Thursday, 2 November 2017

Context and facilitation

It is increasingly clear that events in Catalunya are leading increasing numbers of Welsh independentistas to turn against the EU.  There was an article along those lines on Nation.Cymru earlier this week.  It included other arguments against the EU as well, and I don’t entirely disagree with elements of the case which was made against the EU, such as for example the suggestion that “the EU is, in fact, a deeply anti-democratic institution which favours a parasitic Banking Sector and Big Corporations above all else”.  It’s worth pointing out, however, that that isn’t a position somehow adopted by the EU and imposed on its member states; it is rather a reflection of the position taken by the governments of the individual member states, and especially the larger ones.  And given a choice between that policy and the policies likely to be followed by a post-Brexit Tory government, I fear the latter rather more.  Being the lesser of two evils isn’t the best argument for anything, of course, but noting that the alternative is likely to be worse should give us at least a pause for thought.
That’s something of an aside; the question for me is about the context in which Wales moves to independence.  Many years ago, I came round to the view that the EU provides the best context for that step to ‘independence’.  Firstly, it redefines the word ‘independence’ itself in a way which fits the actual experience of most modern European states (and becoming a modern European state is what I want for Wales), and secondly it makes the step from where we are to that state of ‘independence’ a much smaller and even ‘safer’ one in a number of ways.  It’s not an ideal analogy, but within the context of the EU, it makes achieving statehood more akin to an internal reorganisation.
I fear, though, that some independentistas have assumed that the EU would be more than a context, and would be an active facilitator, and are becoming disillusioned when they see that it is not.  I see that as a delusion; I’ve never expected that a body which acts, first and foremost, on behalf of its member states would in any way seek to facilitate or assist the reorganisation of those states (which is surely what we independentistas are all about?) against the will of their central governments.  Why would it?  The task of bringing about that reorganisation, in the teeth of opposition from existing powers and interests, lies where it has always lain – with the people themselves.  The impetus will only come – can only come – from those who desire change.  And as Catalunya has demonstrated, it is unlikely to be an easy process, although it may be less difficult in some member states than others.
Right up until the very moment of the success of the new, the spokespersons for the old will continue to oppose and obstruct; expecting them to do otherwise is folly.  And the unionists will seize upon every such statement as ‘proof’ that what we seek is impossible.  The real question is this: once the people have spoken and the facts have changed, what happens?  In truth, none of us can be entirely certain, but I still believe that the response is more likely to be pragmatic than dogmatic.  The EU will adapt to new circumstances, not because the member states will be enthusiastic about it doing so, but because the European project itself demands that they can do no other.  Just don’t expect them ever to admit that in advance.


Sprit of BME said...

Quote - Many years ago, I came around to the view that the EU provides the best context for the step to independence”, - when exactly was that, as you were against Britain entering the Common Market?
I thought at the start of this whole sad saga in the 70`s that only by being a member of the club would Wales prosper and being dragged in by England was no deal at all, as Wales did not sit at the top table.
Catalunya has exposed one thing that a self-help club has turned into an Empire and like every empire it has to defend the whole because if bits falling away, it would be bad for business, but it has allowed its province (Spain) to front up the issue.
One thing is not clear to me and that is, if the Spanish constitution does not allow any part to legally break away, then by implication the existence of an independence party would be against the law and should have been banned from the start.
Empire Loyalists from across the political spectrum have proclaimed the legality test to be paramount and happily lend their support to Spain and the EU, but if that is the measure, then past decisions would have to be reviewed and the recognition of Russia, France, USA and large parts of Africa and the Far East bought into question, - dream on, I think they will live with the double standards.

John Dixon said...

"...a self-help club has turned into an Empire..." That's certainly the way in which its opponents like to present the EU, but I'm far from convinced that it's a fair or accurate statement. It presupposes that 'the EU' has an existence and a power above and beyond that of its member states, but one of the reasons for the EU being so slow-moving is that movement actually depends on agreement amongst those member states.

"One thing is not clear to me and that is, if the Spanish constitution does not allow any part to legally break away..." As ever, things are more complicated than that. As I understand it, there's nothing illegal about campaigning for a change to the Spanish constitution which would remove the 'dissoluble whole' clause and then allow a vote in Catalunya; it's merely impossible to achieve. A bit like independence for Wales being dependent on winning a vote in England before we're even allowed to put the question - theoretically possible, but in practical terms a non-starter. That's what enables them to maintain the argument that people are free to pursue the goal as long as they do so within the law.

Your point about double standards is entirely valid. But why would we expect otherwise?

Spirit of BME said...

I use the word “Empire” to describe the EU as it is a supper state, with a President, diplomatic service, a “national anthem” and big ambitions for a military capability and ever deepening financial and budgetary centralisation.
So, my view is, that it is a no-brainer that Wales should become a member of the EU, as there would be shed loads of cash and a first-class trading relationship, - it is a dream ticket.
However, England, or UK (and Wales) the future plans of the EU simply do not fit. They already have a large military global reach and with the city of London a trading centre that spans the world and that is not going to be surrendered. The worlds prominent language in trade is English and they believe they had something to do with that.
Being told what to do by “Johnny foreigner” does not sit well with the English, as they are not accustomed to it, after all unlike the Welsh they have not lived under occupation. The largest voices that wish to be out of the EU, are the same voices that that defend the British Union and that is easy to explain, as they control one and not the other.