Tuesday 22 January 2019

Equal members of the union?

One former Secretary of State for Wales has been sharing his pessimism about the future of his party this week.  Whilst I might share his view that his party could be about to tear itself apart, I see that more as a cause for rejoicing than pessimism.  Still, each to his own.
In the detail of his comments he made the observation that “When you go outside London as I was at the weekend you hear more and more people in the street saying we just need to leave without a deal.  I think we're in quite dangerous territory as a country where certainly a chunk of my party, a wing of my party is fomenting that kind of opinion. It's deeply, deeply irresponsible.” On that, I certainly do agree with him (although I wonder what has become of him that ‘going outside London’ seems to be exceptional).  And not just because of the potential economic consequences; the underlying attitude which allows people to hold such a view is deeply concerning.
It argues, in effect, that we can and should simply disregard the concerns of the Irish, on both sides of the border which the UK imposed on the island.  Indeed, May’s persistence in going back to Brussels to demand change to the backstop arrangements is part and parcel of the same attitude.  Egged on by Johnson, Rees-Mogg et al, she is effectively demanding that the EU sacrifice the interests of one member state in order to give a better deal to a non-member.  It shouldn’t surprise us; we already know that at least one senior Tory has openly been saying that “The Irish really should know their place”; and we know only too well that the UK government would willingly sacrifice the interests of Wales or Scotland (and the outlying regions of England too, come to that) in order to serve what they see as the ‘greater good’ but which we might choose to call ‘the south-east’.
I can understand how and why Anglo-British not-nationalists-at-all have become conditioned into such an attitude (although it’s rather more worrying that so many ordinary people are following them so readily).  They inhabit a world in which it is entirely natural that the biggest and richest get what they want and the interests of the smaller and poorer are brushed aside.  That is the way they would instinctively treat the outlying parts of their own ‘precious union’, and they really can’t understand why the EU is not simply putting Ireland in its place and doing the deal that the bigger countries want.  They don’t understand, in short, why the European Union doesn’t work in the same way as the British Union does. 
From the point of view of an independentista, however, the situation highlights, very starkly, the difference between the two unions.  A union based on historic incorporation and expansion is not the same as a union based on voluntary association by independent member states.  The latter, of necessity, will strive to protect and promote the interests of all its members when dealing with ‘third parties’ which is what the UK decided to become.  It could not be otherwise; if the interests of one of the smaller member states were to be sacrificed, the other small members states could no longer have faith in the whole and the enterprise would be endangered.  Just because the word ‘union’ is used in both contexts doesn’t make them the same thing at all.

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