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Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Scottish Independence has to move with the times

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 1st 2017

Scotland has in recent times liked to see itself as progressive, democratic and European. What’s so special about that you might think? A bit like apple pie and being kind to animals. But these undoubtedly mainstream values were rightly seen as increasingly at odds with the direction of the UK in the last few decades. The UK wasn’t any of these things and this has become even more pronounced and obvious post-Brexit vote.

The Scottish case for these three qualities in 2014 was about something more than their individual characteristics. Instead, they weaved together into a story about Scotland as a modern nation – unlike the seemingly backward, reactionary UK – and presented a picture of a normal country which aspired to be part of the European mainstream. All of this suggested that independence was the natural state of affairs, the direction of travel and the future – whereas the UK was the problem and the past.

However, it was even clear in the midst of the 2014 campaign that there was a problem with these aspirations. Scotland had come to them late in the day of their development. Thus, we aspired to be ‘progressive’ and social democratic, when this tradition has been in retreat and crisis for decades, including within the Nordics. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the beginning of the end of Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, July 3rd 2016

It may not be the beginning of the end of the UK quite yet. But it is the end of British politics – and Britain, as we know it.

The British state faces its biggest geo-political set of challenges in generations. Blair and Iraq, Anthony Eden and Suez pale compared to this in terms of damage to the UK’s reputation, and only Neville Chamberlain and Munich, and Lord North’s loss of the American colonies, are in any way in the same league.

Fifty years of British statecraft towards the EU have been completely blown up, itself part of over two hundred years of how the UK has seen itself in relation to Europe – in attempting to keep the balance and prevent one country from controlling the continent. Now the EU will be left even more to German dominance.

A sizeable minority of Europe led by France want to punish the UK; the majority led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel still hope to do the best deal possible with the British. But there is widespread anger with the usually calm Dutch Prime Minister Mark Ruffe commenting, ‘England has collapsed politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically.’ And that’s from a friend. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the world of little Britain and Scotland wants no part

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 26th 2016

This is what the death of a nation looks like – petty nationalism, populism, fact-free politics, and surprises everywhere. This is the world of ‘little Britain’ – and it isn’t pretty.

These are unpredictable times. There is anger and frustration. Whole sections of British society feel that politicians, elites and experts don’t understand them. Such is their desperation and feeling of powerlessness that many felt that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are the answer.

This referendum is about Europe, and has been a long time coming, but is also a proxy about so much more. It’s about the right-wing English press, the media and public obsession with personalities (even in politics), immigration, austerity and the ‘left behind’ working class.

Cameron gambled a second time for high stakes in a referendum and lost. That is bad enough, but he has lost the main strategic union for the UK internationally, and may have brought the union between Scotland and England to a bitter end. Read the rest of this entry »

Whatever happens, Britain has already left the building

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 22nd 2016

The UK has already left Europe. It never really joined in any real sense.

National debates like this reveals much about the psyche of a country, and how it sees its collective hopes and fears. For one, it illuminates a lot about the ghosts of the past that haunt a country. In the Scottish indyref, for example, a great deal of this focused on the perceived legacy of Thatcherism and deindustrialisation.

In this European debate, the ghosts seemingly ever-present are those of the spectre of German dominance of the continent and the dark empire of the Nazis, Hitler and World War Two. Further proof, if it were needed, that this has a vice-like grip on the British imagination, was given by the recent controversy over anti-Semitism sparked by Ken Livingstone, which revolved around Hitler’s relationship with Zionism, lacking any sensitivity or interest in historical accuracy.

The 1975 referendum campaign, 41 years ago and 30 years after World War Two, had little to no references to the Nazis and Hitler. People were too close then to the horrendous, murderous events of the war, and careful to not appear tactless or make offensive comparisons. Read the rest of this entry »

Confused by the European Debate? You should be!

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 5th 2016

The EU referendum is so far one of the worst political debates in my lifetime, with no sign of it improving. It is unlikely to descend to the gutter of Trump v. Clinton coming up shortly. But it still leaves a lot to be desired.

The academic Philip Cowley this week compared the referendum to ‘a shit game of football match, with little skill, in the pouring rain, on a Tuesday, but there still has to be a winner.’

There are good arguments for Remain and Leave. Remain can make the case for EU co-operation, the advantages of the single market, the EU’s contribution to peace, prosperity and democracy across the continent, and the importance of stability in an uncertain world.

Leave can put an equally valid case. The EU is the only continent in the world bar Antarctica not experiencing economic growth. It is a declining bloc as a share of world trade (30% in 1980, now 17%); its bureaucratic consensus decision-making make it slow, and it has been unable to deal with such recent crises as Greece and immigration. Read the rest of this entry »

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