Well, thank goodness Cameron has achieved t his EU deal, has, as predicted, announced it as a triumph, and off we go for four months of wrangling before we, the public, decide whether to stay in or out.
Cameron has got off to a good start. Whatever the merits of the deal, (more of which later), he has gained a justified reputation for dogged determination in the negotiations, and has already used his undoubted PR skills, or maybe those of his team, by coining the words "special status" to define our future position in the EU if we vote to remain in it.
The idea of "special status" suits the British view of ourselves. Way back in 1930 Winston Churchill declared that "We [British] have our own dreams and our own task. We are with Europe but not part of it." In his memoirs (1979) the formidable Liberal leader Jo Grimond wrote
". . .we came out of the [Second World] war being told that we had saved the world by a unique act of courage against fearful odds. We naturally became convinced that the world must see that we were natural leaders of the West entitled by our deeds of valour and skill to rest on oars as far as work was concerned and owed a debt, indeed a living, by our neighbours."
So "special status" suits the British psyche: we can stand semi-detached, feeling slightly superior, and, as of right, having our cake and eating it.
Cameron's concessions don't amount to much, but that is not the point. He has played exactly the same game that Harold Wilson played in the mid-70s - renegotiated a deal sufficient to try to convince us that the game had changed sufficiently for continued membership to be worthwhile. It worked, by two to one.
In actual fact I believe all Cameron's concessions are moves in the wrong direction. He has:
- opted the UK out of "ever closer union." But the treaty speaks not of more integration of governments but "ever closer union of people." Surely that is a worthy aspiration, the road we should like history to take. It is an aspiration which for the moment is on the back burner, but the world will be a better and safer place when hopes for it are revived.
- dealt a mean hand for migrant workers, pandering to the "dog in the manger" pettiness of the tabloid press, out to sell newspapers by exploiting the meanest instincts of their readers.
- excluded the City from financial regulations emanating from the EU. This is the most brainless of all the concessions. Surely, after the crash brought about by financial irresponsibility in 2007/8 we need tighter rather than looser regulation. Not to mention promoting the alleged policies of skewing the UK economy away from excessive dependence on the financial sector and toward a "march of the makers" in a "northern powerhouse."
- secured a say in any decisions regarding the Eurozone which might affect non-members - the illogical position of not wanting to be a member of a club but demanding a say in how it is run.
We shall "never" join the Euro. "A week is a long time in politics" and "never" is even longer. My own prediction would be that, if the Euro overcomes its short-term difficulties, is reformed with a lender of last resort, along with adequate transfer mechanisms from stronger to weaker economies (as between the American states) then it will survive and we shall go begging to join within 20 years.
We hall "never" join a European army. Why ever not? In the long run I'd like to see all national armies ceded to the United Nations as an international armed police force, and a European army could be a step on the way. We are already, from the Second World War onwards, accustomed to British forces being under foreign command - first Eisenhower then other NATO commanders, so this is nothing new.
There were at lest two more "nevers" but I can't remember what they were.
However, I doubt if the details of the Cameron concessions will feature largely in the referendum campaign. The question now is whether we see Britain's future as an isolated island, a rowing-boat bobbing behind the USS United States, or a partner co-operating with our neighbours in culture, politics, philosophy and economics, to help steer ourselves and the world to a saner, fairer, and sustainable future.
We hall "never" join a European army. Why ever not?ReplyDelete
Well, the obvious reason that springs to mind is that we may want to use our army in ways that either further our national interests but wouldn't further those of other EU nations (so the other EU nations would not want to commit an EU army), or we may want to use our army in ways that further our national interest in ways that are directly opposed to the interests of other EU nations.
Our national interests are not always going to be the same as the interests of France, of Germany, or Poland or Hungary or Italy or Spain. It therefore makes sense to ensure that our last-resort way of protecting our national interests, our armed forces, are able independently to be used by us without needing to seek permission from any other country.
For instance, if in 1983 we had not had our own independent armed forces, it is unlikely we would have been able to convince a combined EU military to send an expeditionary force to free the Falklands.
(Indeed, in 1983, the US was opposed to us using force to retake the Falklands, so it was important to have a military that could be used independently against the wishes of the US as well as against the wishes of other European countries).
Or if, in the future, we find out interests in Gibraltar threatened by Spain, we certainly could not count on an EU-wide force if Spain had a say in its deployment!
Therefore keeping control of our own armed forces is essential if we are to be an independent sovereign nation able to safeguard our own national interests, independently of or possibly in opposition to the interests of other EU countries.
Yes, I admit I'm looking to the distant futre in this, but it is the word "never" which I find misguided, to say the least.Delete
I've little doubt that there was a time when the "sovereign independent nation" of Northumbria felt it absolutely necessary to have its own armed forces just in case those rats in Mercia , Wessex or wherever got up to no good, or weren't prepared to help defend vital Northumbrian interests against marauding Vikings. But we've moved on and eventually had one army for England, and then one for the UK. Surely Europe is the next step. It is certainly the direction in which I want to travel.
I admit it is not going to happen tomorrow, or even in my lifetime, but steps could be taken by assigning part of our armed forces to a European Defence Force, while retaining control of most of them, and gradually working from there.
Indeed, for those who feel we must have an "independent" nuclear deterrent, sharing with French one rather than continuing with tail-coating the Americas is by many considered a viable option.
As to the Falklands, if that invasion, the result of diplomatic ineptitude, had not taken place many of the 649 Argentinian soldiers (mostly teenage conscripts) and 255 British soldiers killed, would still be alive, along with many post-conflict suicides on both sides, those still suffering from post traumatic stress disorders would be healthier, and the diplomatic settlement which is still needed and was possible then, would have been achieved.
The world will be safer and more civilised when there are no national armies, just a world armed police force controlled by a responsible international body. That is the goal towards which we should be working, even if only by hesitant steps.
As to the Falklands, if that invasion, the result of diplomatic ineptitude, had not taken place many of the 649 Argentinian soldiers (mostly teenage conscripts) and 255 British soldiers killed, would still be alive, along with many post-conflict suicides on both sides, those still suffering from post traumatic stress disorders would be healthier, and the diplomatic settlement which is still needed and was possible then, would have been achievedReplyDelete
And the Falkland Islands, against the wishes of their inhabitants, would be ruled by Argentina; and you consider that acceptable?
I think you'll find you're in a small minority there, though one that does include the current leadership of the Labour party.