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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

What Kind of European and British Union is Emerging?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, May 18th 2013

Prague Spring. Two words which evoke a certain feeling, the hopes of a generation, European idealism and the past.

Today Europe could not be in a more different place and frame of mind, the brief optimism of 1968 and 1989 long gone.

All across the continent, European political, elite and civic conversations are underway about ‘whither Europe?’ and ‘what future for the eurozone?’

In the last two weeks I have participated in two of these, attending the Prague Press Forum and before that speaking to ministers, officials and advisers of the Irish Government in Dublin.

Europe is worried about itself, its future, the European project and Britain – with in many places Euro-realism falling over into a deep-seated pessimism. German broadcaster, Jurgen Kronig, believes part of the problem is the ambiguous nature of German leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

The Framing of the Scottish Independence Debate: A Tale of Two Referenda

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, May 15th 2013

Two independence campaigns are now running in the UK: one on Scottish independence; the other which has become more public in the last week, on the UK’s possible exit from the European Union. Strangely they operate in near complete isolation of each other, with the Euro referendum being talked about as if we still lived in the high days of untrammelled Westminster parliamentary sovereignty.

In the last week, the front page of the Scottish edition of The Times reported a fall in support for Scottish independence of 3% as, ‘’Yes’ vote hits trouble as support crumbles’ (May 9th 2013). The same week it began its campaign for the UK to embark on EU withdrawal, lining up a chorus line of Tory grandees to declare their support for exit; successive front pages declared, ‘Lawson: It’s time to quit EU’ (May 7th 2013) and ‘Voters tell Cameron to cut Europe down to size’ (May 8th 2013); and were followed by Michael Portillo coming out of support of withdrawal, ‘We don’t share Europe’s vision. So I want out’ (May 9th 2013). The front page of the Scottish edition on the day of the Lawson announcement also included a headline stating, ‘Independent Scotland may struggle to keep lights on’ (May 7th 2013).

One has the language of ‘separatism’, ‘separation’ and is filled with risk and negativity; the other the language of ‘a new relationship’, ‘renegotiation’ and greater choice and flexibility; the first about Scottish independence, the second British withdrawal from the EU. When I asked Angus Macleod, editor of The Times Scottish edition why he used pejorative language on Scotland in one of the pieces cited above he answered, ‘Independence is in in the intro and elsewhere. Separation is used for variety. It’s called journalism’ (twitter, May 9th 2013). Read the rest of this entry »

The Beginning of the End of ‘the Global Kingdom’

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 9th 2013

This week something momentous happened for the future of the Britain, its economy and politics, for Europe, and our relationship with the continent.

The European Union proposed and agreed a curb on bankers bonuses, over-riding the predictable opposition of the UK Government and George Osborne.

The EU proposals supported by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and 26 out of 27 EU members, will put a ceiling on banker bonuses of one year’s salary, or two years if approved by a large majority of shareholders.

There was the usual outcries from the British Bankers Association, CBI and others: people who go by the description, ‘the business community’, but are actually corporate lobbyists for the big firms, which is not the same thing, looking to maintain the same market dominance for their members. Read the rest of this entry »

The UKIP Policy Nigel Farage Doesn’t Want to Talk About

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, March 8th 2013

UKIP are suddenly everywhere in the aftermath of their second place and 28% in the Eastleigh by-election. Nigel Farage, their irascible leader, is even more omnipotent with even more appearances on BBC ‘Question Time’ to look forward too.

North of the border UKIP have always had a perception, identity and popularity problem. They are widely seen as an English nationalist party, one whose idea of Britain is narrowly centred on a time when the two terms could be used interchangeably. It is a mindset stuck in a timewarp situated between the 1950s and 1970s, between the beginning and end of the Empire, and which yearns for an England which began to completely disappear in the decade of ‘The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin’ and ‘The Good Life’.

Nevertheless Scottish politics is not immune to people harking back to better yesterdays, and certainly there is a similar popular sentiment and aura of anti-politics, which dismisses all mainstream politics and politicians, in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Anzio: Scots do not need to cling to the wreckage of Britain

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, February 2nd 2013

Today is the 70th anniversary of the final surrender of the last German forces at Stalingrad, the battle which militarily and psychologically dealt an irreversible blow to Hitler’s plans for world domination.

Last week I was in Rome on holiday and went to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the Anglo-American landings at Anzio, just south of the capital, the summation of which occurred a year and a half after Stalingrad.

This was the week of Cameron’s big European intervention, and I experienced the sensation of being on the European continent and feeling the UK geo-politically move further away from Europe or more accurately the European project.

Many years ago Jonathan Raban had a similar experience when he decided to sail round the coast of Britain and the Falklands War erupted. As he reflected in his subsequent book, ‘Coasting’, he felt that the UK had slipped its moorings and set sail as a nation for the South Atlantic. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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