Friday, 31 January 2020

At the eleventh hour...

With a matter of hours to go before the UK formally leaves the EU, the PM has finally admitted something which most of us have known all along, but which he and his fellow Brexiteers have spent more than three years denying – leaving the single market and the customs union means border checks on goods passing between the UK and the EU.  He isn’t quite putting it in those terms (he wouldn’t be Boris if he did) but is stating rather that the UK ‘is willing to accept’ border checks, as though we ever had any choice in the matter.  His stated reason for this latest climbdown is that it’s the only way that he can deliver on the promises made about this strange thing called ‘sovereignty’.  Reuters puts it more bluntly, reporting that he will also say that ‘sovereignty is more important than frictionless trade’.
The admission that there is – and was always going to be – a trade-off between ‘sovereignty’ and ‘free trade’ is hardly a revelation.  It’s a simple fact that all trade deals between countries involve such a trade-off; the question is always about how much sovereignty a country agrees to share in order to reach joint decisions (and ‘share’ rather then ‘cede’ is the correct term, despite what the Brexiteers have consistently argued), and in return for what economic or other benefits.  Had the Brexiteers been willing to debate it in such terms at the time of the referendum and since, I would have had more respect for their position, but they have, right up until the eleventh hour (almost literally), repeated ad nauseam that we could have frictionless trade without having to agree to any joint rules or regulations.  They might still have won the referendum, of course, because trade and economics were only part of the debate.  It was probably the part, however, on which their argument was shakiest, so they chose instead to lie repeatedly.
To some extent, that is now water under the bridge; the UK will formally leave later today, and accepting that there is a cost in terms of trade attached to the sort of future relationship which the UK will have with the EU is simply a necessary precondition to any sort of negotiation on the detail.  What they have yet to admit (but it will surely come when reality can no longer be denied) is that the same issue will arise in relation to any and every other trade deal that they attempt to negotiate – the closeness of the deal and the degree of friction in terms of tariffs, checks and bureaucracy are directly related to the willingness or otherwise of the UK government to agree to share sovereignty and agree some rules and process (and their enforcement) jointly with other countries and trading blocs.
It’s an issue of which most Welsh independentistas are more aware than the Anglo-British nationalists driving Brexit and is part of the reason why so many of us preferred to avoid the term ‘independence’ for so many years.  In a modern, globally connected world, no country can really ‘stand alone’ and exercise total sovereignty over all aspects of its own affairs.  To even attempt to do so requires either great size or almost complete isolation.  The question facing any state is always ‘how much, and in what areas, and in what institutions are we prepared to share sovereignty and make joint decisions?’.  The EU was never the perfect answer to that question but attempting to pretend that there isn’t even a need to ask the question isn’t a sensible response.  I’ve long hoped that, if there were to be a positive side to Brexit it would be in helping those who run the UK to realise, at last, that the UK is, as the Irish Taoiseach put it last week, a “small country”.  It looks like being a long process though.


Anonymous said...

I think you've hit on something here, the key difference between brexiteers and remainers now is the question of sovereignty.

Wales as a possible nation has never sought sovereignty because it just doesn't have the leaders whereas England has always had a surplus of supreme leaders but not enough of a home population to rule over. Hence the empire. Scotland has always had plenty of lraders but few of them have proven to be any good.

Extend this to the EU and you can see the problem, the UK either has to be in charge or else it doesn't want to play the game.

If we look back at recent history, a large part of Wales and the Welsh would happily have sided with Mr Hitler for better rations. England and the English didn't give a damn about rations, they needed to feel in control of their own destiny come what may.

It's this sort of thing that should be taught in history classes in Wales up and down the country. To continue to teach a version of English history serves no-body nor neither country.

We need to be more honest with ourselves. The enemy for Wales and Welsh people has always been within. Time has come for us to recognise this.

John Dixon said...


I tend to agree with your assertion that the problem for the UK under the Anglo-British nationalists is that it "...either has to be in charge or else it doesn't want to play the game", but I disagree with almost everything else that you say, most of which looks like baseless unevidenced opinion parading as fact.

As one example, take this: "...a large part of Wales and the Welsh would happily have sided with Mr Hitler for better rations. England and the English didn't give a damn about rations...". Do you have one shred of credible evidence for this? I'm certain that, in both England and Wales, there were people who would prefer to have made some sort of peace in order to enjoy a better life style than was available during the war years. It's a common enough attitude in war zones across the world even today - it is a fairly natural desire to want to enjoy a safe and secure life. And I also suspect that there was little or no difference between England and Wales in that regard; history suggests that Wales was no more immune to British jingoism than was England, so why would the reverse attitude be somehow more prevalent in one than the other? A sweeping generalisation like the one you make contributes nothing to any debate unless you have some hard evidence to back it up.

Still, your one-eyed assertion about the superiority of English leaders over Scots, and the complete absence of Welsh leaders demonstrates that Anglo-British nationalism and arrogance are alive and well. More's the pity.

Spirit of BME said...

Anonymous 11.18 reference in the fourth para about Wales and possible connection with Mr A, Hitler at first, I thought it was a view on an occupied people accepting just another occupational power, but then I remembered “Garbo”
The story goes that he invented twenty-four agents and was one of MI5`s most successful episodes in convincing not only the Germany Intelligence machine, but also senior Generals in the field.
One of the most successful of his cells was a group of Welsh Nationalists in the Swansea/Cardiff area, all set to facilitate the cause of National Socialism. Now, the German intelligence was not stupid, as post war films suggest and would seek back up data to the reports.
So, it is an interesting question, what on earth would make these people accept these reports, unless there are more files to be opened that would answer the question?