, there is the continuing Greek crisis.

The EU has been through financial crises in recent times – from Portugal and Spain to Ireland – but the Greek one is the most serious yet. Current betting odds on whether Greece will leave the euro, the ‘Grexit’, have narrowed dramatically. Read the rest of this entry »

A Man of Principle and the End of an Era of Liberal Radicalism

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 7th 2015

Politics and public life in Britain caught its breath this week with the tragic death of Charles Kennedy.

MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber for the past 32 years; leader of the Lib Dems from 1999-2006; the youngest MP elected to the Commons in 1983 at the age of 23 – none of these do justice to the talents, principles and wit of Kennedy.

He got, as many people have said, many big things right. He was the most successful Lib Dem leader electorally since 1923; the most prominent political leader against the Iraq war disaster; the only Lib Dem MP who voiced his opposition to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in 2010.

Kennedy represented a long and historic tradition in Scottish and Liberal life: that of Highland radicalism: a lineage which gave us Jo Grimond and contributed to maintaining the Liberal presence in British life in the 1950s. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle of Europe beckons. It will change Britain and Scotland whatever the result

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 31st 2015

Forty years ago next week, Britain entered a new era.

On June 5th 1975 Britain held its first nationwide referendum on whether to stay or leave, what was then called, the European Economic Community (EEC). The UK voted emphatically 67.2% to 32.8% to stay; Scotland voted 58.4% to 41.6% in favour.

This debate changed Britain in ways that continue to have ramifications. It began the constitutional practice of using referendums for big issues. The first had actually been two years previous on Northern Ireland, but it was the European vote which made waves.

Britain’s relationship with Europe and the world was never the same. The Commonwealth began to decline in trade and importance. Britain – seen as ‘the sick man of Europe’ – saw the continent, and the French and Germans in particular, as the future. Read the rest of this entry »

The Age of Rage and the Importance of Opposition – in Europe, UK and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 21st 2014

This week will see from Thursday onward the Euro-elections which will witness the emergence of a host of populists, mavericks and independent voices being elected across the continent.

The mainstream political class is in crisis across Europe. Conventional politicians and political parties are held in widespread and open contempt, often invoking more deep-seated and angry reactions.

There are huge questions for the continent – on the economic front about jobs, growth and the role of markets, on the social model and its continued viability, on public services and spending, demographic pressures with an aging population and shrinking workforce, and fears and anxieties about immigration.

Nowhere is there a sign of solutions from European elites or institutions. The crisis of the banks, sovereign debt and the euro has become one of Europe itself. Related to this the crisis has become one of the continent’s mainstream political traditions: of centre-right Christian Democracy and conservatism, and centre-left social democracy. Read the rest of this entry »